"To: the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR
A Petition from the Believers of the Parish in Stirniai
and in Molėtai R a y o n
"Admonitions by readers constantly appear in the press concerning various shortcomings in cultural and existential services, to which the Soviet government always responds. In our religious life we believers constantly experience not only shortcomings but restrictions as well. Since we believers cannot speak out about these restrictions in the press, if we remain silent, one can form the impression that we do not feel these restrictions. That is why we are appealing to you, Chairman of the Council of Ministers.
"To a nonbeliever religion appears to be worthless or even harmful, but to us believers it is a matter of great importance. Restrictions placed on the practice of our religion are more painful to us than material wrongs.
"Priests are essential to the practice of religion. Because the government limits the number of candidates that can be admitted to the seminary, the number of priests that are ordained is several times smaller than the number that die every year. Already there are several parishes without a priest, and because of this the religious life of thousands of believers suffers. Despite the shortage of clergymen, more and more priests are being sentenced to prison because they taught children the tenets of the faith in church at their parents' request. In September of last year (1970), Father Antanas Šeškevičius, the pastor of the parish in Dubingiai, which is in Molėtai Rayon, was sentenced to prison; and in November of this year, two more priests from other dioceses were convicted, whereas die Rev. A. Šeškevičius, who has served his sentence, is not being allowed to work in a parish.
"Basing our request on the Soviet Constitution, which guarantees freedom of conscience, we ask that the above-mentioned violations of religious freedom be corrected, and that they not be allowed to recur in the future, namely:
1. that Father Šeškevičius be allowed to work in a parish.
2. that the sentenced priests be released from prison.
3. that there would be no interference with the teaching of religious truths to children in church by the clergy.
4. that the seminary administration would not be hindered from accepting all those who want to become priests.
"We trust that the Soviet government will adhere to its Constitution and satisfy our requests.
This petition was signed by 190 believers, and in early April they sent it to the chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. The following address was enclosed with the petition for the reply:
Mindūnai Village, Stirniai Post Office
Molėtai Rayon, the LSSR