Pope Francis on Sunday ended his two-day apostolic visit to Lithuania with a visit to the KGB Museum in Vilnius where he decried the suffering brought about by complete domination and unrestrained ambition during three occupations.
Following the collapse of the Russian and Prussian monarchies at the end of the World War I, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia declared their independence in 1918. However in 1940, Soviet Russia's red army occupied the Baltic nations declaring them Soviet republics. The following year, the Nazis took over until 1944, following which Soviet Russia again occupied the nations. With the final collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, the three nations won back their freedom. This year, the Baltic nations are marking the centenary of the declaration of their independence.
As Pope Francis prayed before the walls “that recall the sufferings endured” by so many Lithuanians, he asked the Lord to uphold Lithuania so it may become a “beacon of hope”, a “land of memory and action, constantly committed to fighting all forms of injustice.”
This is the Prayer of the Holy Father:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46)
Your cry, Lord, continues to resound. It echoes within these walls that recall of the sufferings endured by so many sons and daughters of this people. Lithuanians and those from other nations paid in their own flesh the price of the thirst for absolute power on the part of those who sought complete domination.
Your cry, O Lord, is echoed in the cry of the innocent who, in union with you, cry out to heaven. It is the Good Friday of sorrow and bitterness, of abandonment and powerlessness, of cruelty and meaninglessness that this Lithuanian people experienced as a result of the unrestrained ambition that hardens and blinds the heart.
In this place of remembrance, Lord, we pray that your cry may keep us alert. That your cry, Lord, may free us from the spiritual sickness that remains a constant temptation for us as a people: forgetfulness of the experiences and sufferings of those who have gone before us.
In your cry, and in the lives of all who suffered so greatly in the past, may we find the courage to commit ourselves decisively to the present and to the future. May that cry encourage us to not succumb to the fashions of the day, to simplistic slogans, or to efforts to diminish or take away from any person the dignity you have given them.
Lord, may Lithuania be a beacon of hope. May it be a land of memory and action, constantly committed to fighting all forms of injustice. May it promote creative efforts to defend the rights of all persons, especially those most defenceless and vulnerable. And may Lithuania be for all a teacher in the way to reconcile and harmonize diversity.
Lord, grant that we may not be deaf to the plea of all those who cry out to heaven in our own day.