Date today: 13.11.2019  |  Name days: Jevgēņija, Jevgēņijs, Eižens

Homilies and speeches 2016

Speech of Archbishop Stankevičs in Riga Dome Church on 18 November 2016

Dear participants and spectators of this church service of Latvian Independence Day!

Today we celebrate 98th birthday of Latvia. Usually during the birthday celebrant receives congratulations and wishes. For decades, this day could not be celebrated. On the contrary. The new movie of Viesturs Kairišs "Melanie Chronicle" shows us the harsh pages of Latvian history when the nation itself could not decide her fate and was subjected to the dictate of a foreign power. However, today we have a positive message: we can thank God for the possibility to celebrate this birthday. Latvia now is an independent and democratic state, its citizens

themselves can shape their country's future. We can no longer blame others for our misfortunes and problems.

Therefore may this birthday encourages us to look back on the past year of life and helps us to arrange thoughts and plans for the future. There are more and more intense talks about the fact that centenary of our country is approaching, large celebrations are planned. There are launched different projects, initiatives to make our country more beautiful, more cultivated. Centenary - it is an opportunity to stimulate recognition of our roots- how it was born, what values it was based on, who are our heroes. It is worth to use these different opportunities with responding and involving in the preparation of centenary. It is an opportunity we can miss and waste being passive, uninterested. It is important to give priority to initiatives that are an investment in the future and create a positive attitude towards the country and fellow man.

At the end of this year young people from all over the Europe will arrive to Riga. From countries which are at war with each other, which historically for several generations have bad relations. Peace pilgrimage organized by Taizé Community is an opportunity to meet, pray together and reconcile. For the first time event on this scale will take place in Riga. Let the young people to experience the sincere Latvian hospitality and so that it make warmer their hearts and make the world a better place.

Looking back on the Latvian situation in the international context, it should be noted that prevailing confusion among Western media and politicians after Brexit and Trump`s election as president shows how much the political elite have lost connection with reality and moves away from simple people. Last year events show that these elites are circling around their orbits as if in another world and do not understand the real needs of majority of society.

It is a pity because the elites should not run after the happening processes complaining that things do not happen according to their will, but they have to be a pioneers and promoters of positive processes. That was situation of post-war Western Europe, when the idea of the creation of a united Europe was born in the environment of leading politicians in order to make conclusions from the past experience and to prevent new wars between ancient rivals, primarily France and Germany. To achieve this humanitarian and spiritual purpose, economic union was established, which led after to the creation of European Union. This is very important - to realize that the idea of united Europe was based on the spiritual and humane settings, rather than purely economic interests. Twenty years later this was reminded in his last official speech by retiring European Commission President Jacques Delors, who stressed that „If in the next ten years we haven’t managed to give a Soul to Europe, to give it spirituality and meaning the game will be up.”  Unfortunately, last year's events in Europe points to the fact that these initial settings have been changed what has led to confusion and a lack of orientation.

Latvians have a saying: a fool learns from his mistakes, the wise man from these of others. Returning to the processes in Latvia, it would be good to keep the human and spiritual perspective of beginnings of united Europe part of which we have become. I urge our political and cultural elites during the time of preparation for the centenary of the country, to accept this challenge: while not forgetting about developing the economic sphere, choose as first priority the following: to take care of the Latvian soul, on how to humanise our society and its everyday life.

Actuality of this challenge is highlighted by the facts and statistics. Although in recent years there are also positive developments in numbers of the new-born babies and marriages, Latvian still has very high rates of divorces, they are among the highest in the EU. For example, there were 38 Divorces on 100 marriages on average in 2015. 41% of children were born outside marriage. Every third child lives in single-parent family in Latvia. So the challenge is to ensure that every child grows up in a normal family with a father and mother. If a child in the first three years of life does not get his much-needed dose of parental love, it is very difficult for him to integrate successfully into society. What to do to improve these statistics of children and family improve year to year? There are no ready answers. This is a question of choice of a long-term national policies and priorities. However, change is possible.

Hopefully the changes taking place in State Revenue Service and Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau will lead to real results in improving the spirit of cooperation between public bodies and the business environment by reducing corruption in our society and increasing the income of the state budget. With regard to corruption, Pope Francis wrote in the opening document of year of Mercy (N 19):

“This festering wound is a grave sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance, because it threatens the very foundations of personal and social life. Corruption prevents us from looking to the future with hope, because its tyrannical greed shatters the plans of the weak and tramples upon the poorest of the poor. It is an evil that embeds itself into the actions of everyday life and spreads, causing great public scandal. Corruption is a sinful hardening of the heart that replaces God with the illusion that money is a form of power. ... If we want to drive it out from personal and social life, we need prudence, vigilance, loyalty, transparency, together with the courage to denounce any wrongdoing. If it is not combated openly, sooner or later everyone will become an accomplice to it, and it will end up destroying our very existence.”

He speaks clearly: Don`t fall into the terrible trap of thinking that life depends on money, and that in front of money all loses value and dignity. It's just an illusion. We cannot take money to eternity. Money does not give the true happiness. He warns that "sooner or later will come the judgment of God, from which no one will be able to escape."

Therefore the call of Apostle we just heard to have fastened on the belt of truth and to have put on the breastplate of righteousness is extremely important. Human society without truth and justice dissolves; it has no longer a common basis. In turn to take the helmet of salvation means to acknowledge that it is not enough with our human wisdom and strength to deal with just mentioned challenges of our country. Help from on high is necessary to cope with moral weakness and fragility present both in us and in our country. In book of Proverbs it is written: “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.” (Proverbs 3, 13-18)

The reason why we are here is to pray for Latvia in its` birthday and to open up for the help from on high. Let us pray that God gives wisdom and strength that will allow us to confront the deceit of devil and dishonest people, and will help Latvia to flourish. I wish sun`s lifetime and God's blessing to our Latvia!