Catholic Church in Lithuania

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Franciscan Church in Vilnius

The Catholic Church in Lithuania is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope in Rome.

Lithuania has the highest density of Catholics of all the Baltic states: there are two million Catholics, which is 79% of the total population (2002).[1] The country is divided into eight dioceses including two archdioceses and a military ordinariate.[2] In 2007 there were 779 Catholic priests and 677 parishes.[3] Lithuania is the northernmost predominantly Catholic country in the world, being slightly farther north than the Republic of Ireland.


Catholicism has been the majority denomination since the Christianization of parts of Lithuania proper in 1387 (the Highland) and in 1413 (Samogitia, the Lowland).[4]

St. Casimir (Kazimieras, 1458–1484) is the only canonized saint of Lithuania. He is the patron of the country and Lithuanian youth. Archbishop Jurgis Matulaitis-Matulevičius (1871–1927) was beatified in 1987.[5]

Resistance to Communism[edit]

The Catholic Church is an influential factor in the country, and some priests actively led the resistance against the Communist regime and, after independence was regained, in support of traditionalism, especially in ethical questions.

The nationally renowned anti-Communist resistance shrine, the Hill of Crosses, upon which thousands of Latin Rite crosses of all sizes have been placed, is located near the city of Šiauliai. Erecting Latin crosses on the hill was forbidden by the Czarist Russian Orthodox authorities in the 19th century. Later, in the 20th century, the Soviet authorities also forbade such explicit religious symbols. The crosses were removed in 1961 with tractors and bulldozers, but despite Soviet prohibitions, Catholics continued to put small crucifixes and larger crosses on the Hill of Crosses. Pope John Paul II visited the hill during his visit to Lithuania, primarily because it was a sign of anti-Communist Catholic resistance, as well as a Catholic religious site. Lithuania was the only majority-Catholic Soviet republic.

The Catholic Church in Lithuania has after independence continued to campaign against liberal and socialist measures, especially in ethical questions.

Also during the Communist time by the Holy See were designated Apostolic Visitors for the Lithuanian Roman Catholics in diaspora.


Catholic cathedrals in Lithuania[edit]

Catholic churches in Lithuania[edit]

The first churches appeared in Lithuania before the introduction of Christianity – they had been built by merchants and craftsmen from other countries who lived here. After the baptism in 1387 the number of churches in Lithuania began to grow notably. In the middle of the twentieth century there were as many as 885 Catholic churches and chapels in Lithuania.

The first church in Lithuania, supposedly, was built by the Grand Duke Mindaugas in the thirteenth century. It was Vilnius Cathedral, which in its long history has been repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt. The oldest surviving stone church is St. Nicholas, built in the 14th – 15th centuries. It stands in Vilnius and visitors admire its Gothic and Romanesque features. St. Anne's Church is a masterpiece of late Gothic. The Chapel of the Gate of Dawn storing the icon of the Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy in Vilnius has many features of late Renaissance and is one of the holy places in Lithuania most visited by pilgrims. Impressive architectural work of baroque is St. Peter and Paul Church in Vilnius. The oldest wooden church of Lithuania is in Paluse, Ignalina district. [7]

Catholic organizations in Lithuania[edit]

  • Ateitis: Catholic children and youth organization, member of Fimcap

Lithuanian Chapel in the St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City[edit]

Lithuanian Chapel (Italian: Cappella Lituana) in the St. Peter's Basilica

There is a Vilnius' Gate of Dawn Mother of Mercy Chapel (Italian: Cappella Lituana) in the St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.[8] It was consecrated by the Pope Paul VI in 1970 and it is a place where Pope John Paul II had his first prayer after being elected as the Pope in 1978. Only Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and Ireland have such chapels in the St. Peter's Basilica.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Romos katalikų daugiausia" (PDF) (in Lithuanian). Department of Statistics to the Government of the Republic of Lithuania. 2002-11-07. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-12-29. Retrieved 2011-12-20.
  2. ^ GigaCatholic Directory
  3. ^ Catholic Hierarchy Catalog
  4. ^ Foreword to the past: a cultural history of the Baltic people by Endre Bojtár, p. 140
  5. ^ Lithuanian Saints and Witnesses of Faith on the Official Page of Catholic Church in Lithuania
  6. ^ GCatholic Directory
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Lithuanian Chapel of Our Lady Mater Misericordiae". 14 February 2014. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  9. ^ "Lietuvių koplyčia Vatikane: vieta, į kurią po išrinkimo popiežiumi iš karto atėjo pasimelsti Šv. Jonas Paulius II". (in Lithuanian). Retrieved 6 October 2019.

External links[edit]