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Pope Francis ‘to visit Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia next year’

Pope Francis (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

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, had earlier told the Baltic News agency that the visit was scheduled for the autumn of 2018. The agency said the Vatican would soon announce exact dates for the trip.

It would be the second time a pope has visited the Baltic countries. In September 1993, Pope John Paul II travelled there. He started in Lithuania, which has the largest Catholic community in the Baltics. More than 75 per cent of the nation’s nearly three 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 confirmed trip so far in 2018, a January 15-22 visit to Chile and Peru. He is also widely expected to travel to Ireland in August to participate in the World Meeting of Families.