Lithuania has been occupied by Russia almost two hundred years—1795-1977—with the exception of a brief 22-year period of independence—1918-1940. During that time, Lithuania has suffered much from its oppressors. She was not only pillaged, but she also had to fight hard and suffer much in her efforts to preserve her two greatest treasures: her Catholic faith and her nationhood. For a long period, Lithuanians were exploited in various ways, persecuted, deported en masse and even killed.
In an effort to save their lives and gain their freedom, many Lithuanians emigrated, most of them to the United States, fleeing military service in the army of the occupants, or death in the snow drifts of Siberia. Separated from parents, brothers and sisters, they never stopped loving the land of their birth and their dear ones suffering there. Even now they feel that they are the children of the same mother, Lithuania.
Our educated and disciplined fellow-countrymen who emigrated were able to get themselves well organized. They established Lithuanian parishes, and organized their own educational and cultural societies and institutes. They publish their own newspapers, harmoniously and perseveringly defend the rights of their oppressed homeland, and are able to find ways to inform even high Church officials and to influence political and social leaders to intercede for their suffering homeland.
When our fellow countrymen here, whether clergy or laity, meet fellow Lithuanians visiting here as tourists, or when they themselves go abroad, they note how many have great difficulty grasping the complex questions of religious life in Lithuania. Even high-ranking clergy, with a few exceptions, are unable to understand or to solve many of our problems, to say nothing of rank-and-file laity.
Some of them think that local Ordinaries can decide all religious questions, even those dealing with the secret activities of believers. They forget that the activities of many Ordinaries are restricted, and that the faithful do not dare approach some of them.
Others cannot understand how, in Lithuania, about 70% of the children in Lithuania can be catechized, when many priests and laity have been punished for teaching religion in Lithuania.
They have no idea how extensively in Lithuania religious education is carried out in catacomb fashion, under the direction of priests and laity who fear neither fines nor imprisonment.
There have even been tourists who have wondered why Lithuanians being dragged off to Siberia did not telephone the police to prevent their exile.
It is often difficult for them to tell which individuals they can trust, and which they cannot. They have no idea how people in Lithuania are engaged by the K.G.B., to confuse trusting individuals and public opinion.
We can justify this phenomenon ir part, because it is very difficult to understand our complex situation if one has not lived here longer and has not seen Siberia. Our neighbors, the bishops and faithful of the socialist states of Germany and Poland, admit that they find it difficult to understand us. All the more is it for people of the western world, born in freedom and reared in freedom, to understand our situation. The problem is compounded by the cunning deceit of our nation's enemies. They are able freely to send misleading documents and publish articles abroad.
The worst thing is that spiritual leaders of various ranks contribute to this deception, albeit under pressure. Some of them, conscientiously carrying out the instructions of the atheists, even misinform the Vatican when they visit there. Thank God that at least recently that kind of deception has been seen through. Even those clergy and laity abroad who understand us better and sympathize with us complain that they are unable to obtain privileges or assistance for us. Our requests by word and in writing have till now most often remained without results. We trust that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and our own fellow-countrymen, will become better acquainted with our situation, and will help us more effectively.
First of all, we feel the obligation to thank the Apostolic See for establishing us as a separate ecclesiastical province. We thank our present Holy Father, Pope Paul VI, for the attention he has paid us in recent times: the meaningful broadcasts of Vatican radio, the refusal to recognize officially the occupation of Lithuania, the establishment of the College of St. Casimir in Rome, the conferral of the title of basilica on the Shrine of Our Lady of Šiluva, for the kind reception given representatives of our nation who visit the Holy Father, for the sensitive reaction to the Petition of the Seventeen Thousand, for diplomatic efforts to help us, for all the sympathy and love, and for the kind prayers.
We are grateful for the wish to help us by all means possible. We know that the strength of the Catholics of Lithuania lies in unity with the Holy Father and with the Catholic Church. Our oppressors have tried in various ways to tear our bishops and individual priests away from the Apostolic See. For their loyalty they had to suffer much. In the most difficult times, the Catholics of Lithuania have demonstrated their sense of discipline and their obedience to the Holy Father.
