In hope of Paradise, photo essay by John Stratoudakis
Lithuania is a very religious society, something that comes out from the interwar period.
The majority (85,9%) of Lithuanian people today are Roman Catholics, 4,6% are Russian Orthodoxy followers, 0,9% are Old Believers and finally 0,7% are Lutherans.
But probably nowhere Roman Catholicism is felt as much as in Vilnius Old Town, where there are many temples from 13th to the 18th century. Vilnius Cathedral is likely the oldest Roman Catholic church in Lithuania, dating to approximately 1251.
Roman Catholicism was the prime target of the Soviet anti-religious drive. The Soviets closed many churches and all the monasteries. After independence most of these buildings have been reopened and repaired but lack of money many others still stand ramshackle with their priceless artworks destroyed.
However, the marks of almost 50 years of Soviet occupation, are not reflected only on temples, monuments or artworks. A strong, even in some cases permanent mark, seems to be imprinted on people’s consciousness too. The Soviets, with their anti-religious policy, triggered a clandestine role of religion, mostly cause of the decline of attendances in religious practices. This was an important aspect for the rising of enormous religiosity by the majority of Lithuanians, but also for radical atheism. A significant part (6,8%) of the population, mostly from the Soviet-born generations, retain many questions about religion and the role of church as well. (John Stratoudakis)