Krikščionių piligrimystėJonas Paulius II ir Lietuva
Į pirmą puslapį
Piligrimystė Lietuvoje
Jono Pauliaus II piligrimų kelias
May the light of your Cross, O Lord, shed light and meaning on all crosses!
John Paul II, Lithuania

The Present Day

Lithuania’s regained independence brought a gradual revival of pilgrimage traditions, which were helped along by events like the Great Jubilee of Christianity in the year 2000, celebrations of important anniversaries at well-known Lithuanian shrines and coronations of renowned paintings of Mary.

In the last years of the Soviet era, a small group of Lithuanian pilgrims managed to reach the French village of Taizé, a world famous ecumenical pilgrimage centre. Thus Lithuania began to get involved in the Taizé “pilgrimage of trust”. Every year since the restoration of independence, numerous groups from Lithuania, and especially young people, have travelled to the village of Taizé or to New Year Meetings for youth in diverse European cities.

The Year 2000 Jubilee of Christianity facilitated the revival of some lost pilgrimage traditions and the creation of other new ones. It was of utmost importance that year to make a jubilee pilgrimage as an external sign of one’s interior journey towards God. Many people travelled to Rome or the Holy Land, which were the main jubilee pilgrimage destinations. During the Lithuanian Days celebrated in Rome from March 1 to 4, pilgrims attended Mass in the great Roman basilicas and visited places closely linked with the history of Christianity. At the end of the trip, they attended a solemn Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, then had a meeting with the pope and commemorated the feast of St Casimir. A Lithuanian pilgrimage to the Holy Land took place from November 6 to 13, 2000. The participants visited Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem and other places connected with our Lord’s life. In Lithuania like everywhere, people who could not travel to Rome or the Holy Land could make a pilgrimage to their diocesan cathedral or to another shrine indicated by the bishop, and there fulfil the requirements to earn the jubilee indulgence. In Lithuania itself the Great Jubilee of Christianity brought about the first large Church-organized events in many years, including a Eucharistic Congress and Youth Days. Crowds of pilgrims attended.

With Lithuania once more independent and Soviet obstruction a thing of the past, traditional large liturgical processions were revived. Good Friday and Corpus Christi processions through the city streets, for example, attract larger and larger throngs of believers every year. Some new pious processions and parades have been initiated, while older ones have taken on contemporary features. The procession of pilgrims on Divine Mercy Sunday has become ecumenical: Catholic clergy and lay people are joined by Lutherans and Orthodox believers. The oldest known pilgrimage in Lithuania – the trip from Vilnius to the miraculous image of the Mother of God in Trakai – has also been revived.

Some pilgrims form groups and undertake lengthy penitential journeys requiring strong spiritual and physical resolve. There have been pilgrimages on foot to Rome and the Holy Land, with participants bearing a cross that weighed some 60 kilograms (132 pounds). Penitential walking tours around Lithuania, including stops at important Marian shrines, are increasingly popular. Taking turns carrying a heavy cross, pilgrims travel hundreds of kilometres, participating each day in Holy Mass. They entrust their basic needs to God and confide in the generosity of people they meet along the way.

As for visiting relics of the saints, the most important place undoubtedly is Vilnius Cathedral, with its chapel containing the remains of the only Lithuanian saint so far, Prince Casimir (1458-1484). Pilgrims from far and near gather by St Casimir’s coffin to pray and take part in the Holy Mass. The tomb has been renowned as a place of special graces since the 16th century. The feast of St Casimir is marked on March 4 each year at Vilnius Cathedral with a Mass for families at midday and a gathering of young people in the evening. St Casimir is both Patron of Lithuania and Patron of Youth.

Another pilgrimage destination that is gaining prominence is the burial place of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis (1871-1927) in a chapel of the basilica of Marijampolė. Devotion to Blessed Jurgis is widespread in both Lithuania and Poland. Many come to Marijampolė each July for the solemn commemoration of the beatification of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis. It has also become traditional to gather in prayer on the 12th day of each month to seek the intercession of this saintly archbishop.

Many pilgrims come to Vilnius drawn by the message of Divine Mercy that God transmitted through the humble nun St Faustina. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II, who was himself a strong advocate of the Divine Mercy message. In visions to Sister Faustina, Jesus insisted: “Trust in me, for I am a merciful Lord. Trust in my mercy.” Following the Saviour’s instructions, St Faustina had a painting made of Jesus, as seen in her visions. The image, which soon gained fame for special graces, is kept at the Divine Mercy Shrine and attracts pilgrims by the thousands. Many visitors are also keen to see the small house where St Faustina lived as well as places linked with Blessed Michael Sopocko, the holy priest who was her spiritual guardian. A “Divine Mercy Week” is held each year in Vilnius from Easter Sunday to the Feast of Divine Mercy, including, an ecumenical procession the evening of Easter Monday which is known as the “Path of Light” and which proceeds from the Gate of Dawn to the Divine Mercy Shrine.

Relics of St Theresa of the Child Jesus which travelled throughout Lithuania in May and June of 2007 attracted large groups of pilgrims. This was a rather unusual pilgrimage, since usually it is the pilgrims who travel to pray before the relics of saints. Here, however, the saint’s relics are travelling the world in order to be accessible also to people who could not make a long journey. This is in keeping with the desire of St Theresa – who happens to be Patroness of the Missions – to proclaim the Gospel in all the Earth.

Events leading up to and surrounding the 400-year jubilee of the Mother of God’s apparition at Šiluva, celebrated in September 2008, brought extraordinary numbers of pilgrims from all of Lithuania and from many other countries. About 150,000 people prayed at Šiluva just during the main days of the jubilee. Earlier, a large group of Lithuanian pilgrims had travelled to the world famous Marian shrine of Lourdes in France, which was also celebrating an anniversary - 150 years since Mary’s apparition there. Some of them returned to Lithuania on foot, in a journey that lasted three months and reached Šiluva just as the jubilee events were starting. Pope Benedict XVI, who went in pilgrimage to Lourdes in early September, sent a legate, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, to represent him at Šiluva’s fourth centenary celebration.