Pope Francis' Address to the Bishops of Lithuania

«Lithuania has always had Pastors close to their flock and in solidarity with them.»

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Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address to the Bishops of Lithuania during their ad Limina Apostolorum visit in Rome.

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Dear Brothers in the Episcopate,

I receive you with joy on the occasion of your ad limina Apostolorum; I cordially greet each one of you and the particular Churches that the Lord has entrusted to your paternal guidance.

You have come to Rome with your youthfulness, but also with your heroism. In fact, among you there are some young brethren, but above all Prelates who have passed through the sad period of persecution. Thank you for your witness of Jesus Christ and for your service to the holy people of God!

Lithuania has always had Pastors close to their flock and in solidarity with them. Throughout the history of the nation, they have accompanied their own people with care not only in the path of faith and in confronting material difficulties, but also in the civil and cultural building of society, which finds its historical substratum and identity in the strength of the Gospel and in the love towards the Most Holy Mother of God. You are heirs to this history, of this patrimony of pastoral charity, and you show it with the energy of your actions, the communion that encourages you and the perseverance in pursuing the goals that the Spirit shows you.

Dear brothers, I know your apostolic hardships. If for a long time the Church in your country was oppressed by regimes founded on ideologies contrary to human dignity and freedom, now you are faced with other dangers, such as secularism and relativism. For this reason, together with the inexhaustible announcement of the Gospel and Christian values, do not forget a constructive dialogue with all, even with those who do not belong to the Church or are far from the religious experience. Take care that the Christian communities may always be welcoming places, in an open and constructive  way, as a stimulus for the whole society in the pursuit of the common good.

I also know your continued commitment and concern towards the clergy that God has given to you. Do not forget that you must above all pray to receive from God priests who are generous and capable of sacrifice and dedication. And also confident lay people, who know how to undertake responsibilities within the ecclesial community and to give a valid Christian contribution to civil society. The Lord will give you this, if you pray for it and if you know how to encourage them to be present, with the strength of an adult faith, in civil, cultural, political and social areas.

As you know, in this time the whole Church is committed towards path of reflection on the family, on its beauty, on its value, on its challenges that it is called to confront in our time. I also encourage you, as Pastors, to give your contribution in this great work of discernment, and above all to care for the family pastoral [ministry], so that couples can feel the closeness of the Christian community and be helped to «not be conformed to the mentality of this world but to renew itself continuously in the spirit of the Gospel» (cfr Rom 12,2). In fact, even your own country, which has now entered fully into the European Union, is exposed to the influx of ideologies that wish to introduce destabilization elements of the family, the fruit of a misunderstood sense of personal freedom. The age-old Lithuanian traditions, in this regard, will help you to respond, according to reason and according to faith, to those challenges.

I would like to recommend to you a special attention to vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. May the Church in Lithuania never tire in continuing to pray for vocations! I exhort you, additionally, to care for an adequate formation, initial and permanent, for priests, consecrated persons, seminarians, paying particular attention to their spiritual and moral life, as well as their education of evangelical poverty and the management of material goods according to the principles of the social doctrine of the Church. Love your priests, try to always be very helpful when they look for you, and do not always wait for them to look for you, do not leave them alone in difficulties. Also have a particular heart for catechists, transmitting to them with your witness the joy of evangelizing. Finally, I exhort you in the care for the poor. Even in Lithuania, despite the current economic development, there are so many that are needy, displaced, sick, abandoned. Be close to them. And do not forget those, above all among the youth, who for various reasons leave the country and look to find a new path abroad. Their rising number and their needs require attention and pastoral care from the Episcopal Conference, so that they may preserve the faith and Lithuanian religious traditions.

Dear brothers, I thank you for your visit. Please bring my cordial greetings to your particular Churches and to your fellow countrymen. May the Virgin Mary, particularly venerated in your country as the «Gate of the Dawn» in Vilinius, as well as in Šiluva and in many other parts, intercede for the Church in Lithuania. May She protect with Her mantle the priests, religious men and women and all the faithful and obtain for every community the fullness of the grace of the Lord. I assure you of my remembrance in prayer and I trust in yours, while I impart to you my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.

[Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]
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