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Piligrim Route of John Paul II
 
 
As the 15th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s apostolic visit to Lithuania approached, ways were sought to mark the occasion and reflect on the memory of this Servant of God. The bishops of Lithuania proposed joining together all the shrines in Lithuania that are linked with this Pope to form a Pilgrim Route of John Paul II. The Lithuanian government approved the plan for such a route, including 14 prominent places of prayer, on August 8, 2007.
The visit of Pope John Paul II in 1993 was an important guidepost for the life of the Catholic Church in Lithuania and for the nation as a whole. In homilies and speeches, the Holy Father presented the sources of spiritual regeneration and the principles on which a free life must be built to this people that had only just delivered itself from the yoke of totalitarianism. The Pilgrim Route of John Paul II aims to remind people of the universally valid foundations for a true and complete life which the pope so emphasized: Christ, the Cross, the Holy Spirit, and Mary’s example of faith and virtue. In light of this purpose, the route includes not only the sanctuaries which the pope visited in Lithuania, but also other sites of pious renown which received the Holy Father’s attention.
In Vilnius, pilgrims following in the footsteps of John Paul II may see Vilnius Cathedral and its chapel with the tomb of St Casimir, Patron of Lithuania. They can also pray at the Gate of Dawn before the world famous image of Mary the Mother of Mercy. The theme of the Cross, so emphasized by the Pope in Lithuania, is reflected brilliantly in the Way of the Cross at Vilnius Calvary.
In Trakai pilgrims will discover a painting of the Mother of God and Child which has a long tradition of pious renown, and which is closely associated with the efforts of Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas to bring Lithuania into the family of Christian nations.
Pivašiūnai also presents pilgrims with a painting, renowned for graces and adorned with crowns blessed by Pope John Paul II, of Mary the Comfort of the Afflicted.
And in the basilica of Marijampolė one can kneel to pray by the remains of Archbishop Jurgis Matulaitis, whom John Paul II beatified.
Christ’s Resurrection Church, rising high into the Kaunas city skyline, reflects the path travelled by the Lithuanian people in the 20th century and seems to recall the prayer of John Paul II for the nation’s spiritual rebirth. At Kaunas Cathedral, where the pope came to pray privately, a painting of Our Lady of Sorrows – long associated with many special graces – generally captivates pilgrims.
The Pažaislis monastery, which is enjoying a spiritual renaissance under the care of the Sisters of St Casimir, is sure to fascinate visitors with its inimitable architecture and art. A painting here of Mary the Mother of Fair Love, the object of ages-old pious traditions, continues moving visitors to prayer.
The renovated shrine complex of Šiluva spreads the Christological message left by the Blessed Virgin Mary during an apparition in the town in 1608: “My Son used to be worshipped in this place…” Pilgrims can pray in the Apparition Chapel as well as in the nearby Basilica, before a painting of Mary, Health of the Sick, which has long been considered miraculous.
The Tytuvėnai monastery and church complex is notable for its Stations of the Cross, as well as for the Holy Steps Chapel modelled on a chapel at the Lateran Palace in Rome.
Šiauliai Cathedral is a frequent starting point for pilgrimages by foot to the Hill of Crosses, which in turn was made world-famous by Pope John Paul II, who spoke here about the mystery of the Cross.
For its part, Samogitian Calvary maintains authentic centuries-old Way of the Cross traditions. The shrine also attracts pilgrims for its celebrated painting of Mary the Queen of the Christian Family and for the annual Great Indulgenced Feast of Samogitian Calvary.

p.pilgrimsThe Pilgrim Route connects the places which for long ages Lithuanians have cherished and considered holy. It has been named in honor of this great Pope and great pilgrim as a token of gratitude and respect. Just as John Paul II once helped the world hear the voice of the “silenced Church”, we hope that his intercession will help pilgrims from many different lands discover Lithuania’s living treasures of Christian faith...

This year „Visit Lithuania“ presents special tour — Pilgrim route of JOHN PAUL II , which is blessed by Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius SJ!

