The next international itinerary of Pope Francis’s apostolic journeys will be in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which will take place from 22 to 25 September, on the occasion of the centennial celebrations of the first declaration of independence of the three Baltic states of Russia. Among the most important events will be the prayer at the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, known as the Museum of the Genocide Victims in Vilnius (Lithuania), the ecumenical meeting in Riga (Latvia), and the visit to the beneficiaries of the Works of Charity of Tallin (Estonia).
The visit to the so-called Genocide Museum will be particularly symbolical because it was used by the secret police of the Soviet Union from 1944, the year in which Lithuania returned under the control of the USSR, up to 1991 when it regained its independence. Besides hosting the officials of the State Security Committee, the building acted as the venue for interrogations and as a prison for the political opponents of the communist regime. But the history of horror in this building started even earlier, in 1941 when the Nazis invaded Lithuania and the building was set up as the general headquarters of the Gestapo. In the three years between 1941 and 1944, about 100 thousand victims, a third of the city’s inhabitants, mostly Jews, were killed in Vilnius alone. Precisely to recall these horrors of the occupation, the Government decided to convert the building into a place of remembrance.
In the various legs of his trip, the Pope will pay homage to the painful history of a population which has remained deeply anchored to its own Christian roots, despite the persecutions.