Before Christmas 1978, two members of the Krakow Chapter brought and presented to the Merciful Mother of Aušros Vartai (Gate of Dawn) in Vilnius the cardinal hat of Pope John Paul II. Up to now this news has been kept secret from the faithful of Lithuania.
Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis has asked Bishop Liudvikas Povilonis whether the pope may elevate someone to the rank of a cardinal without the knowledge of the Soviet government. Could he name an emigrant bishop or ordinary priest cardinal? The bishop confirmed that the possibility does exist in all three instances.
The Commissioner's concern aroused both joy and fear in Lithuania: It would truly be a great victory for the Catholic Church in Lithuania if she were to have a cardinal similar to the Polish Primate Cardinal Wyszinski, but it would be tragic if a collaborator of the atheist government were appointed to this high church post.
Speakers from the "Žinia" (Information) Society have mentioned in their public lectures that the pastor of the Immaculate Conception Church in Vilnius, the Rev. Stanislovas Lidys, is a good friend of Pope John Paul II; Father Lidys himself is attempting to secure an invitation from Lithuanian priests living in Rome in order to visit Italy. Father Lidys has already visited the U.S., Poland, Portugal and is known as a close collaborator of the atheist government who maintains broad ties with emigrant Lithuanians.
On December 24, 1978, Vice-Commissioner for Religious Affairs Raslanas (an old chekist) escorted to the Kaunas Theological Seminary a Portuguese journalist who is planning in the very near future to write a lengthy article on the situation of Catholics in Lithuania. Raslanas introduced this journalist as a Catholic. Then, the security agent took the Catholic journalist to a "Catholic" family to spend Christmas Eve.
If the Portuguese journalist is really a believer, he cannot write an accurate article about Lithuania with the assistance of security agent Raslanas. Raslanas is directly responsible for the slaughter of innocent people in the forest of Rainiai. Any foreign journalist will learn a hundred times more about Lithuania from reading the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania than from seeing it through a KGB car window.
In connection with the general census to be conducted on January 17, 1979, a seminar was held for census takers at the Kaunas militia headquarters on November 22, 1978. The seminar was conducted by a representative from Vilnius (Mrs.) Aldona Simutienė. Among various questions, it was explained how a minister of cult (priest) should be recorded. To the question where employed, the answer should be "Is not employed" and should be marked on the census form as unemployed. The educational level should be marked "average" in no case high. Other ministers of cult, such as organists and sacristans are not included in those questions.
Telšiai Diocesan Chancery Telšiai, November 14, 1978 No. 404.
To: Lithuanian SSR Commissioner for Religious Affairs under the USSR Council of Ministers.
With regard to complaints received from the believers of Klaipeda, you requested that I visit Klaipeda so as to be able to report to you on the situation with on the spot information.
I later received from you the complaint itself from the Klaipeda believers with your request that I submit my opinion by November 17, 1978.
1. As per your request, I visited Klaipeda. I spoke with the Dean of Klaipeda, pastor Jonas Baikauskas, and the vice-chairman of the Klaipeda City Executive Committee.
From these discussions, I gained the impression that the Klaipeda City Executive Committee is inclined to permit only improvements to the existing house of worship, i.e., allow fans to be installed, install heat and the like. They are not considering expanding the building. The pastor of Klaipeda, the Rev. Jonas Baikauskas, is of the same opinion.
Regarding your request that I submit a written reply on the Klaipeda matter, I can report the following:
In life, reality in matters of economics and ideology is sometimes kept hidden from top government levels. This constitutes pure deception of leaders and an indirect push into error. In fulfilling your request, I will therefore attempt to be completely honest. I ask that you view my report in this light.
The question of the Klaipeda church (now the philharmonic) is not limited to the Telšiai Diocese, but affects all the dioceses in the Republic. The church in Klaipeda was built with the donations of all the republic's believers, even priests. All the faithful and priests who contributed, including Bishop Liudas Povilonis, are still living.
Although the complaints are written and discontent is publicly voiced by only a small part of believers, but regardless of who you ask, be he priest or lay believer, all reply that the church should not have been confiscated: The government gave permission to build it, alloted material; the faithful donated money, worked. Why was the believing community punished? Such a view exists not only in the Telšiai Diocese.
When the question was raised to expand the existing house of worship, it became apparent that few were impressed by the idea. For everyone hopes and expects the church which was built to be returned. Moreover, there are quite a few who hold that an expansion would be an official renunciation of the confiscated church, and the expanded portion might be taken away . . .
I feel that, in light of such views, an expansion project would not be popular.
And the existing house of worship really is too small for Klaipeda.
The city has grown incredibly and is still expanding. The number of believers is also growing.