We invite Lithuanians throughout the world and the Catholics of the entire world to show the greatest love and respect for, and confidence in, the Holy Father, to refrain from unhealthy criticism of Church leaders which is not rooted in love. We condemn any action disruptive of Church unity. We trust that the Holy Father, appreciating our loyalty and dedication, will in the future show us even more confidence and, within the realm of possibility, will satisfy our wishes.
We are grateful to the Catholics of Ireland for showing us such sincere fraternal sympathy and for giving our suffering nation the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
We especially thank the Bishops of the United States, senators, and congressional representatives for their defense of Lithuanians imprisoned for the faith and freedom of Lithuania.
We are grateful to a host of bishops, clergy, and faithful in Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland, who by written and spoken word defend the religious freedom of Lithuania. Moreover, we are grateful to the defenders of human rights in the Soviet Union, especially Academician Andre Sacharov, and Doctor Sergei Kovalev, who is imprisoned for defending that freedom.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Jewish journalists and their newspapers for proclaiming widely to masses of readers the wrongs perpetrated on us by the atheists of the Soviet Union.
In the terrible days of the Hitler terror, a whole host of Lithuanian clergy, at the risk of their own lives, saved a good number of Jewish lives. Such facts are described in the bookIr Be Ginklo Kariai (Soldiers Without Weapons). His Excellency, Bishop Vincent Brizgys, caluminated in every way by the atheists, in a sermon in the Garrison Church in Kaunas during the Nazi occupation, publicly denounced the mass murder of Jews, as incompatible with Christian morals.
Seeing the wish of our fellow-countrymen abroad and friends of the Catholic Church in Lithuania to help us, and knowing how the atheists of the Soviet Union are trying to mislead world public opinion, we are determined at least in brief outline to inform our fellow countrymen, the faithful of the entire world and people of good will, what are the current matters concerning Lithuania and the Catholic Church here which require speedy and forceful decisions, and what the thinking of our clergy and laity is.
Regardless of the greatest risks, we are trying to do everything to see that the Faith survives in our land.
In order that it might be easier to understand the chicanery of the atheists of the Soviet Union, we shall briefly acquaint you with the methods they are using to destroy the Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union. After that we shall acquaint our readers with the problems of the Roman Catholic Church throughout the Soviet Union, and especially in Lithuania.
According to Marxist theory, religion is a capitalistic, parasitic social phenomenon. In those countries where the capitalistic system is destroyed, religion is destined gradually to disappear. Religion is the opiate of the people.
Since life does not bear out this theory and religion survives in lands ruled by the Communists, they use all weapons, propagandistic, administrative, and even physical, to see that the theory is proven. It is therefore not surprising to find in the Soviet Union the following policy: Religion is tolerated for the time being, only as a disappearing phenomenon, and it is attacked with all possible force wherever it begins to show signs of revival.
The Roman Catholic Church, as a dying institution, is allowed by Soviet laws of cult to function in a limited way for the time being: Priests are allowed to perform liturgical ceremonies and to confer the sacraments. However, even here, complete freedom does not exist. In general, the activities of religious believers are limited by all sorts of unofficial, secret or semi-secret, directives and instructions.
Most often, the methods of the Russian Czars are slavishly copied: They choose candidates for the episcopacy, interfere in the work of diocesan chanceries and in parish activities, placing them in the care of so-called parish committees, of which even atheists can be members. In this way the administration and activities of the Church are paralyzed from within.
The Plight of the Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union
No sooner had the Bolsheviks taken over the government of Russia after the October Revolution, then the repression of religious believers, especially of the Orthodox Church and of the Catholics began, later becoming a bloody persecution. By newly promulgated decrees, the Church was separated from the state and the schools were separated from the Church. As a matter of fact, the Orthodox Church was subjugated to the state, and in the schools atheistic education was introduced, forbidding youngsters from going to Church.
Over a period of years, the Soviet government became convinced that the best way of fighting religion was not by bloody persecution, but by attacking the Church from within. It was unfortunate that the head of the Orthodox Church lived in Russia. Moreover, the Orthodox was accustomed to obeying civil authorities. After the most terrible persecutions, the Orthodox Church, wishing at least to survive, was forced to make various concessions to the atheistic government. It was forced to agree that the
Church should be in charge of individuals who agreed to carry out the orders of the atheists.
