DIOCESE OF PANEVĖŽYS
At eleven o'clock on the morning of March 7, 1974, Canon Petras Rauda died at Svėdasai. He had been born in 1894 in Radviliškis. The father of the late priest had been a booksmuggler (During the Czarist interdict against Lithuanian literature, 1864-1904 —Transl. Note), and he himself had occasion to "take tutoring" (Studying Lithuanian clandestinely — Trans. Note).
Becoming a priest in 1917, he performed his duties faithfully all his life. As an assistant pastor in Joniškis, he contributed much to the birth of the Republic of Lithuania. For many years, he served as a chaplain at various places in Lithuania. Serving as pastor in Utena, he saved the lives of several citizens of Jewish nationality. In 1944 Bishop Kazimieras Paltarokas elevated him to the position of Honorary Canon and appointed him vicerector of the Theological Seminary of Kaunas.
During the post-war years he was harassed by security organs and sentenced to eight years in prison, because knowing of the memorandum directed abroad, prepared by P. Klimas, Mrs. Lastienė, and others, he had not informed the security people.
Canon Rauda was imprisoned in camps at Turinsk, Okunev, and Molotovsk. In Kaunas security prison, Canon Rauda happened to be confined with Attorney Toliušis, leader of the Populist Party, and with "Vanagas"—"The Hawk", leader of a partisan unit. The intelligence and placidity of the Canon, together with the heroic suffering and death of "Vanagas" led Toliušis to God and the Church. Upon his return from the camp, Toliušis used to say: "Seeing the church steeples, one wants to weep—Lithuania still lives!"
In 1957, Canon Rauda was arrested again, for keeping a diary in which he described the interrogations during his first imprisonment, and life in the camps. He was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. Confined in the camps of Mordovia, Canon Rauda made the acquaintance of the Primate of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Metropolitan Slipij (now a Cardinal and a member of the Vatican Academy), and became fast friends with him.
After five years, broken in health, Canon Rauda returned to Lithuania. In 1965, completely blind, he nevertheless continued his priestly work in Svėdasai. During his final illness, he said that he was offering his final sufferings for the Diocese of Panevėžys. In response to one priest who asked him what he would like to say to priests, he replied:
"That all priests should be as dutiful as Canon Bronius Antanaitis."
Canon Rauda knew six foreign languages. In his homeland and in the camp he was surrounded by the youth and the intelligentsia. Throughout his life he rejoiced over priests who performed their duties faithfully and prayed for those who betrayed the Church.
Canon Rauda prepared Professor Jurgutis for death, and author Vienuolis-Žukauskas went to him to confession on two occasions. The nation has lost a noble Lithuanian, and the Church—a loyal defender and a man of sacrifice. A great light has gone out—a light which enkindled hundreds of smaller lights.
The inhabitants of Svėdasai came in great numbers to the church to pray for the soul of the beloved Canon. Preachers described well the life, work, and suffering of the deceased.
It had been planned to bury him on Sunday, but the Executive Committee of the Utena District would not allow it, for fear of a massive religious demonstration which might "negatively" influence the school children. The local government of Utena would not allow participants in the funeral to prepare lunch in the dining room. Anykščiai and Utena would not allow taxi-cabs to take people from Svėdasai to Utena. The communal farms of the Anykščiai, Kupiškis, Rokiškis, and Utena Districts were forbidden to allow trucks for the funeral.
Anykščiai let a car be rented only to transport the casket. What surprising solicitude on the part of the atheists, not to forget a deceased priest!
A car to carry the flowers was obtained from the seminary. Forty private automobiles accompanied the remains of Canon Rauda from Svėdasai to Utena. The streets everywhere were lined with people. Government officials who assiduously observed the funeral procession were able to see how the people of Lithuania can honor their spiritual leaders.
Participating in the funeral were Bishop Romualdas Krikščiūnas, Bishop Julius Steponavičius, Bishop Liudvikas Povilonis and 180 priests.
A Statement to the Minister of Health of the Lithuanian SSR by the Rev. Petras Budriūnas, residing at Šatalov No. 8, in Anykščiai
For some years in the city hospital of Anykščiai, believers have not been allowed to summon a priest with the Blessed Sacrament. Their requests receive a variety af replies: "The patient is not in critical condition", "He doesn't need a priest; you do", "There is no special room", "Once you take the patient home, you can have the priest as often as you like." Those who ask for the priest are deceived and derided.
