The Commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs of the Lithuanian SSR of the Council of Ministers of the USSR
November 11, 1977.
To the Chairman of the........ Rayon People's Council
of Deputies Executive Committee.
Please submit by January 15, 1978 data on the state of religiousness in religious groups of all denominations in the Rayon during 1977.
The following questions must be covered in the data submitted:
1) The state of religion in the Rayon or city, describing the activity of religious groups, the methods the clergy uses to stimulate religious life, the content of sermons (including the texts of sermons recorded), attendance at churches and other houses of worship; the number of believers who attend and the staff (based on the enclosed form); the number of births, marriages and deaths in the rayon or city.
2) The overall financial status of religious communities (according to the enclosed form).
3) How religious laws are enforced; the activity of commissions set up to monitor enforcement of these laws; breakdown of violations of cult laws and steps taken against violators.
4) Complaints and statements received on religious matters;
their subject matter and results of their investigation.
The data can also cover other matters which in your view need attention, as well as suggestions to improve this work.
Religious Affairs Commissioner K. Tumėnas.
On March 27, 1978 (Easter Monday), Kaunas KGB Chief Bag-donas called a "news conference" for reporters, press and propaganda workers, party member and activists of special sections. The security police chief complained to his audience that more people attended the archdiocesan basilica and other churches this year than in previous years. Bagdonas then related how priests are attempting to draw more people to church by raising in sermons the question of national-religious awareness, and requested advice on what should be done to stop the growing trend of this national awareness.
At the beginning of May 1978, Bishop J. Labukas, the apostolic administrator of the Kaunas Archdiocese and the Vilkaviškis Diocese, left for the Vatican.
The clergy are uneasily awaiting his return, because they fear that for Vatican Curia—on the basis of false information—might appoint KGB collaborators as Bishops.
On April 28, 1978, seminarian E. Paulionis was summoned from the Kaunas Seminary to the Vilnius security police in connection with the V. Petkus case.
Seminarian R. Dalgėla was interrogated on May 5th in that same connection.
On April 14, 1978, at the conclusion of the Marxist-Leninist study year held at the Structural Architecture Institute, lectures were given by H. Zimanas (subject Man Above God) and Religious Affairs Commissioner K. Tumėnas (subject The State of Religion in Lithuania). Individuals who had not attended the courses—various workers and teachers—were invited to these lectures.
Tumėnas stressed that conflicts with believers should be avoided, the situation not aggravated and their religious feelings not offended.
Among other statistics, Tumėnas stated that believers in Lithuania yearly donate approximately one million rubles for the support of cult buildings and employees, of which "not many, but some crumbs drop off to the government—about 23,000 rubles."
In fact, the crumbs that "drop off" to the government are not as "modest" as claimed by Tumėnas. In a small parish with a small wooden church, the "crumbs" amount to 500 rubles, in parishes with brick churches, "crumbs" amount on the average to about 2,000-3,000 rubles, in cities even more. There are over 700 priests; it is therefore not difficult to calculate the approximate revenues the government receives from the faithful.
Questions were requested after the speech. Shortly, the chairman was heard to shout: "Please do not submit anonymous letters! Sign your names!"
A murmur was heard in the hall: "They're afraid!"
Not only are they afraid, but they forget that a question is not yet an anonymous letter, and that in this case it is the point needing clarification which should be important, and not who raised it. But, in the "land of freedom" things are different. . .
On November 11, 1977, at the Kaunas Medical Institute, Doctor A. Tytmonas invited A. Guigas, First secretary of the Kaunas City Požėla ration committee, to conduct the last lecture of the atheist course. He was introduced to the students as a practicing atheist who would acquaint them with current developments in atheist activity. In his lecture, Guigas pointed out that there still exist reactionary priests. He kept dwelling on Father Laurinavičius, pastor of the Adutiškis parish. According to Guigas, this priest tries to draw as many children as possible into serving at Mass. Another priest, already of the Soviet era, Valančiauskas (Rayon of Švenčionys) does not limit his activity to the church. He actually sneaks into farms, factories, etc. Certain priests have decided to erect various structures. This happened in Alytus, Rayon of Prienai. When the students inquired what these structures were, the speaker exolained that they were on the order of farm additions or stables, (in the Simnas churchyard, Rayon of Alytus, it was not "an addition" or "stable" which was erected, but a statue of the Mother of God. The secretary probably "erred" on purpose — Ed. note).
