On arriving today at the Kaunas Cathedral Basilica, Pope Francis was greeted at the entrance by the cathedral’s administrator, Fr. Evaldas Vitulskis, and representatives of Lithuania’s religious communities and seminarians. On hand in the cathedral were priests, men and women religious, consecrated persons and seminarians from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
As the choir intoned the hymn “Kelk pasaulį” (“Wake the world with dawning joy”), the Holy Father entered into the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. There he prayed, together with 52 contemplative nuns, to the music of the kankliai, a Lithuanian instrument traditionally used to accompany the chanting of psalms and the Liturgy of the Hours.
Leaving the chapel, Pope Francis was presented with the gift of an amber rosary by the Franciscan Mons. Linas Vodopjanovas OFM, the Bishop of Panevėžys and Chairman of the Commission for Religious Communities of the Lithuanian Bishops’ Conference. The rosary was made by the Sisters of Bethlehem, of the Assumption of the Virgin and of Saint Bruno at their monastery in the central Lithuanian town of Paparčiai.
Thanking the Holy Father for this encounter, Bishop Vodopjanovas noted the deep historic roots of the consecrated life in Lithuania and said: “Today our faith often tested in a variety of ways. Having once answered the call of a vocation, often we no longer feel joy in either prayer or life in community.” He asked the Pope to share his own living witness and a word of encouragement along the path of faith.
The Holy Father then led a responsory prayer in Latin. After a reading from the Bible on hope and the love of God, and a hymn by the choir, Pope Francis addressed the gathering.
“You are children of martyrs – that is your strength,” he began, recalling the many priests and nuns in the region who suffered greatly during the Soviet years, before turning to remarks he had prepared for the occasion, which focused on the vocation of priests and religious.
“As men and women of special consecration, we can never afford to lose that inward groaning, that restlessness of heart that finds its rest in the Lord alone. No instant news, no virtual communication can substitute for our need of concrete, prolonged and regular moments – calling for sustained effort – of daily dialogue with the Lord,” the Pope said. “The cry that makes us turn to God in prayer and adoration is the same that makes us sensitive to the pleas of our brothers and sisters. They put their ‘hope’ in us and they require us to discern carefully [in order to] genuinely respond to the needs of God’s people.”
Finishing, the Pope Francis joined all present in an act of thanksgiving to God for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. The participants then offered prayers in a variety of languages for all bishops, priests, deacons and consecrated persons, for seminarians and religious brothers and sisters at the stage of formation, for the sick, and for young people.
Finally, the Pope imparted his blessing on all those present and departed.
Papal Visit Organizing Committee of the Lithuanian Bishops’ Conference