NATO Secretary General Japp de Hoop Scheffer is allied to Lithuania not only politically, but also by blood.
During his last visit to Lithuania, in March 2004, the secretary general admitted to having a Lithuanian cousin. What's more, a sacrosanct one at that. De Hoop Scheffer's Baltic relative turned out to beâ€¦ the chaplain of Lukiskes Prison.
Last week the Dutch secretary general was in the Baltic state to chair an informal NATO summit, yet he found the time in his busy schedule to visit his cousin, Father Elias, at the monastery of St. John's congregation.
"It was the second time we met in Vilnius," Father Elias, who was sent from his home in the Netherlands eight years ago to move to Vilnius, told The Baltic Times.
He added that they were the only two Catholics in the family, with the rest belonging to the "traditional Dutch Baptist church."
The Lithuanian media has claimed that Father Elias converted to Catholicism after the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981. The priest does not deny the influence of the late pope, who passed away on April 3, though he said "it was Scheffer's father who first became a Catholic."
"After many prayers, I have chosen the way," Father Elias said, adding that he was faced with two choices: to become a monk or adopt a more traditional profession. Father Elias first put a monk's habit on at the age of 28. Eleven years ago he became a priest.
Among his many duties, Father Elias works with inmates at the Lukiskes Prison. Carrying the name of a profit who performed the miracle of sending fire from the sky, Father Elias finds peace in enlightening the hearts of prisoners, and sharing his belief.