These are not easy times, Francis said, especially for those who, even today, are experiencing exile and martyrdom for the faith. "Yet their witness makes us realize that the Lord continues to call us, asking us to live the Gospel radically, in joy and gratitude."
"If Christ deemed us worthy to live in these times, at this hour – the only hour we have – we cannot let ourselves be overcome by fear, nor allow this time to pass without living it fully with joyful fidelity," he said.
Following the prayer meeting Pope Francis met with elderly men and women in St. James' Catholic Cathedral. Though a historically Lutheran country, Catholics make up around 25 percent of the population of just under 2 million.
At St. James' the pope recalled the many trials older Latvians have experienced, such as war, political repression, persecution, and exile. "Yet you remained steadfast; you persevered in faith," he said.
"Neither the Nazi regime, nor the Soviet regime could extinguish the faith in your hearts. Neither could they stop some of you from becoming priests, religious sisters, catechists, or from serving the Church in other ways that put your lives at risk," he said. "You fought the good fight; you ran the race, you kept the faith."
He pointed to the words of St. James to have constancy in faith, and encouraged those present to persevere, to "not yield to disappointment or grief," to not lose gentleness or hope.
Francis encouraged them to have, in their homes and homeland, "patient endurance and patient expectation," so that "in this way you will continue to build your people."
Before the meetings in the two cathedrals, Pope Francis started his day in Latvia with a brief speech to the country's authorities. To them he said he was happy to know that the Catholic Church, in cooperation with the other Christian churches, is an important part of the country's roots.
"The Gospel has nourished the life of your people in the past; today it can continue to open new paths enabling you to face present challenges, to value differences and, above all, to encourage 'com-union' between all," he said.
The pope also praised the country's liberty, which is celebrated during this year's 100th anniversary of the country's declaration of independence.
"If today we can celebrate, it is due to all those who blazed trails and opened a door to the future," he said, "and bequeathed to you that same responsibility: to open a door to the future by looking to everything that stands at the service of life."
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He said a community's development is not measured by the goods produced or resources possessed, but by the desire "to engender life and build for the future," which is "measured by their capacity for self-sacrifice and commitment, in imitation of the example of past generations."
Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.