To: The Council of Ministers of the LSSR
Copies to: The LSSR Commissioner for Religious Affairs All Lithuanian Diocesan Curias His Excellence Bishop V. Sladkevičius His Excellency Bishop J. Steponavičius
A Statement from: The priests of the Vilnius Archdiocese
From the very beginning, from the time of the Apostles, the life of the Catholic Church has been under the leadership of bishops with the Pope at the head. The Second Vatican Council greatly clarified the role of bishops, as descendants of the Apostles, as authoritative teachers, consecrators and rulers. Throughout the world, including the newest developing African countries, dioceses are administered by bishops appointed by the Holy See. Only for brief periods, from one bishop's death or resignation to the appointment of the next one, temporary administrators are named without all the powers of a bishop. The dioceses of Lithuania have normally been ruled by bishops. Only in the 19th century, when the tsarist regime determined to weaken or even to destroy the Catholic faith in Lithuania, were the dioceses of Vilnius and Žemaičiai left for a longer time without a bishop.
The priests of the Vilnius Archdiocese, our faithful, as well as all Catholics in Lithuania, are distressed that for close to fifteen years, since the beginning of 1961, Vilnius has not had a Catholic bishop. Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius, who was appointed by the Holy See, has been exiled to far-off Žagarė by order of the state government and is not allowed to perform his duties.
Such a decision by government agencies and such a long exile for the bishop is incomprehensible to the priests and the faithful. We know Bishop Steponavičius as a quiet, conscientious, diligent and loyal citizen. He has never made any anti-Soviet statements nor has he engaged in any anti-Soviet activity during either the bourgeois era or the Nazi occupation or under the Soviet government.
Appointed bishop, he saw to it that priests did the Church's work in an orderly manner. To our knowledge, there have been some misunderstandings between him and the then Commissioner for Religious Affairs, but only because the Commissioner oversteppes his authority by interfering in internal Church affairs, and attempted to force the bishop to destroy his own authority with measures undermining religious life. If such interference has not occurred, Bishop Steponavičius would never have opposed the representatives of the Soviet Government.
We have heard that the faithful in other countries also are scandalized at the bishop's expulsion from Vilnius without any fault on his part, but only because he loved his faith and performed his duties. We would also like to point out that the Holy See had arranged with the Soviet authorities, through Bishop K. (azimieras) Paltarokas, Father Julijonas' candidacy to the bishopric. He was removed without consultation with the Holy See and without warning.
Because, in recent years, the Soviet press and radio constantly stress that Soviet authorities do not interfere in internal Church affairs and because we all want normal relations between State and Church, between the government and believing citizens, we strongly urge the Lithuanian SSR Council of Ministers to allow Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius to return to Vilnius and quietly perform his duties as bishop.
Vilnius, September 25, 1975.
K. Garuckas, A. Mačiulis, V. Černiauskas, A. Simonaitis, J. Kardelis, J. Baltušis, A. Ulickas, A. Kanišauskas, A. Keina, J. Budrevičius, N. Pakalka, K. Gajausmas, B. Jaura, B. Šakėnas, K. Molis,M. Petravičius, K. Pukėnas, dr. S. Malachovski, N. Jaura, S. Kakarieka, B. Stonys, A. Lachovič, dr. K. Kulak, J. Saulius, C. Taraškevičius, R. Blažys, V. Navicki, P. Daunoras, D. Valančiauskas, N. Norkūnas, J. Kukta, D. V aliukonis, K. Valeikis, J. Slėnis, J. Lauriūnas, S. Valiukėnas, I. Jakutis. S. Tunaitis, A. Merkys, D. Puidokas, A. Petronis, K. Vaičionis, K. Žemėnas, J. Balčiūnas, B. Laurinavičius, H. Kitaus-kas, J. Vaitonis, A. Andriuškevičius, A. Čiūras, K. Gailius, V. Aliulis, V. Zavadskis, A. Tamulaitis, V. Velimanski, L. Ivančik, J. Obremski, J. Charukievič, P. Jankus, S. Toporek, J. Grigaitis, A. Dziekan, A. Trusevič, J. Tunaitis, M. Žemaitis, S. Markevič, L. Lavcevič.
To: Leonid Brezhnev, Secretary General of the USSR Central Party Committee
Copies to: 1. The USSR Commissioner for Religious Affairs
2. The Lithuanian SSR Supreme Soviet Presidium
3. The Lithuanian SSR Commissioner for Religious Affairs
4. The Administrator of the Vilnius archdiocese
A statement from: Father Vladislovas Černiauskas Ignalina rayon, Mielagėnai
On November 14, 1974 I sent a statement to the Secretary General of the USSR Central Committee. I sent copies to the USSR Commissioner for Religious Affairs, the Lithuanian SSR Supreme Soviet Presidium, the Lithuanian SSR Commissioner for Religious Affairs, and the Administrator of the Vilnius Archdiocese. In the statement I detailed the wrongs suffered by the faithful of the Mielagėnai and Trakai parishes at the hands of atheists. I received no reply from any of the above-mentioned agencies. Only on December 26, 1974, I was summoned before the Executive Committee of the Workers' Soviet of Mielagėnai, by the Ignalina RayonExecutive Committee Vice-Chairman, A. Vaitonis; and on January 20, 1975 to Vilnius by LSSR Commissioner for Religious Affairs K.(azimieras) Tumėnas.