The audience was listless during the lecture. Docent Tytmonas sent a note to the students suggesting that they ask the secretary the following questions: "I'm a member of the Communist Youth League. How should I act if my relative plans to marry in church? How should I behave if a relative is being buried from the church?" The speaker replied: "Do everything you can to keep this from happening. But you must be tactful, so as not to offend their feelings." The secretary noted that most believers marry and baptize their children not in their own church. For instance, during 1977, 36 baptisms were recorded in the Labanoras church, while during that time only seven births occured in that parish. Most believers are hypocrites. They are afraid to show their true face. Well, if they also fear to tumble from a higher position because of this, they go and hide.
After the lecture, Guigas received many notes. Most of them "educated" the secretary. At the conclusion, he admitted in a sad voice that he received notes in which the students voiced their discontent with both the content and the form of the lecture. Docent Tytmonas stood up then to smooth over things. "It seems that we talked and talked, we discussed for half a year, and in the end it looks as though I had explained in Persian and you only understand Serbian," Tytmonas remarked.
On December 30, 1977, Vice-Chairman Tamašauskas of the Telšiai Rayon Executive Committee demanded that Msgr. K. Gaščiūnas be transferred from Telšiai. Commissioner K.(azimieras) Tumėnas also telephoned administrator Father A. Vaičius on the same matter.
The Telšiai Rayon Executive Committee has refused to confirm the church committee of the Telšiai parish which has already been elected a third time; it demanded that Jonaitis, the former chairman prior to these three elections, be reinstated as chairman of the church committee. Jonaitis has told Msgr. Gaščiūnas that he will have to leave his position as pastor.
The faithful of Tauragė are pleased that their pastor, Father Bagdonas, spent all summer preparing children for First Communion, but are distressed over the fact that the pastor does not allow children to serve at Holy Mass or participate in processions. Once, when asked why he acts as he does, Father Bagdonas admitted that he does not want to damage relations with the government. The people of Taurage consider that too high a price to pay for good relations with the atheist government.
During the night of January 14-15, 1978, the church of Gargždai was burglarized. The thieves vandalized the tabernacle and scattered the Blessed Sacrament.
Father Antanas Šeškevičius of Gargždai was summoned to the Gargždai old people's convalescence home on March 24, 1978 to see Stanislovas Milašius who was very seriously ill. The patient's sister, (Mrs) Katkienė, had made arrangements with the convalescent home paramedic, (Mrs) Juškevičienė, who agreed to allow the priest to visit the patient. Because there were many other ill patients at the convalescent home, they also asked the priest to hear their confessions and wished to receive Holy Communion. Father Šeškevičius barely had time to hear the confessions of several old men when the home's director Striauka appeared.
"How did you get in here?" the director assailed the priest. "Don't you know that a priest cannot enter a public institution?"
"Yes, he can," calmly replied Father Šeškevičius. "Soviet law allows the Sacraments to be administered to the sick. Read the magazine Soviet Labor (1975, No. 5). It contains Tumėnas' article "The Law and the Religious Community", which states that a priest has the right to administer the Sacraments in hospitals, penal establishments and other places, if patients so request it."
The elderly (Mr.) Milašius died a half hour after the priest had left. Father Šeškevičius went to see Gargždai Rayon Vice-Chairman Leilas about this incident and the latter agreed that Striauka had acted wrongly and promised to reprimand him and give Father Šeškevičius a reply. Not receiving a reply, Father Šeškevičius again went to see Leilas, but the latter claimed he was busy and had not yet met with the director.
Bishop R.(omualdas) Krikščiūnas dismissed Dean G. Šukys, the pastor of Zarasai, from his post and appointed in his place the Rev. Vytautas Tvarijonas, pastor of the Spitrėnai parish; however, the Religious Affairs Commissioner lodged a protest and suggested the Rev. S. Pelesynas, pastor of Pabiržė.