Some believers are forced to either completely renounce going to church or travel to neighboring churches, because the Klaipeda house of worship is stifling in summer and in the winter people cannot kneel on the muddy cement floor. Because of a lack of space, there are no pews for the elderly and ailing to sit down.
Those who come for baptisms and weddings are often forced to line up outside, holding infants in the cold damp sea air and wait their turn to be ministered to. The auxiliary facilities are also too small.
During important feasts, the assembled believers cannot fit inside. They stand in the tiny yard and even out to the street corner. Youngsters climb fences. When the weather is bad, they return home sad without attending services. Those who do manage to get inside often suffer the loss of buttons in the shoving crowd of people. People faint, the grates which separate the faithful from the altar are knocked down.
After an old house which stood next door was demolished, the view opened up and the remaining old warehouses which stand next to the house of worship, in line with the main altar, are an eyesore.
I feel that all the above constitute the main reason why some of the faithful write letters of complaint, expressing the discontent of the majority here with both the church and the civil government.
(signed) K.A. Vaičius
Administrator of the Telšiai
Diocese of the Klaipėda
Šakiai Rayon Executive Committee Vice-Chairwoman (Mrs.) Donata Noreikienė summoned priests from the Rayon to the Executive Committee on December 27, 1978. Of nineteen priests only six came, and this greatly upset the vice-chairman.
Militia official Zhaleniak told the priest that crime is declining in Lithuania, banditry and the making of home-brewed alcohol have disappeared. The cause of all current crimes is alcoholism
It is unfortunate that Zhaleniak did not explain who is responsible for current drunkenness and the daily crime increase.
The failure of the priests of the Šakiai Diaconate to come to the Rayon is an excellent example for all of Lithuania's priests of how such meetings should be ignored.
Upninkai (R a y o n of Jonava)
On August 25, 1978 vandals entered the small church of Upninkai through a window and stole small candlesticks, statues of angels and a small cross.
Deltuva (R a y o n of Ukmergė)
During the night of November 4th to 5th, 1978 thieves tried to break into the Deltuva church, but someone came upon them and the evil-doers fled.
The Kėdainiai Rayon local government called together priests on October 17, 1978 and informed them of the most recent "latest instructions." After the lecture, the opinion of the majority about these "instructions" was voiced by Labūnava pastor, the Rev. Steponas Pilka:
"We will not do this! We will not place a noose around our own necks."
Videniškiai (R a y o n of Molėtai)
Molėtai Rayon Executive Committee Vice-Chairwoman (Mrs.) Danutė Genčierienė summoned the pastor of Videniškiai, Canon Jonas Jonis, on October 26, 1978 in Alunta during the annual Rosary devotions.
Furthermore, she berated him because in certain parishes children are given instruction, serve at Holy Mass, participate in processions, and priests are invited to devotions without the Rayon's permission.
The pastor of Molėtai, the Rev. Ignas Milašius, the Alunta church committee and others were also summoned and accused of the same offenses.
Palomenė (R a y o n of Kaišiadorys)
A funeral procession was conducted on November 1, 1978 at the Palomenė cemetery where predominantly believers are buried. Despite the fact that the civil ceremony for the dead was not disrupted, the procession of believers was viewed as a violation of the law, and the Kaišiadorys administrative Commission fined the Rev. Jonas Zubrus, pastor of the Palomenė parish, 50 rubles.
Father Zubrus wrote a statement to the Kaišiadorys Rayon People's Court, demanding that the unjustly imposed fine be lifted. The statement cites the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the USSR Constitution, as well as international agreements.
Despite the weighty arguments, the Kaišiadorys Rayon People's Court upheld the fine imposed on Father Zubrus.
Pajūralis (R a y o n of Šilalė)
During the night of November 19th to 20th, fifty crosses in the Pajūralis cemetery were turned over on the graves of believers.
The saddened and pensive parishioners gathered Monday morning at the cemetery and wondered at the unprecedented event. This is a new deliberate campaign by the atheists, this is a new atheist method of offending believers by desecrating their dead.
During the night of November 12th to 13th, about thirty crosses and gravestones were demolished by godless vandals at the old Plungė cemetery. The pastor notified the militia,, but it is powerless to do anything.
Lately, a new form of vandalism has emerged in Lithuania— ideological vandalism.
Upyna (R a y o n of Šilalė)
During the dark and windy night of September 11th to 12th of this year, wrongdoers entered the church through a window and stole the Blessed Sacrament with the entire tabernacle-safe. To date, we have no further news on this event.