Annoyed, Commissioner Tumėnas said: "Why do you write statements to Moscow? It is the business of the church committee, and not of the pastor, to write statements." He said that the statement was without foundation and he would pay no attention to such statements in the future. "We will never reply in writing. If such replies were made in writing, foreign radio stations would immediately begin broadcasting everything."
A. Vaitonis said the same: "You must know that your complaints will be forwarded to us. No one will come from Moscow to investigate such trivial matters. No one is giving or will ever give you a reply."
On December 26th Vaitonis showed me permits for church repairs which neither the church committee nor I had seen before, and asserted that they had been sent to the Council of Workers' Deputies of Mielagėnas, that the Church committee knew about this and that they were not obligated to inform me, the parish pastor. I asked to see the document forbidding all repairs to our church, which I and the church committee chairman J. Bajoriūnas were told to sign in May 1974. I was shown a completely different document. What deceit!
Moreover, Vaitonis emphasized that a priest is not allowed to concern himself with church repairs: "Those who take or will take the initiative in leadership will have their horns broken, and we will strip them of the right to perform their priestly duties; and if you perform your priestly duties and take a leadership role, we will force you to stop."
It is clear from the above-mentioned statements by civil government officials that the civil atheist government forbids the repair of churches, but allows their destruction. For example, during the nierht of July 16-17, 1974 someone broke into the Mielagėnai church, desecrated the Blessed Sacrament, and on April 7, 1975 set fire to the church during services. When the rayon police were called, it merely surveyed the damage and did not even attempt to look for the hoodlums. Such circumstances lead us to think that these crimes were committed by local atheists, who have the support of the police.
In all, from the above examples and the November 14, 1974 statement to the Secretary General of the USSR Central Committee, it is clear that the Catholic Church in Soviet Lithuania is cruelly persecuted and against the faithful there is discrimination.
We ask the Secretary General of the USSR Central Committee to ensure the Catholics of Lithuania the right to enjoy the religious freedom proclaimed by the Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Mielagėnai, June 23, 1975
Administrator of the Mielagėnai Church Father A. Černiauskas.
To: The intellectuals of Western Europe and the Soviet Union: H. G. Grass, L. Kolskovsky, E. Ionesco, S. Sinyavsky, A. Solzhenitsyn and A. Sakharov.
A terrible misfortune has once again befallen the Lithuanian nation: on November 5th of this year the talented poet and scientist Mindaugas Tamonis was killed by a train. Once again the secret hand of the KGB has destroyed a 35 year old creative and noble man.
Last year in an open letter Tamonis, chief engineer at the Monument Conservation Institute and doctoral candidate in technical sciences, strongly protested the oppression of the Lithuanian nation and demanded the most basic rights for her. For this daring protest,
Tamonis was committed to the Vilnius Psychiatric Hospital at Vasaros Gatvės No. 5, and held four months.
On June 25th of this year Tamonis addressed a letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Lithuania, stating his concern about the danger of neo-stalinism and protesting the undermining of Lithuanian culture. On June 27th he was again forcibly committed to the psychiatric hospital. Under the strain of her son's hardships, his mother died of a heart attack on June 29th.
A month later Tamonis was released from the hospital, although recently—before November 5th, that is—he again received a summons to come to the hospital, but did not go.
After returning from the hospital the second time, Tamonis was ignored and persecuted in various ways.
His family—two children and his wife—has lost its bread-winner, the nation has lost an idealistic patriot, a talented poet and scientist. M.(indaugas) Tamonis has paid with his life for a handful of brave words of truth.
On November 5,1969, the talented lithographer Arūnas Tarabilda, exhausted from the constant struggle for the right to be a conscientious artist and Lithuanian, died of a stroke. This artist, also 35 years old, was also interrogated and then assigned as a recruit to a tank unit where, it is thought, he was exposed to radiation. Thus the meaningful lines of creative work dedicated to Lithuania came to an untimely end.
In the fall of 1970, the talented scholar Dr. J. Kazlauskas, Professor of Lithuanian at the Vilnius University, died under mysterious circumstances. This 40-year-old progressive and active scholar had already incurred the displeasure of the government for his daring theories on Baltic studies.
More similar facts could be cited.
Today the lips of Lithuania's most talented and creative individuals, who refuse to break their ties to their native land, are silenced. Silence is the price of survival. And those who are determined to speak and attain a brighter morrow for their country face great hardships and their days unexpectedly come to an end.
Under conditions of oppression and conformity, it is extremely difficult for the nation to nurture and bring to maturity noble descendants, creative and aggressive individuals. Therefore, their loss is equal to national perdition. Under present circumstances, physical genocide is no longer possible. It is replaced by the subtle, deceitful and persistent destruction of Lithuania's creative individuals. This is proven by events of the past years, this is confirmed by the late M. Tamonis. The Lithuanian nation, which was a state for hundreds of years, which created its own culture and amassed great spiritual wealth, cannot be left to the arbitrariness of the historical process. . . She want to keep pace with the progress of life, she wants to enjoy the rights and freedoms which other nations enjoy.
Honorable friends of Lithuania! Your talented, humane works are well known even in Lithuania. Your ideas have met with ardent support in the hearts of many Lithuanians. Your names are uttered here with respect and love.
We ask you to help us in the holy struggle for the freedom of Lithuania, for her brighter future, for the most basic human rights.
We ask you to speak in protest against the wrongs being done us, against the stifling and subtle destruction of our intellectuals, against the tragic fate of M.(indaugas) Tamonis and other intellectuals.
November 1975 Lithuanians