A Lithuanian archbishop who was murdered with a lethal injection after 16 years in prisons and labour camps will become the first Catholic martyr from the country’s communist era to be declared Blessed later this month.

The beatification ceremony for Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis, who died in 1962, is planned for June 25 in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. About 30,000 people were expected to attend.

“Besides being our first Soviet-era martyr recognised by the Universal Church, he’ll also be the first Lithuanian beatified on native soil,” said Archbishop Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius, president of Lithuania’s bishops’ conference.

He told the Catholic News Service that Archbishop Matulionis’s “radical belief” in “seeking the truth at any cost” offered an attractive message, especially for young people, who will take part in a two-day youth festival before the ceremony.

“Given current tensions in our part of the world, his call to remain at peace and follow the divine will, knowing God always gives us the gifts we need, remains highly relevant,” Archbishop Grušas said.

“Witnessing to one’s faith doesn’t necessarily mean going as far as death. There are also lighter forms of persecution happening daily in our societies, which it also requires courage to face,” he said.

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