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Lithuania's youngest bishop Genadijus Vodopjanovas: You do not practice religion, you live it

Vyskupu paskirtas G.L.Vodopjanovas sako, kad tai jokia karjera.
Telšių vyskupijos nuotr. / Genadijus Linas Vodopjanovas.
Šaltinis: 15min

For Kretinga parish priest Genadijus Linas Vodopjanovas, 11 February was a very special day. That was when Luigi Bonazzi, representative of the Holy See to Lithuania, announced the Pope's decision to consecrate Vodopjanovas a bishop.

At the request of Telšiai bishop Jonas Boruta, Franciscan brother Linas was appointed his aide – auxiliary bishop.

Vodopjanovas, 38, thus became Lithuania's youngest bishop since the Independence and second from among the Franciscan brothers, after bishop Paulius Antanas Baltakis, who was in charge of spiritual affairs of Lithuanian émigré parishes.

After becoming a bishop, brother Linas will have to leave his parishioners in Kretinga and move to Telšiai curia.

His consecration is scheduled for 14 April, the ceremony will take place in Kretinga. This is where Vodopjanovas started on his spiritual path.

“I'm happy to be living with God – in everyday prayer and service”, - the would-be bishop told 15min. He did not have time for a long conversation as much parish work needed to be done before the consecration and his every single minute was planned.

- Your life changed overnight. Were you prepared for that?

- I discovered I was among candidates slightly earlier, but I did not expect nor waited for this to happen. Such is the Pope's choice.

Over the course of 2000 years, the Gospel neither aged, nor rejuvenated. Ways of spreading it, however, have changed somewhat.

I now have piles of tasks to attend to. You cannot cut everything off in a day: there is pastoral work left, some construction to finish. It's not easy to finish everything in one go, but neither do I want to leave it on somebody else's shoulders.

- But you must admit – these are joyful tasks. The end of one period and the beginning of another. A step forward.

- It's neither a step forward nor backward, you know. To be honest, the whole career thing is starting to get on my nerves. What career are they talking about! Never in my life have I tried to make a career. My main task is to love God and my fellow believers.

- What are bishop's responsibilities? You will be meeting believers, serve as spiritual guide for priests, do administrative work?

- I've never been a bishop before so I don't know. I'll have much to learn. Yet I don't want to move away from people, from believers. Bishop is not a statue standing high up on a shelf. He, too, serves the community: he can wed people and baptize.

But bishop's main task is to serve the church. It's a great responsibility: close cooperation among bishops and, as a matter of fact, among priests. Each priest is responsible for the community he is appointed to. I'll be visiting parishes, nominating candidates for parish priests. I just want to stress that I'll be serving as auxiliary bishop – aide to Telšiai bishop Jonas Boruta.

- You're the youngest bishop in independent Lithuania. Is it a sign of the church's renewal?

- One of the basic task of the church is to spread the message of Good News, Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Over the course of 2000 years, the Gospel neither aged, nor rejuvenated. Ways of spreading it, however, have changed somewhat, the Good News is being proclaimed in more modern ways now.

- In other words, more appealingly to the youth who often say they believe but do not practice religion?

- I keep seeing more and more beautiful examples of people not practicing their religion, but living it. A life of service to God does not mean carrying certain tasks, it means living 24 hours a day. You cannot believe as if you are doing some task, a duty. You have to give yourself entirely – to a family or to God. I do not practice something, I live. It means that faith is an inseparable part of my everyday life, work, family duties. I've witnessed some of the truest examples of this, the most beautiful testimonies.

- According to the Roman Catholic Church etiquette, official occasions require that one addresses a bishop “Your Excellency,” a cardinal – “Your Eminence,” the Holy Father – “Holiness.” Up until now believer addressed you simply brother Linas. Will the change take much getting used to?

- Call me as you like. By no means will I be offended or angry.

- What will be your future relation to the Franciscan brothers?

- I am and always will be a Franciscan, so I remain in the order – only in a different service. As a bishop, I won't have a vote in the brothers' affairs, but I'll continue to attend their events and annual assemblies as a guest of honour.

- You already have a bishop's hat. Will you be giving up traditional Franciscan habit for something more traditionally priestly?

- It depends, I think. On traditions of the fraternity, of the Church. Depending also on the occasion.

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