Pope Francis visits Latvia

Pope Francis on September 24 becomes the latest head of state to visit Latvia during its centenary year.

He will have a short but busy 10-hour stopover in Latvia as part of a three-day Baltic tour that began September 22 in Lithuania and will also include Estonia.

President Raimonds Vējonis was on hand to welcome the Pope on the tarmac at Rīga airport, but then left in order to prepare to receive the Pope at a lengthy welcoming ceremony at Rīga Castle.

"I hope your visit will prompt many positive changes of heart," said Vējonis in an introduction to the Pope that used the word "family" repeatedly.

"Your Holiness! Your Eminence! Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen! Holy Father, please accept my gratitude for the honour you pay to Terra Mariana by visiting us on the centenary of the statehood of Latvia. The words of our anthem, “God bless Latvia!”, have been fulfilled today," said Vējonis.

You can read his full speech at the Presidential website.

Following brief one-on-one talks, Pope Francis addressed VIPs at Riga Castle in Italian thanking Vējonis for the invitation to visit and praised the musical abilities of kokle players who had met him at the airport.

"When we, as individuals and communities, learn to look beyond ourselves and our particular interests, then understanding and mutual commitment bear fruit in solidarity. Such solidarity, understood in its deepest and most challenging sense, becomes a way of making history in a region where conflicts, tensions and even groups once considered inimical can attain a multifaceted unity that gives rise to new life," Pope Francis said in response. 

You can read his full speech if you wish at the website of the Holy See.

Indeed all of the speeches, masses and prayers the Pope has given in his official capacity are available on the same website.

Following the speech he went to lay flowers at the Freedom Monument, then headed for an ecumenical church service at Riga's Dome Cathedral.

After meeting dignitaries and clergy in Rīga, the Pope took to a helicopter at Rīga port and flew to the basilica and pilgrimage site in Aglona, eastern Latvia for another church service.  He also drove among large clouds in one of his famous Popemobiles, a Dodge Ram.

Much of the agenda will be streamed live by LTV, though this may be subject to geo-blocking in some territories. There are also numerous broadcasts on LTV's Facebook page.

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