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Audrys Juozas Bačkis
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Audrys 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 March 18, 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 June 26, 1965, and was called to the Council of Public Affairs of the Church in the Vatican 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 August 5, 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 October 4 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 December 24, 1991.
John Paul II created him Cardinal Priest of Natività di Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo a Via Gallia in the consistory of February 21, 2001. Bačkis was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. Bačkis remains eligible to vote in any future conclaves that begin before his 80th birthday in 2017.
Within the Lithuanian Episcopal Conference, he has been President (1993-1999, 2003-present) and Vice-President (1999-2003). Besides his native Lithuanian, the Cardinal speaks Italian, English, and French.
In 2004, Bačkis controversially ordered the transfer of a 1934 painting of Jesus Christ by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski from a church that is used by Vilnius' Polish minority (The Church of the Holy Spirit), to the lesser-known Church of the Holy Trinity. This was seen as act of anti-Polonism on Bačkis' part.
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