Message of Lithuania’s Bishops to the Faithful and to All People of Good Will amid the Preparation for Pope Francis’s Apostolic Visit to Lithuania
The joyful news has reached our country that this autumn, on September 22 and 23, Pope Francis will visit Lithuania, and then will travel to the other two Baltic countries of Latvia and Estonia. Although the full program of the visit is still being finalized, we already know that the Holy Father will meet with young people in Vilnius and will celebrate the Eucharist with all the people of Lithuania in Kaunas, one of the places most easily accessible from all corners of our country.
It is a nice coincidence that 25 years after St. John Paul II’s visit here, as we celebrate the Year of the Trakai Mother of God, Protectress of Lithuania, and commemorate the Centenary of the Restoration of the State of Lithuania, the successor of St. Peter will once again walk the roads and pathways of our homeland, carrying out the mission that Christ himself entrusted to Peter – that of strengthening his brothers and sisters (cf. Lk 22: 32). It is a great gift and sign of God’s favor toward our country. This extraordinary event in the life of the nation and the Church shows how important our country and the people who live here are to the pope.
The visit by the Vicar of Christ is a sign of faith, hope, and a new beginning. It is an encouragement to throw off the burden of despair and look anew toward the future, to summon inspiration and courage – hope that life has a meaning. The arrival of Pope Francis is a wonderful opportunity to recall once more that we are members of the Universal Church of Christ, brothers and sisters in faith, called to unity and communion with each other and with God. We belong to the one immense People of God, over whom oppression and death no longer have power.
Pope Francis’s travels usually have a purpose. The Holy Father boldly goes to lands ravished by conflict and discord. He hurries to be with people and bring them mercy, forgiveness, and hope of reconciliation. He seeks to awaken love of neighbor, to revive faith, to remind people about the vocation and dignity of the human person, and to lead everyone to the divine truth which alone makes people free. And that truth is Christ Jesus himself, our Savior, our hope. Not in vain is Pope Francis so often referred to as a pilgrim of hope.
Through his closeness to people, Pope Francis testifies to the fact that each of them is dear to God. The pope often hurries to hearten ordinary believers who, though weighed down by the cares or routine of each day, nonetheless try to live according to the Gospel of Christ. He hurries to help those who no longer see any meaning in life or reason to construct a future, who feel forgotten and unneeded. The pope longs to enkindle the fire of love in their hearts once again, to strengthen their faith and rouse their hope so that they might courageously accept the challenges of these times and live an authentic and joy-filled Christian life, sincerely loving each other with mutual affection and striving to outdo one another in showing honor and respect (cf. Rom 12:10).
Let us then rejoice in hope (cf. Rom 12:12)! “Christ Jesus is our hope,” the motto for the pope’s visit declares. Let us keep in mind that cornerstone on which our faith stands, so that filled with hope we might boldly create the future.
Dear Christian faithful and all people of good will, let us already today, together, begin preparing to receive this cherished guest in our home – in Lithuania. Let us prepare not only externally, but also in spirit. Let us not fear to name those things that truly pain us, where we would like the Holy Father, like Christ, to place his healing hand. Let us pray for the Holy Spirit to help us hear the Word and accept what Christ’s vicar wants to tell us.
Even the smallest contribution by each of you to preparing for the pope’s visit is important and valued by God. We especially call on you dear young people. We invite all of you young men and women to boldly join the ranks of those who profess Christ, so that enlightened by His light you may not fear to discover and to live your own true vocation. The Holy Father awaits you on September 22 in Cathedral Square in Vilnius.
We invite families to come together to meditate on the message of the Gospel, to strengthen their bonds, find joy in everyday life and become small “domestic churches” that flow into the great Church of Christ. Take part abundantly in the meetings with the Holy Father! We invite those of you who are sick or disabled to unite yourselves to the Holy Father in your afflictions, praying for the Kingdom of God. We invite the elderly and the lonely through their prayer, with arms outstretched like Moses, to support the Holy Father in his travels and the preparations to receive him in Lithuania.
We invite you brothers and sisters in the religious life, you who have consecrated your lives to the Kingdom of God, to pray by your joyful, active and silent witness that God might open the heart of every person to the Good News brought by the pope. We invite you brother priests, our dear collaborators who proclaim Christ day in and day out, to renew once more the hope of salvation and the desire to be faithful disciples of the Lord. Join together with the People of God to deepen your faith, to pray, and to come to the encounter with Pope Francis.
In our families, parishes, communities, small groups and youth meetings, let us come together to go deeper in the Word of God, to meditate on the words of the Holy Father which draw attention to the most difficult questions, to pray for his intentions, and to live the counsels of the Gospel with concrete acts of love and mercy. In the light of Christ let us boldly change the world for the better.
We invite all you people of good will to respond to Pope Francis’s calls to make our common home safer and more beautiful, that there be no space for words or deeds that deny human dignity or life.
We invite you all to take part in this historic event in Lithuania and, together with Pope Francis and Christ’s Universal Church, to experience a unique adventure of faith and win abundant grace from God.
Let us be open to the message brought by the Holy Father.
The Bishops of Lithuania
16 March 2018