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Pope Francis: I realize that the three Baltic States are always in danger

Папа Франциск: прекрасно осознаю, что три государства Балтии всегда в опасности

Pope Francis said that he understands the danger that constantly threatens the Baltic countries, despite the fact that Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have managed to gain a foothold politically in the West.

The head of the Catholic Church said after a four-day visit to the Baltic countries, in an effort to be strong, these people should turn to their own roots, to appreciate the tragic history of the Nazi and Soviet invasions, to seek dialogue with the involvement of culture. The Holy Father acknowledged that visits to places in Vilnius where there was a Jewish ghetto and prison of the KGB, he was suppressed and forced to think a lot about the cruelty of people.

This was the Pontiff said to journalists on Tuesday evening, returning to Rome when he was asked to explain made on Saturday in Vilnius, the call for Lithuania to become a bridge between East and West. “It is obvious that politically you are part of the West. Belong To The European Union. You spent so much effort before accession to the EU. After the Declaration of independence you will immediately diligently fulfilled all the tasks and it was difficult. You managed to join the EU, and it is belonging to Western part. You are also part of NATO,” the Pope said to journalists on the plane. “But if you look to the East – it is also your story, but part of this tragic history came from the West – from the Germans, the poles, and especially of Nazism. From the East – with the Russian Empire,” said the Holy Father.

“With this in mind, be aware that the required hardness the hardness not only of belonging to the West, but also in relation to its identity,” he said. “I am well aware that the three Baltic States are always in danger. Always. The fear of invasion, the whole story reminds you about it and you are right to say that it is not easy to be a bridge, but these matches are played daily with the involvement of culture, dialogue, but it’s not easy. The duty of us all to help you. Even not help but to be near you, to be close to my heart,” dad said.

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The head of the Holy see said that in Argentina he met many Lithuanians-exiles and encouraged to follow their example in maintaining its own roots.

“I met a lot of Lithuanian emigrants. In Argentina they are really a lot. They bring their culture and history that you are proud of… Then they try to integrate into a new country, but doing it while maintaining their identity. Oh, your holidays! Traditional clothes, traditional songs. They, when they can always come back to visit their homeland. I believe that the struggle to preserve their identity is very furious. You have a strong national identity. Identity, which was created from the suffering of protective behaviour, of labour, of culture,” the Pope said.

“What can be done to preserve the identity? To turn to the roots, this is important. It is an old thing, but it needs to pass. Identity is part of belonging to a nation and belonging to a nation must be transmitted, the roots need to pass on to younger generations through dialogue, especially the elderly and young. And need to do this because your identity is a real treasure. Any identity is a treasure, if understood as belonging to the nation,” he said.

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The Pontiff said that in the Baltic countries heard from the leaders of the open, but careful and well-calculated approach towards immigrants.

“The message of openness to migrants are quite advanced in your people. There is a strong hotbeds of populism in Estonia and Latvia. It is open people who want to integrate immigrants, but not massively, because so they are impossible to integrate. This can be done only with the wise management,” said dad.

“We talked about this with heads of state: two of the three raised these issues. In the speeches of the presidents of the words “acceptance” and “openness” were frequent. This demonstrates the thirst of universality as much as possible, bearing in mind the work space so that they integrated and did not pose a threat to your national identity. These three things that I understood and that I was touched by the openness, caution and thoughtfulness,” said he.

Pope Francis visited Lithuania last weekend, he then went to Latvia and Estonia. During the visit in Lithuania, he honored the memory of victims of the Holocaust and the Soviet terror, urging Lithuanians to assess their painful pasts and to disseminate to the world the message of tolerance.

“I was in the Vilnius ghetto, where they were killed thousands of Jews. Then in the afternoon visited the memorial, prisoners, killed, and exiled. This day, to tell you honestly, I was crushed, forced to think about cruelty,” the Pope said.

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