Lithuania's Cardinal Applauds Return to "Old Europe"

VILNIUS, Lithuania, MAY 12, 2003 ( Cardinal Audrys Jouzas Backis, archbishop of Vilnius and primate of Lithuania, applauded his country’s «return to old Europe,» after a national referedum overwhelmingly voted to adhere to the European Union.

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«We are happy about our return to the old Europe of Christian roots, to which we belonged in the past,» the cardinal said in statements to AFP agency.

Cardinal Backis stressed that «the referendum was held at a time when Lithuania was celebrating the 750th anniversary of the coronation of Mindaugas, founder of the Great Duchy of Lithuania.»

Exponents of the Catholic Church in Lithuania supported this Baltic country’s membership in the European Union, envisaged for May 1, 2004.

In the Saturday-Sunday referendum, around 90% of voters said «yes» to the European Union. Participation exceeded 60%, a sufficient rate to declare the consultation valid.

76.65% of the total population of 3,601,138 inhabitants in Lithuania are Catholic. On March 11, 1990, the country became the first of the Soviet Republics to declare its independence, though not generally recognized until September 1991, following the abortive coup in Moscow.

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