On October 7, 1973, the mother of Valentinas Kovas, of Daujo-čiai, and the daughter of Juozas Grižas, of the Village of Čekoniai, requested Chief Physician Šinkūnas to allow the priest to visit their weak patients, but he would not give permission. Some hours later, Valentinas Kovas died.
On August 19, 1973, patient Donatas Česūnas, of the Village of Storiai, and his near relatives asked permission of the Chief Physician, but he would not allow the priest to come. During visiting hours, Doctor Šinkūnas personally ordered the priest from the ward.
In July of 1973 he would not allow the priest to visit Teklė Stasiulienė, of Višintai; on November 8, 1973, Ona Baržiūnienė of the Village of Stanislava; on November 19, 1973, Emilija Bagdonienė, of Elmininkai, and others.
In the press it is always emphasized that in the hospitals nothing prevents performance of religious observances which are requested by the dying or the seriously ill. On January 3, 1974, in the newspaper of the Anykščiai District, Kolektyvinis Darbas (Collective Work), in the article by P. Mišutis entitled "Soviet Law and Religion", the author writes:
"Ministers of Religion may visit the patient in the hospital, in penal institutions, and at home, if the patient so wishes."
On November 30, 1973, in Tiesa, in the article entitled, "Law and Religious Cults," one reads: "Prohibition does not apply to the performance of those rites requested by the dying or the seriously ill, who are in hospitals or in penal institutions."
However, in the hospital of Anykščiai, this prohibition does apply, since the priest is not allowed to visit the patient even when he is in a private room.
In 1972, Stefanija Karosienė, lying alone in Ward 5 of the Internal Medicine Section, was not allowed to summon a priest.
On July 17, 1972, Petras Katinas and Šukys were alone in a ward, and asked for a priest, but their request was not heeded. When I tried to visit the patients at their request, Doctor Šinkūnas intercepted me in the hospital yard and ordered me to go back.
A few years ago, I appealed this matter to the former vice-chairman of the Executive Committee of the Anykščiai District, K. Zulona. He promised to look into the matter, but I never had positive results from him. On September 17, 1972, I requested that the present vicechairman of the Executive Committee of the District of Anykščiai, A. Baltrūnas decide this serious question.
He replied that people had more than once come to him, and he promised to speak with the Chief Physician. It appeared as though this problem would be solved, but once again someone blocked the road.
Twice the pastor of Anykščiai had reported the above-mentioned interferences to the Prophylactic Division of the Ministry of Health. Moreover, the near relatives of the patients directed telegrams to the Ministry of Health, requesting permission. The Bishop of Panevėžys was also informed of the spiritual needs of the patients, and through him, the Commissioner for Religious Affairs.
On January 9, 1974, I was summoned by the vice-chairman of the Executive Committee of Anykščiai, A. Baltrūnas, who admonished me in writing for administering the Sacrament of the Sick December 25, 1973, to Julius Vitkevičius, of the Village of Lagėdžiai without permission of the hospital administration.
I had visited this patient for about three minutes just before his death. Moreover, Mr. Vitkevičius' wife told me that she could not find the Chief Physician in time, and that her husband was very weak. Of course, the Chief Physician would not have given permission for Vitkevičius, any more than he had on January 15, 1974, for Domas Šilinius, of Višintai; January 29, 1974, for (Mrs.) Liudvika Meškauskienė of the village of Anykščiai. February 4, 1974, for (Mrs.) Monika Ušackienė of Anykščiai, or others.
This situation has existed in Anykščiai for more than fifteen years. Hundreds of people have been seriously deprived, morally speaking, since their final wish was not carried out, at the most critical moment of life—the hour of death.
I respectfully request you, the Minister, to see that the law regarding religious cults be observed in the hospital at Anykščiai, so that believers might be able to take advantage of the right to receive the Blessed Sacrament.
The Rev. P. Budriūnas
Anykščiai, March 2, 1974
In 1973, a communal farmer named Tuskenis, for the Žalgiris Commune was a patient at the hospital in Svėdasai. His wife requested Dr. Kamarauskienė to allow the priest to visit her seriously ill husband.
The doctor retorted, "Crawl on your knees like a puppy; I'm still not going to allow a priest."
In April, 1974, at the insistance of the security forces, (Miss) Marytė Medauskaitė, a calculator operatrix with the Financial Section of the City of Panevėžys was discharged from her position. In the opinion of the security people, she is a nun.