On October 15th, the pastor, Father Adolfas Pudžemys, led a service of atonement. A large number of people attended, especially the youth who made the Stations of the Cross and said the Rosary. Father Alfonsas Svarinskas celebrated a Holy Mass of atonement and preached a suitable sermon.
Viešvėnai (R a y o n of Telšiai)
At the demand of the Rayon government, Religious Affairs Commisioner P. (etras) Anilionis has, through the diocesan chancery, forbidden the Cathedral assistant pastor the Rev. Jonas Kauneckas, to minister to the Viešvėnai parish. No reason was given for the interdiction. It seems that the Rayon government is displeased over the fact that the bell tower has been repaired, the church painted and spiritual life renewed.
Teachers at the Viešvėnai Primary School are displeased that some believing students attended the church, serve at Holy Mass and participate in adoration services. They complain that this makes atheist work impossible.
On Sundays, candels at the Viešvėnai church (services here are held only on Sundays) are lit by World War I disabled veteran Savickis. And even this is viewed as an offense: In October he was summoned three times to the Telšiai military commissariat where security agents awaited him. The ailing disabled veteran was so tormented during the interrogations by various accusations, questions and threats that he use to be seriously ill for at least three days after returning home.
Vera Zhabarovskaya, Director of Production at the Bread-Pasta Plant in Šiauliai, summoned (Mrs.) Ieva Gintautienė who works as a doughmixer in the rolls division and roughtly ordered her to produce a picture of herself for the honor roll board. On November 5th, Ieva Gintautienė was awarded Stakhyoite pin along with a book and a 20-ruble prize.
On November 10th, (Mrs) Gintautienė was again summoned by the plant director and berated for causing her much unpleasantness: She had posed for her photograph wearing a cross around her neck. Because of this photograph, the director was summoned to theRayon party committee and severely reprimended. Mrs. Gintautienė calmly replied that she is a believer and cannot understand how she caused offense. And so her picture did not appear on the honor roll.
During the night of May 5th to 6th, 1978, the Raseiniai church was burglarized. The thief was caught by the militia, it was Eduardas Pocius, son of Povilas, residing in Raseiniai, V Grybo 10. Besides the church, Eduardas Pocius had also burglarized two stores, one in Raseiniai, the other in the Ukraine.
The thief took two unique cultural treasures—the gilded crowns from the picture depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus.
The faithful rejoiced over the possibility of recovering the stolen treasures. Unfortunately, they were notable to secure theirreturn.
The interrogator claims he did not have a chance to interrogate
Pocius: he was immediately taken by the medical commission and certified mentally ill and not liable for his actions.
Why are the physicians showing the thief so much mercy, why was his interrogation interrupted before it was completed? Why is everything being whitewashed? Because Pocius is a member of the Communist Youth League.
If the accused is mentally ill, then how did he manage to complete middle school, why was he admitted to the Communist Youth? In his file, his thoughts are lucid, even logical. He managed to show how he committed his crimes, and there is no indication that he could not be interrogated to the end.
Pocius' file contains entire pages on the burglary of the stores, but only several sentences on that of the church.
Expert testimony and the trial were protracted six months. It is interesting to note that some of the articles from the stores were recovered, but those from the church were not.
Instead of helping the church recover the valuables or at least coming to see the pastor, Pocius' parents kept running to lawyers.
The very night the court's ruling was handed down, the window through which the thief had entered was again broken.
The church in Raseiniai is a cultural monument, registered and protected by the state. The picture which was vandalized is also under the protection of the state. But in this case, the state was interested in protecting the Communist Youth-thief rather than cultural treasures.
The trial of Pocius was held in secret and people who came to attend were not allowed into the courtroom.
The circumstances in the case and the secret trial session give reason to think that it conceals deceit. Apparently it was feared that unfavorable circumstances might come to light and the names of other offenders revealed. Therefore, Judge Z. Andruškevičiūtė, counselors A. Šaipokaitė and P. Batvinas and Prosecutor V. Patrauskaitė saved the situation and the honor of the Communist Youth League by ruling Eduardas Pocius to be a schizophrenic and confining him for a time to a psychiatric hospital.
Salos (R a y o n of Rokiškis)
The wooden Gothic-style church of Salos, built in the 19th century and seriously damaged during World War I, has not yet had any major repairs. After being transferred to Salos as pastor, the
Rev. Petras Nykštus began to work on making repairs to the church. Money was needed for the work. After he asked the parishioners to support the project, a campaign of various slanders was launched. While the church repairs were still in progress, local atheists used various forms of blackmail against the faithful who supported the pastor. For example, they imposed a fine on the driver who dared bring lumber for the church. On Sunday, when the pastor was summoned the church committee for consultation on the repairs to the church, committee members were accompanied to the sacristy by Mykolas Bagdonavičius, father of Director Bagdonavičius of the agricultural school, who demanded that the pastor stop the repair work.
