Pope in the Baltic States: visit and prayer before the monuments to the victims of the occupations and the Jewish ghetto
Pope Francis stood in silence and laid flowers at the ghetto and lit a golden lamp at the museum that commemorates the people tortured and executed by the KGB. He noted the “thirst for absolute power on the part of those who sought complete domination”, praying that “we may not be deaf to the plea of all those who cry out to heaven in our own day.”
Vilnius (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis ended his visit to Lithuania this afternoon with prayers before two monuments: that of the Jewish ghetto, destroyed 75 years ago by the Nazis, and that of the victims of occupations and fights for freedom. The pontiff also visited the Museum of Genocide Victims, once a court, a prison and a place of torture under Communist rule, vacated by the KGB in 1991. At least a thousand people were executed here. Hundreds of thousands more Lithuanians were deported to other places like Siberia.
In his journey back from Kaunas, Francis stopped at the Jewish ghetto monument. Standing in silence, he laid a wreath of flowers. At the museum, in the company of the Archbishop of Vilnius, Mgr Gintaras Grušas, the pontiff lit a golden lamp, a gift he brought for the occasion. Afterwards, he visited the prison cells and torture chambers, pausing here and there in silence and prayer (picture 1). Once outside, he walked to the Monument of the Victims of Occupations and Fights for freedom where, in front of hundreds of thousands of people, he recited the following prayer:
“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.