Salos District Secretary Danutė Česonienė baptized her daughter Vida at the Kamajai parish and as a consequence was dismissed from her position as secretary at the end of 1977. She had been employed at the Salos nursery school, but at the beginning of this year was dismissed from here also.
Janė Butkevičienė, a state farm group leader and party member, buried her grandmother with religious ceremonies and personally attended the funeral. Later, at the decision of the party meeting, she was dismissed from work.
Eighty-one year old Kazimiera Aklienė died at the Skuodas hospital on February 8,1977. An operation had been performed on the deceased in Klaipėda and she was sent to the Skuodas hospital to complete her recuperation under "assured qualified medical attention" (Art. 42 of the Constitution). The patient grew worse the morning of February 7th and asked that a priest be called with the Sacraments. Upon hearing this, Skuodas Hospital Chief-of-Staff Mažrimas stated:
"So long as I'm in charge here, no priest will set foot in my hospital!"
The patient then asked that she be taken for an hour to friends in Skuodas to receive the Sacraments and then returned to the hospital. Doctor Mažrimas immediately ordered that the patient be moved from the ward and placed in the corridor, and told the patient's husband that he would not readmit this woman to the hospital. While the elderly man looked for a car to transport the patient to the Village of Palaukė, Mrs. Aklienė lay in the drafty hospital corridor without any care and died on February 8th. This happened last year, while the old USSR Constitution was in effect.
Eighty-eight year old Magdelena Sėlenienė was a patient at the Skuodas hospital. When the patient requested that a priest be summoned, Chief-of-Staff Mažrimas shouted
"Even though the Vatican damns me, so long as I live I will not allow a priest into the hospital!"
That same day, on January 8th, (Mrs) Sėlenienė died without receiving the last sacraments. All of her life she had been a very devout, diligent and exemplary woman. A decent person tires to help even a dog in trouble, but Chief-of-Staff Mažrimas of the Skuodas Hospital has a different outlook on believing persons. When people complain to Skuodas Rayon Communist Party First Secretary Sa-banskis about such behavior, they receive a curt reply,
"He suits us!"
Who will remind Skuodas Hospital Chief-of-Staff Mažrimas and
Skuodas Rayon Communist Party First Secretary Sabanskis of the need to observe the new USSR and LSSR Constitutions? According to art. 164 of the USSR Constitution, "The highest responsibility to see to it that... all agencies and officials . . . accurately and equally enforce the laws, is entrusted to the prosecutors."
Notėnai (Rayon of Skuodas)
On January 27, 1978, Antanas Tyla, the pastor of the Notėnai parish, who served as pastor in Notėnai for 32 years, was buried. The faithful respected and loved their spiritual leader. While Vatican Radio was broadcasting an obituary of the late Rev. A. Tyla, a conflict arose between the faithful and the Skuodas Rayon government over where the deceased pastor should be buried. In his will, the deceased had requested to be buried next to his mother, who had been buried eight years earlier in the Notėnai churchyard cemetery. It would seem that nothing could be easier than carrying out the request of the deceased. For according to an old tradition, priests are buried not only within the churchyard, but those who have labored long in the parish are even buried in the crypt of the church. When the faithful of Notėnai prepared to dig a hole next to Father Tyla's mother's grave, Notėnai District Chairman Šetkauskas protested, stating that it was necessary to submit the matter to the Skuodas Rayon government. The faithful went to see Skuodas RayonVice-Chairperson Luožienė, but she demanded that they first receice the consent of Communist Party Secretary Sabanskis. The secretary categorically objected:
"It will be good enough if you bury him in the common cemetery across the stream. There is no need to bury him in the churchyard."
The faithful travelled to the Telšiai diocesan chancery office, but learned there that the chancery is powerless to do anything. When the chancery office addressed the Religious Affairs Commissioner's office, it was told that funeral matters are handled by the local government.