 
The Cathedral Basilica of Sts Stanislaus and Vladislaus, the Chapel of St Casimir. The Cathedral Basilica of Sts Stanislaus and Vladislaus is the main symbol and spiritual centre of the Lithuanian capital as well as a monument to the Baptism of Lithuania. The basilica, built in the very heart of the city at the base of the castle hill, has witnessed many important historical events. Here Lithuanian rulers were crowned, here nobles and bishops were buried. Even today, Holy Mass celebrated in Vilnius Cathedral marks the high point of many national and religious feasts and commemorations. The sanctuary’s rich spiritual and cultural treasures are a magnet for all visitors to the city, but it is especially cherished by Catholics as the place where the relics of St Casimir, Lithuania’s patron saint, are venerated. On September 4, 1993, Pope John Paul II prayed here by the remains of St Casimir and held a meeting in the cathedral with priests, religious and seminarians.
The Gate of Dawn chapel, with its venerable painting of Mary the Mother of Mercy, is one of Lithuania’s most important religious, historical and cultural sites. This is the foremost Marian shrine in the Vilnius archdiocese and a destination for pilgrims from many countries, not only Catholic but also Orthodox. Devotion to the Mother of God is especially strong and vibrant here, as shown by the crowds that gather each November for the Indulgenced Feast of the Mother of Mercy, and by the ever growing number of votive offerings, tokens of pilgrims’ sincere gratitude for graces received.
The Vilnius Calvary. Vilnius Calvary is a holy place which for long ages has been offering consolation and strength to those who are burdened by misfortune. In times past, people would travel hundreds of kilometers on foot to pray about Christ’s sufferings and earn God’s blessing by making the Way of the Cross here. Large numbers of devout souls still come today for the same reason. During Pentecost, in particular, thousands gather and, intoning poignant hymns, prayerfully climb the steep hills. Vilnius Calvary suffered more than some other shrines from the cruel trials which, historically, Lithuanian Catholics have endured. The Soviet authorities blew the site up in 1962, and a year later completed demolition of the shrine’s chapels and gateways. Reconstruction of Vilnius Cavalry began in 1990. Cardinal Audrys Juozas Bačkis stressed that the shrine’s rebirth “was not only the recreation of sacred art, but a gift to believers and to the entire nation after its experience of great sufferings and losses.” The Church of the Invention of the Holy Cross is one of the most beautiful and well preserved sacred art monuments in Lithuania. Pilgrims can pray before a relic of the Holy Cross that is displayed under glass in the church at the altar of Our Lady of Sorrows.
The Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, standing atop the highlands of the Trakai peninsula, today seems to lie somewhat off the beaten track. However, a bird’s eye view reveals Trakai’s medieval structure, including residential areas among which the church clearly dominates. It marks the spiritual centre of the town, equal in significance to Trakai Castle. The church is exceptional not only for its size, but also for its history, having never been closed, turned over to non-Catholics or used for other purposes. The Trakai church is a unique monument to Lithuanian culture and faith, which embodies an ecclesiastical and artistic legacy of six centuries. But what draws pious visitors is not so much the church’s artistic and historical value as the fame for special graces of its painting of the Virgin Mary and Child. This is the oldest image of the Mother of God in Lithuania.
Kaunas Cathedral Basilica of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul is one of Lithuania’s oldest and largest sanctuaries, and the country’s only gothic church of basilica form. The building‘s monumental and rather severe appearance is the result of a mixture of gothic and renaissance architectural traits. In fact, the style of the current basilica is transitional between gothic and renaissance. Pilgrims are drawn by a 16th century painting of Our Lady of Sorrows as well as a 17th century image of the Most Gracious Virgin Mother, both associated with special graces.
The Christ’s Resurrection Church in Kaunas is a symbol of the Lithuanian nation’s spiritual revival and regained independence. The edifice invites believers to cherish their homeland and their Christian roots, and reminds them that Jesus Christ is the only sound foundation for the life of a nation. Christ’s Resurrection Church is one of the most expressive modernist- style churches in Lithuania, characterized by generalized bulk composition, sharp rhythmic verticals and a distinctive staircase silhouette, in the centre of which a 70-meter-high tower rises up toward the heavens.
On the outskirts of Kaunas, on a hill in Pažaislis by the shore of the Kaunas Reservoir, stands the Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary with its monastery. The ensemble is one of the finest late baroque masterpieces in all of Northeast Europe. Kristupas Žygimantas Pacas (1621–1684), the chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, built this sanctuary for the Camaldolese monks in the 17th century. But the Pažaislis church and monastery complex did not gain fame just for the piety of its monks and the artistic value of its buildings. The pilgrims who throng here each year, especially for the shrine’s July 2 indulgenced feast, are also drawn by a painting of the Virgin Mary known as the Camaldolese Mother of God, which was given to the hermits by the patron of the complex and is renowned for special graces. The monastery’s dramatic history, spanning more than 300 years, touches on numerous traditions of spirituality as well as wars, fires and other disasters. Today the monastery is cared for by the Lithuanian Congregation of the Sisters of St Casimir, who seek to revive and continue traditions of divine worship while also opening the doors to new expressions of social life and culture.
