As 1971 was ending, the clergy of the Diocese of Panevėžys appealed to A. Kosygin, the chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, and to the LSSR Council of Ministers. Their petition stated that, since 1961, the Diocese of Panevėžys has been deprived of its bishop, who, by order of the LSSR government, was exiled to Žagarė, which is in Joniškis Rayon.The priests asked that Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius be permitted to perform his duties in the Diocese of Panevėžys, for the LSSR Constitution and the laws do not provide for such curtailment of the rights of those citizens who have not been convicted in court. Also noted in the petition was that the absence of a bishop from his diocese is a great irregularity because in the absence of a bishop Church law permits an ecclesiastical administrator to oversee a diocese for only a short period of time.

The Soviet government did not reply to the petition. The commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs upbraided some of the priests reminding them that it is senseless to write such petitions because they will be ignored.

The Soviet government considers H.E. Bishop Steponavičius disloyal to the government because he had carried out his duties as the shepherd of the diocese without making any compromises.