By Linda Bordoni
Present at this morning’s ecumenical meeting in Riga’s Lutheran Cathedral with Pope Francis was Jānis Vanags, the Evangelical Lutheran Archbishop of Riga.
No formal ecumenical relations
He explained that Lutherans in Latvia do not have formal ecumenical relations as they do not engage in theological dialogue amongst each other.
For this, he said, their reference point for Latvian Lutherans is what is going on between the Lutheran Federation and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. On the ground the different Churches foster cooperation and encounter, friendship and mutual support.
Importance of Pope’s visit
Regarding the significance of Pope Francis’ apostolic visit, Archbishop Vanags says first of all “it is a celebration and a great event for our Catholic friends and partners because their shepherd is visiting so we are glad and rejoice with them”.
But, Archbishop Vanags says, the Pope’s visit transcends, not only the limits of Roman Catholic Church but also all religious borders.
“We can observe how active the preparations for the visit have been, not only in the media but also in political circles and I think that is important for our country”
Unfortunately, Vanags points out, “after the liberation, somehow the attention towards religion, the recognition of its importance has decreased in Latvia”.
He says it is getting more difficult to teach religion in schools, for example, and the fact that the Pope’s visit has focused attention on Christian faith, Christian values and religion in general, is very helpful.
“Of course, he concludes, the Christian faith has been a constituting factor in the history of our nation so it a great event”.