Father Laniauskas’ Papal Trip to the Baltic States

Lydia Sidrys , News Editor

Father Laniauskas recently returned from a trip to Lithuania and Estonia where he served as the translator to the Pope. On his trip, Father Laniauskas worked in the Vatican Media Center. His job was to “watch the Pope visit the different Baltic states and share that, through the Vatican Media Center, with the world wide media.” Pope Francis visited all three of the Baltic States: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. While we don’t know for sure why he chose to visit the Baltic States, Father Laniauskas said that “I think he is very big on visiting countries that have survived hardship, as well as the Baltic States are celebrating one hundred years of independence.” All of the Baltic States have endured much hardship as being a part of the Soviet Union; the Pope visited a few places reminiscent of these hard times in the past, as well as he looked to the future of these countries. Father Laniauskas accompanied the Pope to Lithuania and Estonia. He stayed with him in Lithuania for three days and in Estonia for two days. In Lithuania, Pope Francis visited Cathedral Square and the Old KGB office, he also went to Kaunas to celebrate mass.
Interacting with the Pope in person must be very different than how we see him online, in pictures, or through the media. Father Laniauskas did say that he noticed many things about the Pope that he had not really noticed before. “I noticed how old he is. He’s 83 years old and is tired. His leg hurts and he limps. In addition to that I really noticed his humility; he’s a really simple guy.” One of the main purposes of the Pope’s visit to the Baltic states nad to his mission in general is to talk to young people. He finds this important because a lot of young people are leaving the church, so he finds it important to talk to the youth about how the Gospel can reach them better. In Lithuania, he visited the youth in Cathedral Square in Vilnius.
The most amazing moment of the trip for Father Laniauskas was on Sunday night. The Pope sat down in a room with all of the Jesuits, about fifteen of them, and allowed them to ask him any different questions. Father Laniauskas describes this amazing moment: “We talked about a lot of different topics… At the end he asked if anyone has any other questions and he looked directly at me. It was such a beautiful moment. The Pope has talked about how the church has been a field hospital and he’s talked about chaos and to create chaos in the street so that we shouldn’t be comfortable in that way. I said that the world and the church is so chaotic, how do you and how do we not become afraid or get lost in or navigate the chaos. He paused and took some time to think. Then he started talking about the spiritual exercises and meditation of the two standards and in that mediation any soldier has to find his way in the battle to discover who they are fighting for. If you feel like you are alone, you will die. If you forget Jesus’s voice, you will get lost. He talked about how he’s there too and that many people are feeling chaos, heartache and confusion. He also talked about the importance of obedience in a Jesuit’s life, wherever we are sent is exactly where Christ wants us to be.”

Photo Courtesy of Vatican Media