To: Secretary General of the Central Committee of the CPSU Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union
Copies: From:1. Council of Ministers of Lithuania
2. Deputy of the Council for Religious Affairs of the
3. Leaders of the Dioceses of Lithuania
Priests of the Archdiocese of Vilnius
The Penal Code of the Lithuanian SSR, speaking of exile (Paragraph 27), banishment (Par. 18), and the abrogation of the right to carry out certain duties or to do certain kinds of work (Par. 30), says that "exile is meted out as the basic punishment as well as a supplementary punishment and is set at two to five years; banishment—from one to five years; the abrogation of the right to carry out certain duties or to do certain kind of work—also from one to five years. In Addition, the Code of Penal Procedure of the Lithuanian SSR states: "Justice in criminal cases will be meted out exclusively by the court" (Par. 11).
How are we to understand the requirements of these codes, when it is the sixteenth year since the Ordinary of the Arch diocese of Vilnius, Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius, has been relieved of his duties without court action and for unknown reasons and sent to live far beyond the boundaries of the archdiocese, in Žagarė?1
In an effort to request the return of the bishop to the post as Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, we, the priests of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, in 1970,, wrote a petition to the Council of Ministers of the USSR, which was signed by sixty-one priests; and in September 1975, we sent the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR a statement signed by sixty-six priests.2
When K. Tumėnas, the Deputy of the Council for Religious Affairs gave certain priests a negative reply to the petition written to the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR, the priests asked the deputy, "What is Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius guilty of?"
"I do not know," replied the deputy. This means that the bishop is guilty without cause.What he is guilty of no one knows— neither the faithful, nor the clergy, nor the bishop himself. Even the deputy claims not to know. Where is the logic in that? If the bishop is guilty of no offense, then why is he in Žagarė, why is he not allowed to go about his duties as bishop; or if he is guilty, then why is the offense being kept secret even from himself?
The line taken by the Soviet government in regard to Bishop Steponavičius makes for wonderment. His consecration was coordinated with agencies of the civil government; i.e., the Soviet government agreed that he should be bishop. Why, then is it the sixteenth year that he is unjustly (without trial or proof of offense) kept from functioning, why may he not work according to his assignment by the pope to the Archdiocese of Vilnius, why does the civil government want to force him to work not in accord with the norms of church law and his own conscience, but rather according to the dictates of the atheistic government?
Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania No. 20, pp. 10-12. 2The letter of September 25, 1975, is published.
2Bishop Romualdas Krikščiūnas of Panevėžys, born in 1930, was consecrated in 1969. He graduated from Kaunas seminary in 1954, was permitted to study in Rome, where he received the degree of Doctor of Church Law. He is a shepherd brought up during the Soviet period, apparently gets along well with the authorities. For this reason some dissident priests have expressed doubts about his loyalties.
We, the undersigned priests, ask you in the name of all who signed the petition of September 1975 to the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR, and in the name of all people who love truth and justice, to restore Bishop Steponavičius to his former duties as Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Vilnius.
Lithuania, February 15, 1976
Rev. B. Laurinavičius Rev. A. Petronis Rev. K. Garuckas Rev. S. Valiukėnas Rev. A. Simonaitis