This did great damage to the Orthodox Church. Its leadership, by praising the Soviet government in all sorts of decrees and by misleading world opinion concerning the alleged freedom of religion in the Soviet Union, and by agreeing to cooperate with security organs, lost respect in the eyes of the faithful. The Russian Orthodox Church succumbed to corruption. Bishops showed up, who helped the atheists to close down churches.
Great numbers of Russian Orthodox clergy are poorly trained, and given to various vices such as drunkenness and materialism. They have developed practically no pastoral ministry, they do not catechize the children, rarely preach, and are loath to hear confessions or visit the sick. Most of them are satisfied to perform liturgical functions. This is why there are in Russia very few enlightened believers.
A segment of Russian Orthodox clergy and faithful pays no heed to restrictions imposed by their leaders: They boldly proclaim the Gospel of Christ and try to prevent the Faith from dying. Such individuals are respected by the faithful. On them depends the future of the Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union.
The situation is similar with Christians of other persuasions. Protestants, Baptists and other sects operating out in the open usually have as leaders individuals chosen by the atheists and trusted by them, through whom the atheists undermine their work from within.
The most active groups, which have most successfully developed their religious activities are those persecuted by the government: Baptists, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses and other religious groups operating clandestinely or semi-clandestinely.
The Plight of the Catholic Church in the Soviet Union
It is by the same methods that the atheists wish to destroy the Catholic Church in the Soviet Union. At first they tried to destroy it by physical means, arresting and exiling Church leaders: bishops, priests and the more active laity. Currently , they are trying to destroy the Catholic Church from within, by trying to see that positions in the hierarchy are filled by persons agreeing to carry out their decrees, which paralyze the activity of the Church.
Thank God, their plan has succeeded only partially. In the European part of the Russian Federation [sic] there are barely a few Catholic churches functioning, intended not so much for ministry, as for public relations. The Church of St. Louis, in Moscow, is in the yard of the headquarters of the Security Committee of the Soviet Union [The K.G.B. — Translator's Note]. Here, even the least kind of religious activity ir carefully watched by the K.G.B. Most visitors to the church are elderly Polish women, foreigners and members of the Russian intelligentsia.
The plight of the one remaining church in Leningrad is similar: The chairman of its parish committee is a representative of the K.G.B., living with another man's wife and still receiving Holy Communion. When a priest visiting from Lithuania wished to speak with local believers, the chairman would not allow it.
Local Catholics are afraid to get married in such churches. It is doubtful whether a single child has been prepared for Holy Communion all year long. The Catholic Faith in Russia is doomed, unless underground activity is developed.
The situation is somewhat better in other churches found in the territory of the Soviet Union, among the Germans, and partly among the Poles, where there are active believers, able to function in underground fashion. Where there is no underground church activity, the Catholic Church has either disappeared completely, or it is moribund (as in vast reaches of Siberia).
The plight of the Church is especially precarious in the Republic of Belorussia. In no republic is the Catholic Faith so persecuted as in Belorussia. There, many of the most beautiful churches have been closed, while others have been turned into warehouses, abandoned and in the final states of delapidation (e.g., Druja, Vydziai, and elsewhere). There is a great shortage of priests. One priest sometimes has to minister to the faithful of 28 former parishes.
There is no seminary, nor is any effort being made to prepare any candidates for the priesthood clandestinely. When this or that young man expressed a wish to enter the seminary in Riga (Latvia) or Kaunas (Lithuania), the K.G.B. began to persecute him so much in an effort to recruit him as an informer, that he was forced to flee to some other republics.
Moreover, the seminary in Kaunas will not accept candidates from Belorussia or the Ukraine, fearing that the K.G.B., instead of sending suitable candidates, will send its own agents. Candidates for the seminary here are designated by the Deputy of
Cult. [A government functionary—Transl. Note].
Most priests in Belorussia are about seventy years old. Some must be carried to church (e.g. the pastor of Borunai, who broke his leg and was unable to walk to church). In five to ten years, Belorussia will be without priests. It is forbidden to invite neighboring clergy to help out. The inhuman work load drives those priests still working to an early grave. It is often necessary to travel 130-200 kilometers on a sick call.