The third day dawned and it was still unclear where the priest would be buried. The faithful then went to see Notėnai District Chairman Šetkauskas and stated:
"Mr. Chairman, if you wish, bury the pastor yourself, but we will not go against the pastor's will. If you will not allow him to be buried in the churchyard cemetery, we refuse to bury him let him remain unburied."
District Chairman Šetkauskas again addressed Communist Party Secretary Sabanskis and explained that the people were incensed, that the entire matter might appear in theChronicle, etc. Finally, Party Secretary Sabanskis relented:
"Let them bury him where they want.. ."
Where is the USSR Constitution's separation of Church and state, when even a priest's burial place must be determined by the Party Secretary?
Žvirgždaičiai (Rayon of Šakiai)
Several state farm workers retired during a general meeting of the Jaunoji Gvardija (New Guard) state farm held on February 8, 1978. State farm chairman P. Lisauskas presented them with transistor radios. Only (Mrs.) E. Daniliauskienė, a diligent state farm worker who had helped reopen the Žvirgždaičiai chapel, did not receive a gift. Chairman Lisauskas told many people that Daniliauskienė should get a gift from the church.
Žalioji (Rayon of Vilkaviškis)
Issue No. 32 of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania printed a statement by the believers of the town of Klausučiai on reopening the Žalioji parish church. The statement was sent to Moscow. The Council for Religious Affairs forwarded the believers' statement to Religious Affairs Commissioner K. Tumėnas, who in turn sent it to the Vilkaviškis Rayon Executive Committee. Vice-Chairman J. Urbonas urgently summoned worker Bronius Mickevičius from work.
"Did you write some statements?" the vice-chairman assailed him.
"I did," confirmed the worker.
Urbonas then proceeded to explain that the Žalioji church would never been reopened, because this was decided by the Vilkaviškis Rayon Executive Committee which has the right to rule on the fate of the Žalioji church. When Mickevičius demanded a written reply, Urbonas explained that replies are not made in writing and that he, the chairman of the Žalioji parish council, should explain orally to the faithful who had signed the statement that the Žalioji church cannot be reopened.
This is how, following the adoption of the new Constitution, Moscow deals with statements from believers—they are forwarded to those who are charged with improper behavior.
Twenty-two members of the Žalioji parish council sent a statement to the LSSR Council of Ministers Chairman J. ManiuSis on May 10th, stating: "We now clearly see that Vilkaviškis Rayon Vice-Chairman J. Urbonas scorns not only the faithful, but higher officials as well . . . The authorities of our Rayon can promulgate their own decrees and regulations without any regard to the Council of Ministers, nor the requirements of the USSR Constitution . . ."
Chairman Stasys Kundrotas of the Klausučiai District has stated that the faithful will set foot in the Žalioji church only over his dead body. What heroic loyalty to the occupant!
J. Urbonas summoned agronomist Stanaitienė of the Rumokai experimental farm and berated her for signing statements for the purpose of reopening the Žalioji church.
Vepriai (Rayon of Ukmergė)
On May 14, 1978, a religious article vendor was approached by a man who presented police credentials, loaded all the religious articles into a bag and took them to his car. This is not the first such incident in Vepriai. Militiamen and security agents came to Pentecost Sunday devotions, forbade the selling of religious articles, recorded the license number of private cars and noted the believers who walked the Stations of the Cross. The Rayongovernment allowed only one priest to come to the ceremonies. Despite this, several priests were present and the people came in droves and walked the Stations of the Cross.
Secretary Aldona Balevičiutė of the Druskininkai City Executive Committee was making plans for her wedding which was to be held on April 15, 1978. Religious marriage ceremonies were also planned at the church. Discovering this, her superiors (Committee Vice-Chairman V. Marinionokas and Director of the General Services Department Navickienė) assailed her for observing "religious superstitions." She was threatened with dismissal from work if she refuses to renounce the church. She was also told that she would not obtain an apartment and a report would be sent to the university in Vilnius and she would be forced to drop her studies. Miss Balevičiutė explained that this was a tradition in her family and that she considered her parents' will sacred. Then, her father was summoned and was accused of forcing his views on his daughter—forcing her to perform religious practices . . .