Every August, the TFP-inspired association Luci sull’Est (Light over the East) sends a “caravan” of TFP volunteers to the Baltic nation of Lithuania, commemorating its hard-won independence from the Soviet Union and spreading the Fatima message.
Luci sull’Est is dedicated to spreading the Faith and the Fatima message to the former communist nations of Eastern Europe. It has distributed more than 1.3 million religious books in ten countries and millions of Fatima pictures.
From August 26 to September 2, ten TFP volunteers from eight countries traveled to Lithuania, visiting parish churches with the pilgrim statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
These parish visits consisted of a Fatima procession into the church, a presentation about the Fatima message, the singing of traditional Lithuanian hymns in honor of Our Lady, and veneration of the statue. At the end, the TFP volunteers handed out Fatima calendars to parishioners.
On Sunday, August 29, the TFP delegation participated in a five mile procession with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima from the city of Tytevenai to Šiluva. His Excellency Eugenijus Bartulis, bishop of Šiauliai, joined the procession together with thousands of Lithuanians, both young and old.
In spite of past communist persecution, and today’s ever increasing secularization, the Catholic Faith remains alive and well in Lithuania. On this tour, churches were overflowing with people eager to get a glimpse of Our Lady and honor her.
The TFPs have close ties with Lithuania. On March 11, 1990, a freely elected Lithuanian government declared its independence from the Soviet Union, the first Soviet republic to do so. Enraged, Moscow placed an economic embargo on the country, cut off its oil and natural gas supplies, and invaded with tanks, killing helpless civilians under their treads.
In response to such brutal Soviet measures, the great Catholic Brazilian intellectual and man of action, Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira decided to organize a worldwide petition drive for the independence of Lithuania. At the time, The Guinness Book of Records recognized this four-month-long effort as the largest petition drive in history, garnering more than 5.2 million valid signatures on five continents.
Microfilmed copies of these signatures were presented to the Lithuanian president Vytautas Landsbergis in the capitol city of Vilnius and Mikhail Gorbachev via his personal secretary at the Kremlin in Moscow. The campaign was national news and provided a much needed psychological boost to the people, showing Western solidarity with Lithuania’s plight.
The following year, in September of 1991, the Soviet Union officially recognized Lithuania as a sovereign independent country. The Lithuanian people have not forgotten this monumental effort and never ceased to express their gratitude to the TFP delegation.
The final day of the week-long caravan culminated in a visit to the Parliament building in Vilnius. At the invitation of the Lithuanian government, the TFP delegation met the Chairman of the Parliament, Mr. Ceslovas Juršenas. In the very room where the treaty that officially recognized Lithuanian independence was signed between the Soviet Union and Lithuania Mr. Juršenas thanked the TFP for its campaign fourteen years ago for Lithuanian independence.