In This Issue:
Lithuania December 25, 1976
On November 29, Vatican Radio announced the surprising and very good news that you Catholics of Ireland had prepared a beautiful gift for us—a statue of the Holy Mother of God— and were preparing to bring it to Vilnius. The Soviet government was able to prevent the delivery of the gift, but it was powerless to prevent your love and your solidarity with those who suffer, from reaching us. These latter gifts are the most precious to us persecuted Catholics of Lithuania.
Accept, therefore, our Irish brethren, the heartfelt thanks of the Catholics of Lithuania for the gift, the love and the defense of our rights. May God reward you, who yourselves have experienced so many trials, for remaining sensitive to the fate of your faraway brethren!
The Catholics of Lithuania
(Case No. 345)
On the evening of October 19, 1976, four security agents broke into the apartment of Jonas Matulionis, at Gorkio g. No. 17 b.6.
Two security officers, hidden in the apartment of Matulionis' neighbor, waited for the auspicious moment to break into his apartment without interruption, or causing a disturbance. It seems that another two were waiting in the yard. When Matulionis returned home, and V. Lapienis came to see him, the Security agents forced their way in.
During the search they seized an "Optima" typewriter, The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania No. 24, Solzhenyt-sin's Gulag Archipelago (the Lithuanian translation), and other literature. After the search, Matulionis and Lapienis were arrested.
Matulionis, forty-five years old, is a graduate in Lithuanian studies, and later enrolled at the Conservatory, but was expelled for singing in church. He worked in the Library of the Republic, and was later Director of the Art Museum.
Lapienis, born in 1906, an economist, is a graduate of the University of Vilnius Department of Economics.
To the People's Court of the Rayon of Radviliškis
A Complaint By The Rev. Antanas Jokūbauskas, Son of Jonas,
Administrator of the Parish of Pociūnėliai,
Residing at Pociūnėliai, Rayon of Radviliškis
On September 30 of this year, the Commission for Applying Administrative Fines, attached to the Executive Committee of the Working People's Soviet, consisting of Chairman A. Mikelis, Secretary R. Dirsienė, and members Vaičiūnas, Vaišutis and Vasiliauskas, fined me 50 (fifty) rubles, accusing me of transgressing the Instructions of the Praesidium of the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic "On Responsibility for Transgression of Laws Concerning Religious Cults".
However, that instruction does not indicate what transgression I, as a priest, was guilty of: Perhaps it was because I did not hold services, or because I failed to administer the Sacraments to someone. I tested children to see whether they were properly prepared to receive Holy Communion. As a priest, I have the right and the duty to do so, and I have transgressed no law.
Slabadai is a large and expanding community on the bank of the Šešupė River. Here is a communications center, a school, a house of culture, a store and trade center. At Slabadai there is also a chapel, which was formerly part of the parish of Kudirkos Naujamiestis.
There a priest had always lived, to serve the faithful of the area. During the post-war years, because of a shortage of priests, Slabadai was served by priests from Kudirkos Naujamiestis.
Still later, because of interference from the Soviet government, the priest used to come to Slabadai only for funerals. When Slabadai became part of the Rayon of Vilkaviškis, the residents were served by the pastor of the parish of Didvyžiai. Father P. Perlaitis occasionally held services for the deceased, but upon being warned by the vice-dean of Šakiai that by doing so he could make matters worse and the government might not allow him even to bury the faithful, he stopped holding services.
When the new pastor, Father Antanas Lukošaitis, came to Didvyžiai, J. Urbonas, Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Rayon of Vilkaviškis last October (1976) forbade the celebration of Mass in the church of Slabadai even at funerals. In the opinion of the vice-chairman, services could not be held because the faithful of Slabadai had not even chosen a parish council. Hearing of this, the faithful of Slabadai immediately organized the requisite committee of twenty, elected a parish executive committee, and submitted the names to the Council on Religious Affairs for confirmation.
It is four years since the complaint of 17,000 of Lithuania's faithful echoed around the world. Later, other events demanded the attention of the people of the free world, and the petition of the Catholics of Lithuania was forgotten.
The only ones who did not forget it were the KGB—the State Security Committee. They are still looking for the organizers of the petition, for those who collected signatures for it, and those who signed, in order fittingly to punish them.
At the end of September, 1975, Antanas Guginis, Director of the Kaunas Trade School of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind; Vaclovas Smalakys, Director of the Kaunas Inter-Rayon Building of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind and Teodoras Ignatavičius, Secretary of the Party organization of the Kaunas Trade School of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind, were secretly summoned before the Party Committee of Kaunas.
The executive director of the Party Committee indicated that in the Society for the Blind, there was considerable abuse:—little attention was being paid to the ideological training of the workers, and there was too little action against religion: Orchestra members from the Society for the Blind go to church, playing at funerals in connection with religious services. Smalakys, Director of the Kaunas Inter-Rayon Building of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind, was ordered to put an end to the orchestra members' "offenses". Director Ruginis, of the Kaunas Trade School of the Lithuanian Society for the Blind was told to discharge Juozas Menkevičius, superintendent of the plastics shop, and Pranas Inokaitis, superintend-ant of the brush shop. Both are practicing Catholics, highly respected by the workers.
