Audrys Bačkis

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Audrys Bačkis : biography

1 February 1937 –

Audrys Juozas Bačkis (born 1 February 1937) is a Lithuanian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He currently is the Archbishop Emeritus of Vilnius, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 2001.

Bačkis was born in Kaunas to a Lithuanian diplomat family. As in 1938 Bačkis’ father Stasys was assigned to France family stayed in the west after Soviet occupation during World War II. He completed his secondary education at the Institute Saint-Marie-de-Monceau, and studied philosophy at the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Issy-les-Moulineaux.

Bačkis then went to Rome to study at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, and Pontifical Lateran University, there Bačkis obtained his doctorate in canon law. Bačkis was ordained to the priesthood by Luigi Traglia on 18 March 1961, in Rome. He then did pastoral work among Lithuanian Americans in the United States, and finished his studies in Rome in 1964.

In 1964 he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See, serving as secretary of the nunciature to the Philippines (1964–1965), to Costa Rica (1965–1967), to Turkey (1967–1970), and to Nigeria (1970–1973). Bačkis was raised to the rank of Privy Chamberlain of His Holiness on 26 June 1965, and was called to the Council of Public Affairs of the Church in the Secretariat of State in 1973. He was the Vatican’s delegate to the United Nations Conference in Vienna in 1975, and became Vice-Secretary of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church in 1979.

On 5 August 1988, Bačkis was appointed Pro-Nuncio to the Netherlands and Titular Archbishop of Meta by Pope John Paul II. He received his episcopal consecration on the following 4 October from Pope John Paul himself, with Cardinal Achille Silvestrini and Bishop Juozas Preikšas serving as co-consecrators, in St. Peter’s Basilica. Bačkis was later named Archbishop of Vilnius on 24 December 1991.

John Paul II created him Cardinal-Priest of Natività di Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo a Via Gallia in the consistory of 21 February 2001. Bačkis was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI as well as in the one in 2013 which selected Pope Francis. Bačkis remains eligible to vote in any future conclaves that begin before his 80th birthday in 2017.

Having reached the age limit of 75 at which all Catholic Bishops must offer their letter of resignation to the Pope, Cardinal Bačkis’s resignation was accepted by Pope Francis on Friday, 5 April 2013. Pope Francis, in one of his first major episcopal appointments, named Bishop Gintaras Grusas, 51, who until then had been serving as Military Ordinary of Lithuania, as the Cardinal’s successor as Archbishop of Vilnius, meaning that when Cardinal Bačkis reaches the age of 80 and becomes ineligible to participate in a Papal Conclave, Archbishop-elect Grusas could also be named a Cardinal in a future consistory. The new Archbishop, a Washington, D.C. native, is currently also the Secretary of the Lithuanian Bishops’ Conference and is a former IBM technical consultant for marketing.

Pope Francis named Cardinal Bačkis as his Special Envoy to celebrations marking the 1,025th anniversary of the Baptism (Conversion) of the Kievan Rus, to be held in Kiev, Ukraine, on August 17 and 18, 2013.


  • : Grand Cross of the Order of Vytautas the Great (3 February 2003)Lithuanian Presidency website,