Pope Francis to visit 3 Baltic nations next year

Pope Francis leaves at the end of his weekly general audience in St. Peter square at the Vatican, Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope Francis to visit 3 Baltic nations next year for 100th anniversaries

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Pope Francis is planning a visit to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia next year, when the three Baltic nations celebrate their 100th anniversaries.

Janis Siksnis, an adviser to Latvia's president, confirmed it to The Associated Press on Thursday, saying no other details were yet available.

A spokeswoman for Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, Daiva Ulbinaite, earlier had told the Baltic News agency the visit is scheduled for autumn of 2018. The agency said the Vatican will soon announce exact dates for the trip.

It would be the second time a pope visits the Baltic countries. In September 1993, Pope John Paul II traveled there. He started in Lithuania, which has the largest Catholic community in the Baltics. More than 75 percent of the nation's nearly 3 million inhabitants are Catholics.

The three Baltic nations declared their independence from Russia in 1918 but were incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940 and remained part of it until 1991.

Francis has one other confirmed trip so far in 2018, a Jan. 15-22 visit to Chile and Peru. He is also widely expected to travel to Ireland in August to participate in a large Catholic family rally.

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