To: LTSR Procurator
LKP Secretary Griškevičius
From: Citizen Mečislovas Jurevičius residing at Šiauliai Žemaitės gatvė, Nr. 102-12
By decision of the People's Court of Šiauliai, of February 19,1975, my appeal for reinstatement to my job was rejected. This decision was allowed by the LTSR Supreme Court on March 18, 1975 to stand. It is my belief that the above mentioned verdict and the subsequent decision of the appeal should be nullified, and that the case should be reopened for the following reasons:
I was dismissed from my job for negligence, which in my opinion is unfounded. Negligence can be considered as not coming in to word without sufficient reason. I reported my absences ahead of time. I have worked for the respondent since October 2,1965. In all the time I was employed I did not receive a single reprimand regarding my job. I have received more than one commendation. I was held up as an exemplary employee. When I informed them of my unavailability to work, I always stated the reason for this action. I am a religious person. During the religious holy days I could not work and asked to be excused from my job. I was willing to make up this time on other days.
The Soviet Constitution provides for religious freedom, which I practice. I am not employed in educational work and my beliefs do not do harm to anyone. I am a simple worker—a painter. I do not see any hindrance to my getting my job back. Without even seeming to notice these reasons of mine, the Peoples' Court in all formality ruled on this case. The Supreme Court of the LTSR agreed with this decision. This is not fair. I am not a negligent worker, but a conscien tious one; but I do have beliefs which I want to practice.
To: Communist Party Central Committee of the Lithuanian, SSR. First Secretary Comrade Griškevičius Minister of Public Health, Comrade Kleiza
From: The Faithful of Lithuania
On March 10 of this year, the pastor of the parish of Šlavantai, in the Rayon of Lazdijai, the Rev. J. Zdebskis was detained while driving a car in Vilnius. The individuals who stopped him were from the Department of Motor Vehicles. They said that he was drunk, and demanded that he should go to the Psychoneurological Hospital, in order to establish the degree of drunkenness. In the hospital, without even a blood analysis, although the priest demanded one, a degree of drunkenness was established. The Department of Motor Vehicles revoked his license for a year and a half and imposed a thirty-ruble fine.
Since Father Zdebskis is well-known to the faithful of Lithuania as a priest and as a person—he is a complete abstainer from alcoholic beverages—therefore we believe that his punishment is a systematic and deliberate effort to discredit and persecute the priest.
In our opinion, the doctor and the auto inspector who, forced by the KGB, agreed to sign false documents accusing Father Zdebskis of unfounded charges, acted unjustly and unscrupulously. Such individuals should not be allowed to hold public office. How can one place the life of an individual into the hands of people who lack a conscience?
In September of 1976, (Mrs.) Pluirienė visited her husband, Peter Plumpa-Pluira, at the hard labor camp in Permė. Serving their sentences together with Pluira are Sergei Kovalev and Šarūnas Žukauskas. Because (Mrs.) Pluirienė was accompanied on her long journey by the Rev. J. Zdebskis, the camp administrator showed great displeasure and allowed the wife to see her husband for less than 24 hours. Before being able to see her husband, (Mrs.) Pluirienė had to submit to a thorough search, during which she was completely stripped. One is not allowed to bring either paper or pen into the visiting room. There is also no paper in the toilet.
It is the belief of the prisoners at the Perm camp, that the government of the Soviet Union will grant them amnesty and that they will not have to complete their sentence, because throughout the whole world, political prisoners are being granted amnesty.
For making statements of various kinds Kovalev is often being sent to solitary confinement.
On the occasion of the Easter holiday (Mrs.) Pluirien6 sent her husband a greeting on a religious card, but the administration of the camp refused to give it to the prisoner. When Plumpa-Pluira demanded that the religious picture be given to him, he was placed by the administration in solitary confinement In the regulations of the camp, dealing with articles mailed to the inmates, nowhere is there mentioned that the mailing of religious pictures is forbidden.
Arminai (R a y o n of Vilkaviškis)
The principal of the Arminai Middle School, (Mrs.) Irena Berentienė, does not cease in her persecution of the believing students, because they attend Church. On November 10, 1976, she called together the parents and the students of the 11th grade. During the meeting, the principal ordered the pupil (Miss) Julia Bušauskaitė to discuss a religious topic. The principal reproached (Miss) Bušauskaitė, that she was the only one brave enough to stand up and to state that: "I go to church and will continue to go to church. I believe and will continue to believe." Even now Bušauskaitė reaffirmed that she attends church. The principal explained that the Soviet schools are separated from the church and Bušauskaitė should keep in mind that she was studying in a Soviet school, and threatened moreover that she would be remembered at examination time. Upon ending her speech, the principal recalled the fact that the girl did not belong to the Communist Youth Organization. The mother of J. Bašauskaitė remarked that because of the Communist Youth, the principal, on more than one occasion was being embarrassed. What possible good example can Communist Youth members give who at night harass passersby?
On November 30, 1976 a funeral procession was passing the Middle School at Arminas, and at the head of the procession a crucifix and banners were visible. Noticing the crucifix, the principal,(Mrs.)
Some local authorities in Lithuania forbid the deceased to be brought into church for funeral services. Here a casket rests outside the church door in Lazdijai, in 1965, while friends and relatives pray inside.
Berentieė glanced around to see if there were any pupils in the procession. At the same time the principal started to explain to the pupils, that if a crucifix is being carried in a funeral procession, they are not allowed to participate in such a funeral. When the 11th grade pupil, A. Bagdonas, wanted to take a picture of the procession, he was forbidden to do so by the principal.