Tuesday, February 27, 2007

“To Whom It May Concern”

Lithuania's President Valdas Adamkus' letter to New York's Cardinal Edward Egan:

Vilnius, 26 January2007

His Eminence Edward Cardinal Egan
Archbishop of New York

Your Eminence,

Please allow me to address you on an issue of great importance to me, the people of Lithuania and those of Lithuanian heritage living in the Unites States of America. Last week we learned that the Archdiocese of New York intends to dose Our Lady of Vilnius Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan. Recalling the history of Our Lady of Vinius since its founding on 10 December 1909 and knowing the religious and cultural significance it bears for the Lithuanian American Catholic community of New York and its vicinities, such an intention concerns me greatly.

Tolerance and respect for the heritage and religious traditions of ethnic minorities with whom we have lived together throughout the history of our countries are among the values that are followed and cherished by both of our societies.

Almost a century ago Lithuanian immigrants in America built, using their own funds,the Church of Our Lady of Vilnius to have a place for worship and witness their love and faith in God. With time the church acquired yet another mission: it became a center fostering not only religious belief but also Lithuanian culture and national identity. People rallied around their church to maintain community bonds and remain close to their homeland.

Extraordinary Lithuanian American cultural treasures have been assembled in the church. Because of its architectural and artistic value, the church building has been included in the, "List of U.S. Heritage Objects Important for Lithuania" compiled in accordance with the Agreement beween the Government Of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Lithuania on the Protection and Preservation of Certain cultural Properties, which came into force on 3 August of 2006.

Today, when many young people from Lithuania arrive to live, work and study in the United States of America. Our Lady of Vilnius in Manhattan is gaining an ever more important role. It has become a growing house of spiritual guidance and ethnic culture. giving generous spiritual and moral support. Its activities could strongly contribute to the process of evangelization of the young generation.

Being greatly concerned about the preservation of the Lithuanian national identity and the devotion of the Lithuanian people to Christian values, I appeal to you. Your Eminence, to give special attention to the role played by the Parish of Our Lady of Vinius in fostering national identity and spirituality and to preserve the Church for the society of today and the generations of tomorrow.

Please accept, Eminence, the assurances of my highest esteem,

Valdas Adamkus
President of the Republic of Lithuania

See also Archdiocese of New York, Statement of Joseph Zwilling, Director of Communications, On The Closing of Our Lady of Vilnius Church, the website Save Our Lady of Vilnius, a blog, and a petition.


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