In Minsk, where there are about 40 thousand Catholics, there is not a single functioning Catholic church. The government allowed Catholics to carry out services in an Orthodox church. Did the priest not make a mistake in not taking advantage of such permission?
In Gardinas, where there are three functioning Catholic churches, there was not a single priest at Christmas, 1976, who could celebrate Mass for the faithful. The faithful wept when a letter from the local priest was read to those gathered for the occasion. In it they were informed that the local priest was seriously ill and did not have the strength to celebrate Mass.
The faithful of Para have been keeping their beautiful church from being closed for eighteen years, by performing services without a priest. For a long time, members of the church committee used to stand at the church doors, checking the identity cards of young people. The government had forbidden young persons up to the age of eighteen to go to church. Priests of parishes where young people show up in church are especially persecuted, e.g. in Breslava.
Language poses special pastoral problems. The young people do not understand Polish. Many local priests do not wish to teach youngsters religion in Belorussian or Russian. In this way conditions are created for the spread of atheism. In Belorussia there is a specially debilitating problem of alcoholism. The Catholic Church is persecuted not so much by local people, but by Russian interlopers. The persecution of the Church there goes hand in hand with Russification of the Belorussians.
In the Ukrainian Republic the predicament of western rite Catholics is similar to that of Catholics in Belorussia: priest are dying off, and there is no local seminary. In the Ukraine there are several younger priests who are products of the seminary in Riga. Catholics of the western rite are served by priests of the eastern rite. Pastoral work is greatly hindered by national antipathy between Ukrainians and Poles.
Even more difficult is the plight of eastern rite Catholics. All their churches are closed, and the clergy are especially persecuted. There have even been sacrifices of life.
Liturgical books, vessels, and vestments are confiscated from the priests as the property of the Patriarch of Moscow. Some Orthodox clergy help persecute the Catholics. In the circumstances, the faithful of the Ukrainian Eastern Rite Catholic Church feel quite uneasy at seeing the excessive—in their opinion—friendship of Roman Catholics with the Patriarchate of Moscow, while not sensing much support themselves.
The Eastern Rite Ukrainian Church is fortunate in being able to operate underground. Local security officials believe that in the City of Lvov every neighborhood has its own eastern rite priest. It is said that the security people regret having driven them underground, because they have no way of controlling their activities.
The Ukrainians have been accustomed since days of old to being persecuted, and they have learned to work underground, making it difficult for the atheists to subjugate them. They are grateful to their beloved martyr Cardinal Slypij, who, understanding local conditions, was able to help them.
In Latvia, since 1940, the Soviet Union ostensibly assigned the pastoral care and evangelization of the Catholics of the entire Soviet Union to the Archbishop of Riga. However, throughout those forty years, it has been difficult to observe any signs of that pastoral care. It must be admitted that to some extent the bishops of Latvia perform these duties. Having but a few priests, they send them to the new functioning Catholic churches in the Soviet Union. However, they do not carry on any broader evangelization of the Soviet Union.
Why? Latvian Catholics constitute barely a fifth of the population of Latvia. From of old, they are accustomed to accommodating themselves to the demands of the government. Now, more than ever before, they carry out the demands of the atheistic government, which restricts the activities of the Church. The religious life of Latvian Catholics in many parishes is weak. Priests are afraid of being punished by the government, and they do not trust one another; many limit themselves to liturgical functions, and to ministering the sacraments to the older generation and the dying; the religious education of children has been neglected. Many convents of women religious in Latvia lack apostolic spirit. They have not studied the decrees of the Second Vatican Council, and are not concerned about putting them into practice. They hardly catechize the children at all, nor do they get involved in pastoral work. They are said to have received instructions from their superiors to watch and pray.
The situation of the Catholic Church is better in the Republic of Tadshikistan, where many zealous Catholics, especially Germans and some Poles live. Their zeal and grasp of their faith could be a source of edification to the faithful of West Germany and other countries of Europe. These are wonderful examples of the working of the Holy Spirit! It is the result of the work of zealous priests, religious and third order members. They have been able to prepare their people for a life in the catacombs. The faithful have been able, without priests or bishops, to keep the Faith. The faith is especially vigorous in those regions which have been visited by former prisoners and banished priests. A special object of their respect has been Father T.A. Šeškevičius, S.J. In the homes of many Germans in Asia, the portrait of Father Šeškevičius hangs alongside the pictures of saints.
