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In Lativa, papal emphasis is on forgiveness and healing.

The following are some early highlights of Pope John Paul II's Sept. 4-10 trip to former republics of the Soviet Union. As NCR went to press, he had completed his four-day visit to Lithuania and had just arrived in Latvia. From there, he was scheduled to spend one day in Estonia.

RIGA, Latvia -- At his Sept. 8 arrival ceremony here, his second stop, Pope John Paul II quickly re-established the themes of his first stop in, Lithuania, the only republic of the former Soviet Union where Catholicism is the historically dominant religion. Besides asking the victors of the Cold War to be forgiving, he appealed to the losers to adapt to change through "sincere conversion and, if necessary, expiation." Repeatedly, the pope emphasized the need for Christian moral principals and social values to smooth the way for democracy.

* While in Lithuania, the pope visited sites associated with religious and political persecution during decases of communist rule. He also visited Antakalnis Cemetery in the capital, Vilnius, to pray at the tombs of 18 people killed by Soviet troops in 1991 during the independence fight. The pope praised them as "martyrs of Lithuania."

* The pope celebrated Mass along the Hill of Crosses, a centuries-old pilgrimage site where Catholics for years engaged in a seesaw battle of symbols with communist authorities -- putting up crosses at night to replace those torn down by communists during the day. During Mass, the pope recalled church leaders persecuted during communist rule.

* At a Mass at Vingis Park in Vilnius, the pope appealed for peace between Lithuania and Russia, the largest and most dominant republic to emerge from the splintering of the Soviet Union. The park was the site of major pro-independence rallies. Post-independence relations have become tense over political and economic issues tied to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

* The pope also dealt with the thorny issue of the large ethnic Russian population still living in the Baltics. Controversy has arisen as to whether they should be granted citizenship, especially the civilians who came as support personnel for the Soviet military and who now wish to stay. The Vatican "recognizes the aspirations of citizens of Russian origin who ask to be able to enjoy their human rights in their country of residence," the pope told foreign diplomats in Vilnius.

* At a Lithuanian youth rally, the pope urged young people to join lay movements as a way to curb the spread of sects. With the end of religious restrictions, sects and new religious movements have been growing throughout the Baltics, causing worry for the bishops.

* At a Sept. 8 meeting in a Riga Lutheran church, the pope said the shared suffering under communism is a stimulus to pursue "the lofty value of Christian unity." Lutheranism, Orthodoxy and Catholicism are the main religions in the Baltics.

* The Vatican interpreted as a positive sign for improving Catholic-Orthodox relations the presence of a representative of the Russian Orthodox patriarchate of Moscow to the papal events, said Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Vatican spokesman. There have been Catholic-Russian Orthodox tensions since religious restrictions were lifted in Russia.
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Title Annotation:papal visit, Sept. 1993
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Sep 17, 1993
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