The atheists of Salos began to spread untrue rumors that there used to be a pure gold monstrance at the Salos church, that the pastor had sold it for 30,000 or 50,000 rubles and built himself a house, bought a car, etc.
On October 27, 1978, the Salos District People's Board summoned the entire church committee and demanded that it compel the pastor to produce the monstrance. Chairwoman (Mrs.) Baronienė of the Salos District Peoples Board and members of the church committee—Gimbutas and Kaušakis—went to the rectory. The pastor demanded to see papers stating who had sent them. Mrs. Baronienė claimed that Rokiškis Rayon Rayon Vice-Chairman Firo had telephoned her and ordered her to conduct this inspection. When the pastor hesitated, (Mrs.) Baronienė threatened: "If you refuse to allow us to inspect it, the investigations will be conducted by the security police." The pastor explained that she could examine the monstrance only with the bishop's permission. The pastor allowed the investigator just to look at the monstrance, but they were not allowed to touch it.
Žalioji (Rayon of Vilkaviškis)
Wishing to pay Christian respect to their dead on All Souls Day, the faithful of Žalioji and Klausučiai went to the pastor of the Didvyžiai parish, the Rev. Antanas Lukošaitis, asking him to celebrate Holy Mass at the cemetery chapel. For the occasion, the parishioners erected a frame for a tent to keep the altar dry in the event of rain. Many believers attended the requiem services.
On November 10, 1978, the custodian of the Didvyžiai church (Miss) Dvylaitė was interrogated by Vilkaviškis Rayon Executive
Committee Vice-Chairman J. Urbonas. He questioned her on various details: Who erected the altar at the Žalioji cemetery, where did the priest change, who brought him, from where were the carpets obtained, etc. at though the greatest crime had been committed. After tormenting the custodian for a long time, they began to ridicule her, until she ran out of patience and left.
Žalioji (R a y o n of Vilkaviškis)
The faithful of the Žalioji Catholic Parish read in the newspaper Gimtasis Kraštas (Native Land) (11/21/1978, No. 38), which is aimed at Lithuanians living abroad, an article entitled "In the Fight for Peace and Disarmament", and learned from it that the presidium session of the European Berlin Catholic Conference was being held in Vilnius at that time. On September 22nd, they send statements to four of its participants: The Vice-Chairman, Rector of the Kaunas Theological Seminary Professor Dr. Viktoras Butkus, Bishop Coadjutor Liudas Povilonis, Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis and Vice-Chairman of the LSSR Council of Ministers, Algirdas Česnavičius. Among other things, the statements which 103 believers signed declares: "We have written many statements, signed by hundreds of believers who want to regain their rights to the confiscated church, to the highest agencies of the Soviet government, but all in vain. All our statements found their way into the wastebasket of Vice-Chairman Urbonas of the Vilkaviškis Rayon Executive Committee. And so we remained Soviet Citizens with no rights. Help us regain our rights to the church which we repaired under such difficult circumstances during the postwar years so that we might pray there in peace after finishing our daily work. Otherwise, every time we look at our church which has been converted into a mill, we will carry the ever festering wound of the violation of the freedoms of belief and conscience."
After drafting the statement, all of them impatiently awaited a reply, hoping that perhaps this time their voice would be heard especially since an Italian participant of the session, U. Zapuli had said: "I would like to stress, that seen through Italian eyes, the situation of Roman Catholics in Soviet Lithuania is very good . . . and believers have all the conditions enabling them to fulfill their obligations."
A month and a half after writing the statements and not receiving a reply, the believers decided to go personally to Vilnius on December 14, 1978 and seek justice and help from the Communist
Party Central Committee. At the Central Committee the faithful had difficulty finding anyone to listen to them. Finally, they were received by Central Committee employee Kraujelis. After hearing out the believers' request, he explained that he could not help them and they must appeal to the Religious Affairs Commissioner or Supreme Soviet Präsidium. Petras Anilionis promised the faithful who went to see him that he would review everything and let them know.
Shortly, Anilionis sent out a letter telling the faithful of Žalioji that their church was closed legally and that surrounding churches minister to the needs of the faithful.
How beneficial it would be for the Italian U. Zapuli who attended the Berlin Conference presidium session to come to the Žalioji parish and see what rights and freedoms Catholics really have, how they are mocked, how they are persecuted and cannot complain to anyone. And if only Zapuli had gone to Klaipėda and seen how people with small children pray outside because there is no room for them inside the small chapel, and the church, thev themselves built has been converted into a philharmonic hall.