The heart of the Šiauliai diocese, which Pope John Paul II created in 1997 – the Cathedral of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul. The church is Lithuania’s most prominent example of renaissance-mannerist architecture. From whatever direction you arrive in Šiauliai, you are sure to see its 70-meter-tall graceful white tower. The majestic edifice has some unique architectural details. Bay windows on the main façade, and churchyard gate towers with firing holes, give the impression of a defensive fortress.
Samogitian Calvary (or “Žemaičių Kalvarija”) – is the main shrine in the diocese of Telšiai and a focal point of pilgrimages in western Lithuania. It is located in the region of Plungė, near the Mažeikiai-Tauragė highway. The town’s fame began to spread after a Way of the Cross with 20 stations was created here in 1639. Pilgrims also come for a painting of Mary and the Child Jesus, brought from Rome in the first half of the 17th century and known for special graces, which now hangs at the church’s main altar. Every year more than 70,000 people take part in the Great Indulgenced Feast of Samogitian Calvary. Walking along the Way of the Cross and singing 400-year-old hymns specific to this shrine, they meditate on the meaning and significance of Christ’s passion and death on the Cross.
The Hill of Crosses is unique and inimitable, both for its size and for its history. At present, some 200,000 crosses of various sizes adorn the hill. In erecting crosses here by the thousands, people manifest their devotion to Christ, pray for his help and consolation, and mark Lithuania as a Christian land. The site, an expression of the nation’s spontaneous religiosity, is probably the place in Lithuania that pilgrims most visit. The Hill of Crosses gained immense significance in the lives of Lithuanian believers during the Soviet era as a place of anonymous yet remarkably persevering resistance to the totalitarian regime. After independence was regained, the hill quickly became a symbol of the nation’s unshakeable faith, of its past suffering and of its hope. The Hill of Crosses gained fame throughout the world in 1993 when Pope John Paul II visited and celebrated Holy Mass for a gathering of 100,000 people. A cross that Pope John Paul II donated was erected here in 1994.
Tytuvėnai is a small town on the scenic plateaus of eastern Samogitia that is famous for the monuments to baroque culture it contains. Tytuvėnai’s Church of Our Lady of the Angels and Bernardine monastery complex are among Lithuania’s largest and most significant specimens of 17th and 18th century sacred architecture, reflecting as they do a multi-layered harmony of the gothic, mannerist and baroque styles. The ensemble consists of a church, a courtyard with the Holy Steps Chapel, and the stone wall of a two-story monastery. The main altar of the church features a painting of the Mother of God and Child which is famed for special.
The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared here 400 years ago in one of Europe’s first Marian apparitions, and probably the only in which she spoke to a non-Catholic Christian. From the oldest of times to the present, a steady stream of pilgrims has been flowing to Šiluva. The feast of the Nativity (or “Birth”) of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated here for nearly 500 years, each time drawing many thousands of pilgrims from all of Lithuania and beyond. Pious visitors throng to the Chapel of the Apparition of Our Lady of Šiluva, which stands in the exact place where 400 years ago Mary appeared. Nearby, in the shrine’s Basilica, they pray before a painting of Mary and Jesus that has been renowned for special graces since the early 17th century. Altogether, about a quarter of a million pilgrims pass through Šiluva each year. The largest groups gather in early September during the annual eight-day indulgenced feast known as Šilinės.
Marijampolė is located at the centre of the region of Sūduva on the banks of the Šešupė River. In the mid 18th century, the Marian Fathers built a monastery whose name – Marijampolė – thereafter was also applied to the village established in the place some 200 years earlier. It is the only Lithuanian city to bear the name of a monastery and to have a name directly referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The body of the holy archbishop Jurgis Matulaitis (1871-1927) is enshrined in Marijampolė at the Basilica of St Michael the Archangel. Jurgis Matulaitis, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1987, is so far the only Lithuanian of modern times who has been declared “blessed”. The figure of Matulaitis attracts pilgrims from both Lithuania and abroad. Many gather in Marijampolė each July for the indulgenced feast of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis.
Pivašiūnai, a small village in the picturesque lowlands of Dzūkija. Pivašiūnai has long been known not only for its beautiful nature, but also – and even more so – for its church with a miraculous painting of the Mother of God and Child. In 1988, Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevičius adorned the famous image of Our Lady of Pivašiūnai with crowns blessed by Pope John Paul II and bestowed her with the title of “Comfort of the Afflicted”. The church of Pivašiūnai is among the most important sanctuaries in the archdiocese of Kaišiadorys, whose borders its renown exceeds by far. It hosts an annual feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is the main indulgenced feast in the diocese.

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