VILNIUS (Reuters) – Pope Francis stated firstly of a four-day journey to the Baltics on Saturday that Lithuania ought to see its painful previous beneath Soviet and Nazi domination as an impetus to advertise tolerance in Europe.
Pope Francis speaks on the Gate of Daybreak shrine in Vilnius, Lithuania September 22, 2018. REUTERS/Max Rossi
Francis, on the primary journey by a pope to the area since 1993, is utilizing his go to to hold a message of solidarity for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as they appear warily towards a newly aggressive Russia practically 30 years after they broke away from the then-Soviet Union.
In his first speech, he warned Lithuanians to beware these “sowing division and confrontation – typically by exploiting insecurity or conditions of battle – and proclaiming that the one approach doable to ensure safety and the continued existence of a tradition is to attempt to get rid of, cancel or expel others.”
Whereas he didn’t point out any nations, he seemed to be referring to populist governments in a number of European nations, together with neighboring Poland, Hungary and Italy, all of which have made political good points with anti-immigrant stands.
“All through its historical past, Lithuania was capable of shelter, obtain and settle for peoples of varied ethnic teams and religions,” Francis stated in a speech to President Dalia Grybauskaite and the diplomatic corps.
He praised the nation’s potential to beat “totalitarian ideologies,” a reference to the Nazi occupation throughout World Conflict Two and Soviet domination from 1944 to 1991.
“You could have suffered ‘within the flesh’ these efforts to impose a single mannequin that will annul variations ….,” he stated, including that Lithuanians might supply their experiences “to the European Group specifically.”
Francis stated Lithuania, which like the opposite two Baltic states is a member of the European Union and NATO, ought to use its historical past and geographic place to be “a bridge between Jap and Western Europe”.
On Sunday, the pope will go to the Museum of Occupations and Fights for Freedom, a former Soviet KGB jail in Vilnius the place a whole bunch had been murdered and hundreds, together with many clergymen, shipped off to Siberia.
The Catholic Church in Lithuania took a constantly anti-Soviet place throughout the annexation, and Grybauskaite thanked Francis for the Vatican’s help when Lithuania was beneath Moscow’s thumb.
The pope additionally will pray at a monument to the victims of the Vilnius ghetto, the place solely a number of hundred of its some 40,000 residents survived the Nazi extermination.
Greater than 200,000 Lithuanian Jews perished within the Holocaust and throughout the Soviet interval an identical variety of Lithuanians had been despatched to Siberia.
The pontiff will spend two days in predominantly Catholic Lithuania earlier than shifting on to Latvia after which Estonia.
Enhancing by Philip Pullella