The atheists of the Soviet Union are hatching fresh plans to destroy the Catholic Church in the Soviet Union. It is said that while making certain concessions to the Holy See, they want the headquarters of the Catholic Church in the Soviet Union to be established in Moscow. In charge would be a clergyman who has capitulated to the government, with the rank of Cardinal. Under his jurisdiction would be all the Catholic dioceses in the Soviet Union: those of Lithuania, the Ukrain, Belorussia and the rest. Thus the first step towards schism would be set up. Even now some Orthodox clergy are heard to say, "Since the Catholic Church acknowledges the Patriarch of Moscow as a legitimate member of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, the time is approaching for the Catholics of the Soviet Union to renounce the Holv Father of Rome." They say that the Patriarch of Moscow would be able to lead them.
We find it difficult to understand the recent so-called Ostpolitik. In our opinion, it has greatly hurt the Church in Eastern Europe. We hear such arguments:
"The Soviet Union is a powerful country, whose physical power today we cannot overcome. It is necessary to seek diplomatic avenues to dialogue with that power, with the aim of defending the faithful who are there from complete annihilation."
In our opinion, it is not diplomatic efforts which keep them from atrocities, but the necessity of reckoning with the might of powerful states, world and national public opinion, and fear of a new Nuremberg trial.
Representatives of the Soviet Union eagerly seek diplomatic ties with the Apostolic See, in order that, having obtained concessions from the Catholic Church, they might even more subtly persecute the Church, especially at the hands of Church leaders who have capitulated to them. Bishops accommodating themselves to the atheists often interfere by their directives, or verbally or in writing, often forbidding persecuted ministers the celebration of Holy Mass in private homes, the hearing of confessions outside one's own diocese, in private apartments, and especially the confessions of women religious.
The Catholics of Eastern Europe are impressed by a bold defense of the Faith. If the Catholics of Lithuania can be defended by non-Catholics and even persons of atheistic persuasion, like Academician Andrei Sacharov or Sergei Kovalev, at the risk of their freedom, then all the more do we expect a word of intercession from our brethren the Catholic bishops and faithful of other lands. Thank God, we are lately hearingtheir voices raised in our defense.
One gets the impression that Catholics, unwilling to spoil relations with the atheists of Moscow, have chosen the tactic of silence. One bishop of Lithuania, upon his return from Rome asserted that the Holy Father, in an audience, advised the faithful of the Soviet Union: "Pray and wait quietly and patiently."
We are accustomed to being deceived, and we do not believe that the Holy Father would so have advised us. We have the Gospel, the decrees of the Second Vatican Council concerning the missions and the apostolate; we hear the words of our Holy Father, Pope Paul VI, over the radio, speaking of the duty to evangelize the world of today, without regard even for one's life. How can we be quiet and wait, when the atheists and other enemies of the Church are not quiet and do not wait? Can we calmly watch and wait when hundreds of thousands of youth, students and intellectuals are longing for the Gospel, disenchanted with atheism, and with the moral rot stemming from it? If we do not, we are all guilty. The Apostle Paul cried, "Woe to me, if I did not proclaim the Gospel!" An example to us in this regard could be the various sects in the Soviet Union. They are supported spiritually and materially by their brethren abroad. Among their members they have developed an apostolic spirit which fears neither suffering nor death. They are provided with the latest literature, they have created a disciplined organization with leaders at various levels: the small group, the village, city, community, region, republic, etc.
For long years the Catholic Church in the Soviet Union was, as it were, moribund, showing no signs of greater apostolic effort. Now the situation has changed significantly. We need not soporific slogans, but words of encouragement, suitable leeway for action, and the requisite authorization, without which we do not feel we have the right to send anyone forth in the name of the Church, or to urge anyone on to apostolic work demanding heroism. Our strength lies in our unity with the Holy Father, and a bold, well-organized defense of the Church.
