By Francesca Merlo
Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the pastoral government of the Archdiocese of Kaunas, Lithuania presented by Archbishop Lionginas Virbalas, SJ, who turns 58 next July.
On his Facebook page, the Archbishop writes: "In the last period, by the will of Pope Francis, I served as Archbishop. From 1 March with his permission, I return to work according to my religious vocation. Faced with health problems, and especially considering the sense of the religious vocation, I hope in this way to be able to serve God and the people better". The prelate "sincerely" thanks all the members of the Archdiocese of Kaunas: "What has been done is only thanks to many priests and lay people who have dedicated themselves to the Gospel and are serving faithfully in the Church. Please forgive my failings. You will always remain in my prayers. With love in Christ.
Archbishop Lionginas Virbalas was born on 6 July, 1961 in Biržai, when Lithuania was still part of the Soviet Union. He studied at the Institute of Engineering in Vilnius. From 1981 to 1983 he did his military service in the Soviet army. He only managed to enter the Kaunas Inter-Diocesan Seminary in 1986, after having spent some time in a clandestine seminary due to opposition from the Soviet authorities.
In 1989 he joined the Society of Jesus. He was ordained a priest in 1991. He studied Spiritual Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He carried out his ministry in Austria, Lithuania, and Italy, as a parish priest, a teacher in seminaries and in the pastoral care of religious vocations. He was also Rector of the Pontifical Russian College of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, in Rome. Pope Francis appointed him Bishop of Panevėžys in June, 2013, and Metropolitan Archbishop of Kaunas in June, 2015.