(Vatican Radio) Lithuania’s clergy have been “heroic” in defending the Church in times of persecution – that’s what Pope Francis told Bishops from the Baltic nation who are in Rome for their ad Limina visit. If Lithuania was for many years “oppressed by regimes founded on ideologies contrary to human dignity and freedom,” the former Soviet state is now faced with “other dangers such as secularism and relativism,” the Pope said in a written statement.
The last Soviet troops left Lithuania on 31 August 1993 and the country became a full member of the European Union in 2004. Lithuania adopted the euro as its official currency on 1 January 2015.
In his remarks to Lithuanian bishops meeting in the Vatican Monday, Pope Francis noted some of them had lived through the “sad times” of persecution and observed the Church’s pastors have historically accompanied the faithful spiritually, through material difficulties, and in the construction of society.
The Pope invited the prelates to “tirelessly announce the Gospel and Christian values” and to “constructive dialogue with all, even those who do not belong to the Church or are far from the religious experience.”
The Holy Father called them to pray for “generous priests capable of sacrifice and dedication,” and for lay people capable of taking responsibility within the Church community and of giving valuable Christian witness in society, particularly in the civil, cultural, and socio-political spheres.
With its full membership in the European Union, Lithuania, the Pope warned, is exposed to an “influx of ideologies that would introduce elements of destabilization for families, fruit of a poorly understood sense of personal freedom.” He encouraged them to provide pastoral guidance and support to help strengthen families.
The Pope further urged the bishops to pay special attention to vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, saying that they need “adequate training” throughout their ministry. The poor, unemployed, the sick and young people, the Pope concluded, are also in need of the Lithuanian Church’s pastoral solicitude.
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