We can rejoice that in this regard the Catholic Church has made significant progress. Thanks to those efforts, the facts ragarding the persecution of the Faith in the Soviet Union have forced even the Communist Parties abroad to condemn the persecution of believers being waged by the Soviet Union.
Lithuania, because of its geographical situation and historical circumstances, is the outpost of the Catholic Church in eastern Europe. It can serve humanity by creating a synthesis of the cultures of East and West. For that reason the level of religious life in Lithuania can have extraordinary significance for the Catholic Church and the history of Europe.
For that reason the Roman Catholic Church should be very concerned that Catholicism in Lithuania survives, be strengthened by its trials and with the proper support, manifest itself in all its vigor and be able to fulfill the mission assigned to it by Providence and by the Church.
Lithuania is a country on the Baltic Sea, the majority of whose inhabitants are Catholics. Even now the Catholic Church there is working overtly and also covertly, in catacomb style. Its work would be even more active, if it received the moral and material support of the rest of the faithful.
In spite of long, determined and bitter persecution by the atheists, the Catholic Faith in Lithuania is alive. We can boast to the Holy Father that we have had very few priests among us renounce their priesthood, there is no dearth of vocations to the priesthood or religious life, Eucharistic life is flourishing, and the sacrament of penance is appreciated. You have plenty of data showing how courageously the clergy and faithful of Lithuania are defending their Faith. We have had a host of martyrs for the Faith, and of girls who have sacrificed their lives in defense of their chastity
(Students Elena Spirgevičiūtė, Stasė Lukšaitė, Danutė Burbaitė and others).
In our country the soul of the apostolate is alive, thirsting to spread the Catholic Faith throughout a vast land which has been subjected to atheism. The Catholic Church is working effectively in catacomb fashion: An underground press is flourishing, catechiza-tion is going on, on a broad scale, in spite of all kinds of sacrifices, and religious communities exist [albeit underground—Trans. Note]. There is no lack of responsible officials or even members of the Communist Party, who albeit secretly, hold the Faith. On their deathbed, they ask to be buried with the Catholic liturgy. We have several bishop-martyrs: Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis, Mečislovas Reinys, Vincentas Borisevičius, and Povilas Ramanauskas. For their loyalty to the Church Bishops Julijus Steponavičius and Vincentas Sladkevičius have been exiled from their dioceses. About six hundred Lithuanian priests have been in prison without ceasing there to spread the teachings of Christ.
However, the atheists in Lithuania do not cease by any means disrupting the life of the Catholic Church.
1. The first means of undermining the Catholic Church in Lithuania consists of the energetic and relentless efforts of the atheists to introduce into the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Lithuania individuals who would agree to carry out their directives: a) to spread abroad lies about so-called freedom of religion in Lithuania. It is on this condition that the banished bishops have been promise that they would be allowed to return to their duties; b) to help mislead the Vatican and to help place in episcopal sees candidates acceptable to the atheists; c) to thwart pastoral efforts by ignoring the decrees of the Holy Father; d) to promote bad priests, assigning them to responsible positions; and to persecute zealous priests, assigning them to the hinterlands; e) to neglect religious education, etc.
The atheists have partly succeeded in carrying out their plans, but not entirely. The newly appointed bishops presently concern themselves with pastoral efforts as much as possible. Those who on account of age are unable to function, and to resist the demands of the atheists, would be acting honorably if they resigned.
2. The atheists interfere with candidates wishing to enter the seminary, they try to recruit those who enter, and they try to see that the level of education and training in the seminary is at a low level. The bishops are able freely to appoint neither the administration of the seminary, nor its faculty. They are powerless to remove from their positions individuals obviously unfit for such duties. The seminarians lack theological manuals. The seminary library is very poor, and is not being replenished with books of a purely religious nature published abroad. It is no wonder that the level of education and of spiritual training at the seminary in Kaunas is quite low. Often, young priests revive spiritually once they begin their priestly ministry.
3. One of the greatest means of wrecking Catholicism in Lithuania is the well-organized compulsory atheistic education of the children, without regard either to the Declaration of Human Rights, or to the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference. Even now, priests are fined for teaching children catechism. Teachers in Lithuania are pressured in various ways by the Ministry of Education to educate children in atheism. This task a segment of opportunistic teachers performs zealously. According to the statistics of the atheists in Lithuania, 70% of the children entering school are religious believers; only 30% finish middle school with their faith intact. Their faith is further undermined in institutions of higher learning. All university students are required to complete a course in so-called "scientific" atheism.
