Latvian President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga has expressed her condolences on the death of Pope John Paul II, noting the pontiff’s 1993 visit to Latvia and his role in opposing the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
The Pope, born Karol Józef Wojtyła in 1920 in Krakow, Poland, died April 2 at the age of 84 in the Vatican City. He was elected pope in 1978.
John Paull II, the president said, leaves a deep impact on the history of Europe in his work pushing for and defending Christian values and people’s struggles for freedom.
The Pope, the president noted in a statement posted on her official Web site, installed the first two cardinals in Latvia’s history, Julians Vaivoids and Jānis Pujāts, and created two new Catholic dioceses in Jelgava and in the Aglona-Rēzekne region.
Vīķe-Freiberga’s last communication from the Pope came March 25, when the Vatican sent a response to the president’s letter regarding her decision to attend May 9 ceremonies in Moscow marking the end of World War II. The Pope’s response said the president’s letter had raised “deep contemplations,” according to a press release from the president’s press office.
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