On Friday, the Vatican confirms that the Pope is scheduled to fly to the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in September amidst rumors regarding a possible trip to the region.
According to a communique released regarding the trip, the Pope will be travelling to the three nations from September 22-25, visiting the cities of Vilnius and Kaunas in Lithuania, Riga and Aglona in Latvia and Tallinn in Estonia.
The motto and logos for the trip have also been released. The theme for the Lithuanian trip is "Christ Jesus - Our Hope", the Latvian trip is "Show Theyself a Mother" in honor of the Virgin Mary and the Estonian trip is "Wake up, my heart!" The full schedules for all three trips were not included; however, it is expected to be released in the coming months.
The trip to the Baltic nations is the first papal trip in the region for more than a quarter of a century. He will be the second pope to travel in the area after St. Pope John Paul II's trip to the region 25 years ago in September 1993.
The three countries have a large Christian population, with a mix of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox groups. As a result, the pope's visit would be kept close to his preference and will have a strong ecumenical focus.
The visit would also coincide with the centenary of the three countries after being established as independent state. All three countries used to be a part of the Russian empire until 1917, gaining their independence a year later. Although they have been returned to the Soviet Union in the 1940s, they managed to regain their independence once more in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
St. John Paul II has strong love for the people of Lithuania, stressing after his election that "half of my heart is in Lithuania." The city of Vilnius is also very important thanks to the image of the Divine Mercy after St. Faustina Kowalska received visions of Christ requesting the painting of the Divine Mercy and where the original image is located. St. John Paul II is a devotee of the Divine Mercy.