Since youth are forbidden to go to church, and there is a great dearth of religious literature, a great part of the young people are not so much atheists, as religious illiterates. The fruit of atheism is a moral degeneracy among the youth which has caused even the atheists concern.
4. One of the things most detrimental to the Faith and morals of the Lithuanian people, and demeaning, is the mass recruiting of people by all means possible to become informers for the K.G.B., bribery, blackmail, the threat of being discharged from work, the most attractive promises of furthering one's career, and of going on to higher education. Those who do not agree to become informers are threatened with all sorts of punishment. Those who agree to become informers are often pardoned for criminal offenses. All are subject to recruitment, beginning with elementary school children, and ending with bishops.
It must be admitted that such pressure, extending over the years, has produced results. Hence Lithuanians today do not trust one another, fear to speak out, and are constantly afraid of being betrayed.
Especially subject to such recruitment are seminarians. Those who do not agree to become agents of the K.G.B. are threatened that they will not be accepted for the seminary, or that they will not be ordained. Seminarians are placed under particular pressure during vacation. Sometimes they are required to agree to defect publicly from the priesthood after a few years as priests. Thus it was with Father Vytautas Starkus, the pastor of Sidabrava.
5. On July 28, 1976, a new law was promulgated in Lithuania, by which it is planned to restrict the work of the Church even more. One section of the new law allows the priest to perform his ministrations only in the church for which he has been registered. According to that regulation, priests are forbidden from helping neighboring priests to hear confessions, when the latter are overwhelmed with work during feastdays or funerals.
The same law forbids the teaching of religion. The teaching of religion is allowed only in the seminary. All who teach children prayers or catechism must now expect new persecution—based on the law.
The same law forbids clergy from carrying out pastoral visits— "kalėdojimas"—even though Canon Law requires this. The same law directs that the question of establishing new parishes be decided not by the faithful, but by the members of the executive Committee of the rayon.
The Catholic Church in Lithuania is operating on two levels: overtly and covertly. Forced to operate entirely in catacomb fashion are all religious communities of men and women; young men secretly preparing for ordination to the priesthood, almost all students and various officials who are afraid to be seen in church or to receive the sacraments, in order not to suffer for it.
A significant number of priests operating with official approval are forced also to operate in catacomb style: preparing children for First Communion or Confirmation, visiting patients in hospitals where the priest is not admitted by the medical staff, and witnessing the marriages of officials.
The Catholic Church is operating in exclusively catacomb fashion or semi-catacomb fashion in broad areas of Russia. It is able to operate because it ignores the restrictions of the atheists. Such activity is quite difficult, since it is bitterly persecuted by the atheists. However, it is difficult to squelch, when properly organized. The Church operating overtly can be destroyed in a moment by the atheists, by closing churches and arresting bishops and priests.
However, it is very difficult to subdue the Church of the Catacombs, since they are unable to keep track of its activities. The Church operating in catacomb conditions does not interfere with the local Church operating overtly, it does not try to disrupt its discipline or to split it, but tries as much as possible to complement its work. As much as possible, it upholds the authority of the ruler of the diocese, tries to win the conditions necessary in order to operate more freely, defends the rulers of dioceses from government persecution and pressure, and blocks misleading statements emanating from them.
As for the relationship of the Church of the Catacombs with the atheistic government, the government is quite unhappy about the activity of the Church of the Catacombs, because it is unable to control it. While the Church operating in the open has certain privileges, the Church of the Catacombs is persecuted. Therefore priests and religious operating clandestinely are termed agents of the Vatican or foreign spies.
Those making these accusations know themselves that it is not so. Even the Catholic Church operating in catacomb conditions is not about to plan an uprising, nor to fight the Soviet system by force. It does not forbid Catholics to serve in the Soviet army, to participate in social action, or to work in state offices or factories. Many Catholics are exemplary, trustworthy, workers. Even the sisters, who have been driven underground, are appreciated as conscientious medical personnel, who conscientiously nurse Party members and security agents. The Church operating in catacomb conditions does not seek to disrupt good relations between the Apostolic See and the Soviet Union. It wants only to proclaim the doctrine of Christ to all people without hindrance.
