Pope John Paul II Starts First Visit to Former Soviet Union

Pope John Paul II Starts First Visit to Former Soviet Union

Pope John Paul II
Source: James G. Howes

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Pope John Paul II begins his first visit to the former Soviet Union when he lands in Lithuania. Twice, in 1984 and 1987, he asked permission to visit Lithuania, and both times the Soviet government refused.

The choice of Lithuania resonates personally for Pope John Paul II because Lithuania and Poland were both part of the same medieval kingdom and Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, was still part of Poland while the pope was growing up.

One of the major themes of his visit will be to promote reconciliation as part of building democracy:

"In your eyes there must be neither winners nor losers, but rather men and women who need to be helped to leave error behind, persons to be supported in their efforts to recover from the effects, including the psychological ones, of violence, abuse of power and the violation of human rights.

You need to remind the 'losers' that it is not enough to adapt to changed social situations; instead what is required is sincere conversion and, if necessary, expiation. And the 'winners' need to hear continually the exhortation to forgiveness, so that there will come about that authentic peace that derives from following the gospel of mercy and of charity."


Pope John Paul II in Lithuania, September 1993

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