Lithuanian Cardinal Extols Power of the Rosary

At the Theological Pastoral Symposium

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GUADALAJARA, Mexico, OCT. 8, 2004 ( A Lithuanian cardinal urged participants at the Theological Pastoral Symposium to look to Mary, the «first tabernacle,» and to contemplate with her the mysteries of the faith in Christ.

Cardinal Jonzas Backis, archbishop of Vilnius, delivered that message during his homily at the start of the second working day of the symposium, being held in preparation for the International Eucharistic Congress.

Presiding at a Mass for the participants, Cardinal Backis made an analogy between the presence of Mary of Guadalupe in Mexico, and the presence of Mary Mother of Mercy, in the Shrine of the Gates of Dawn, in the walls of the old city of Vilnius.

Lithuanians have always had confidence in the Mother of God and prayed the rosary, Cardinal Backis said. He recalled that during World War II, many Lithuanians showed their rosaries to the occupying German forces when asked for identity papers. The rosary was a sufficient identity document, he added.

When the Soviets took over and deported entire families to Siberia and elsewhere, the families took their rosaries along — often one of their few personal items, the cardinal noted.

Lithuanian prisoners made rosaries out of bread, wetting crumbs, drying them and tying them with thread. «In my family home in Vilnius, we kept a rosary of those times,» he added.

«Mary’s faith in Christ’s divinity encourages us also to believe in the mystery of the Eucharist, in bread and wine which here and now become Jesus himself,» he continued. Later, the Vilnius archbishop recited a hymn to Mary’s maternity as source and summit of all maternity.

«Mothers recognize their lost children, even after many years, by a lock of hair or a decaying piece of their clothing,» he said. «Appeals can be made to medical instruments for a criminal investigation, but no one has ever succeeded in deceiving the heart of a mother.»

«In Vilnius, the capital of my homeland, Jesus taught holy Mother Faustina how he wanted God’s mercy for the world,» he continued, referring to Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), apostle of Divine Mercy, who had a decisive influence on Karol Wojtyla.

«This message is especially important and urgent today, when the world is shaken by the horrible terrorism and blind malice of man,» Cardinal Backis said. «The only salvation possible is total confidence in God’s mercy.»

He said that the testimony of the Mother of God crushes the most radical skepticism. And Mary wants us to pray the rosary because she wishes to show, through us, the simple and direct way to the Father’s heart, Archbishop Backis said.

«Let us pray united, with perseverance, from the sources of the rosary, with words that children and the elderly understand,» he added. «And let us be confident that never was it known that anyone who implored Mary’s help was left unaided.»

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