Pope Francis to visit 3 Baltic countries in September
The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will visit Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on 22-25 Sep. The Pope is expected to visit Vilnius and Kaunas in Lithuania; Riga and Aglona in Latvia, and Tallinn in Estonia. The logo and motto for the Papal visit to the Baltics were released along with the dates of the trip but there is no official programme yet.
The theme for his visit to Lithuania is “Christ Jesus – Our Hope.” The motto for his visit to Latvia is “Show Thyself a Mother” in honour of the Virgin Mary, and the theme for Estonia is “Wake up, my heart!”
The Pope’s visit holds historical significance for the three Baltic countries, as it is planned for the year they celebrate their 100th anniversaries. They declared their independence from Russia in 1918 but were incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940 and remained part of it until 1991.
The planned September trip will be the first papal visit to the countries in a quarter of a century. Francis will be the second pope to travel to the Baltic states, exactly 25 years after St. Pope John Paul II, who visited the three countries in September 1993.
The three Baltic countries are predominantly Christian, with a mix of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox populations. The papal visit is therefore likely to have a strong ecumenical focus.
Lithuania has the largest Catholic community in the Baltics, influenced largely by its historical connection to Poland. Catholics make up more than 75 percent and Orthodox Christians about 4 percent of the nearly 3 million population.
Both Estonia and Latvia have large Lutheran and Orthodox populations. In Latvia, Lutheranism still accounts for about 34 percent of the population of just under 2 million and Catholics make up 25 percent, primarily in the eastern portion of the country. The third largest is the Latvian Orthodox Church.
Estonia, though historically Lutheran, has become increasingly non-religious. The Eastern Orthodox church accounts for about 16 percent and Lutheranism for almost 10 percent while around 54 percent of the population of 1.3 million identify as non-religious.