Pope begins solidarity tour of Baltic states in Lithuania

By REUTERS
September 22, 2018 12:02
1 minute read.
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VILNIUS - Pope Francis arrived in Lithuania on Saturday to begin a four-day visit to the Baltic states, carrying a message of solidarity as they look towards a newly aggressive Russia nearly 30 years after they broke away from the then-Soviet Union.

The pontiff will spend two days in predominantly Catholic Lithuania before moving on to Latvia and Estonia.

He was greeted at Vilnius airport by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, a military brass band and a group of children waving Vatican flags and singing songs.

He then left for the presidential palace in central Vilnius to make his first address.

The trip is the first by a pope to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia since 1993. A quarter of a century later, the countries are members of NATO and the euro zone but the past still looms large in a region that had been subject to Soviet and Nazi oppression and where religious persecution left a traumatic legacy.

In Lithuania, Francis will visit the Vilnius Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, a former Soviet KGB prison where hundreds were murdered and thousands shipped off to Siberia, including many priests.

He will also pray at a monument to the victims of the Vilnius ghetto, in a country where only several hundred of over 200,000 Jews survived the Holocaust.

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