A great pastoral error was committed when the bishops, priests and people of Lithuania were not prepared in time juridically or pastorally, for pastoral work in catacomb conditions. The more freedom of religion increases, the less will become the significance of the Church of the Catacombs. The greater the persecution, the more deeply the Church will be forced to burrow into the catacombs and the more will its significance grow.
In view of these facts we trust that our Lithuanian brethren abroad and the bishops and faithful of the whole world will help us to preserve the Catholic Faith, will help us with their offerings and prayers, and with all their might will defend us from those who persecute us for our Faith.
They will make better use, as much as possible, of the media of information in the hands of Catholics and of other good people. As much as possible they will try to see that Catholic Church leadership assists not only the Church operating openly, but also the Church operating in catacomb conditions.
In recent times, relations between the Apostolic See and the Soviet Union have improved. The representatives of this country regularly visit the Holy Father. Cardinals visit Moscow and Leningrad. No one denies that it is necessary to use all diplomatic channels, seeking contacts even with an atheistic government, working for world peace, justice and recial equality. The atheists eagerly seek better relations with the Apostolic See. However, by that diplomatic activity, they wish to obtain concessions by which they would be able to hurt the Church more.
As a rule, they do not honor their promises or their agreements. The pronouncements of the new bishops of Hungary or Czechoslovakia give us no joy. The atheists threaten that if their demands are not met, if the activities of zealous Catholics are not restricted, a new bloody persecution of the faithful could break out, such as took place from 1917 to 1923 and from 1930 to 1938. We do not feel threatened by bloody persecution so much as by the slow, silent strangulation throttling the Church with its own hands.
With all this in mind, we ask our brother Lithuanians abroad the following:
1. To show more concern, love, spiritual and material help especially for the Catholic Church living in catacomb conditions.
2. In a suitable manner to request the Holy See:
a) as much as possible to hasten the beatification of the Servant of God Jurgis Matulaitis-Matulevičius;
b) to exert efforts, that the cause of beatification of new Lithuanian martyrs for faith and morals be taken up: Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis, Bishop Vincentas Borisevičius, and student Elena Spir-gevičiūtė, who showed a heroism similar to that of St. Maria Goretti;
c) To request the Holy Father not to appoint bishops and not to confer titles of honor on individuals who have compromised themselves morally and politically. Not to trust the recommendations of those who have already misled the Apostolic See;
d) To encourage concern for the evangelization of the Soviet Union; to instruct local ordinaries here not to pose obstacles for those who wish to do missionary work in this country;
e) To exert efforts that the faithful of Belorussia and the Ukraine might obtain the right to open their own seminary;
f) to try to see that churches be opened and priests assigned to them, at least in the larger cities of the Soviet Union, such as Kiev, Minsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnojarsk, Omsk, Tomsk, etc.; to promulgate pastoral directives, for radio broadcasts by the Holy See, urging the evangelization of the Soviet Union, effective from the day of announcement; warn that local ordinaries would not have the right to restrict their carrying out. To grant the right of hearing confessions to priests in good standing, without regard to diocesan boundaries, in private homes and apartments, not only of the laity, but also of religious sisters.
Decree No. 7, "Christus Dominus," of the Second Vatican Council, urges the bishops of the entire world to show particular love and concern for those priests who suffer various persecutions for Christ. It urges them to assist them by prayer and support. Moreover, it urges all the faithful, especially those in higher positions, boldly to defend the faithful who are being persecuted (Cf. Gau-dium et Spes, No. 75). We are waiting for these decrees to be zealously put into practice. The Helsinki Accords created favorable conditions for defending the faithful repressed and persecuted throughout the world, and especially in the Soviet Union.
This appeal has been drafted after appealing to the Holy Spirit for light, and listening to the opinions of many priests, religious and laity, of Lithuania. We trust that our brother Lithuanians overseas, the faithful of the entire world and people of good will, will help us as they can. We will ask the Most High that our cry for help be heard.