After Petras Anilionis assumed the post of Commissioner for Religious Affairs, his "concern" for Church matters was immediately felt. For the third month running, the priests of Lithuania do not have liturgical calendars. Apparently, even permission to print such calendars can come only from the Kremlin!
At the beginning of 1979, Father Bronius Laurinavičius, pastor of Adutiškis, joined the Lithuanian Helsinki Group, whose aim is to monitor how the Helsinki agreements are implemented in daily life in Soviet Lithuania. Father Laurinavičius is one of the most zealous and courageous priests of the Vilnius Archdiocese. His statements have appeared many times in the pages of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania.
At the start of December 1978, a proposal was drawn up to transfer priests within the Kaunas Archdiocese and submitted to Religious Affairs Commissioner Anilionis for his approval.
For nearly two months Anilionis' agency pondered with the KGB how to reject these appointments which were unacceptable to the security police. The proposal called for relieving the Rev. Izidorius Butkus of his post as Chancellor of the Kaunas Archdiocese and appointing in his stead the Rev. Pranas Juozapavičius, rector of the Kaunas Cathedral. Anilionis rejected the bishop's proposal on February 1st on the pretext that "Rev. Juozapavičius should not be slighted." The commissioner did not dare say that "our man, Rev. Izidorius Butkus, should not be slighted."
The Rev. Alfonsas Lapė, pastor of the church of Šančiai, forbade school children to say the Rosary aloud in church, and somewhat later forbade them to make the Way of the Cross in unison. The people of Kaunas cannot believe the pastor's faithfulness in following Soviet instructions.
The Rev. Alfonsas Svarinskas, pastor of Viduklė, was fined 50 rubles on November 16, 1978 for organizing a religious All Souls Day procession to the cemetery on November 1st. The pastor had asked the government to issue a permit, but it was denied. Disputing the fine, Father Svarinskas appealed to the Raseiniai Rayon Court. Fearing a demonstration by believers at the court building, the Rayon government decided to hear Father Svarinskas' case that same day when Advent exercises were to be held at the Viduklė church. The pastor asked the presiding judge E. Jaras to postpone the court hearing because as pastor he could not leave a church full of people and come to the trial. The presiding judge consented but after receiving pressure "from above" he deceived the pastor and heard the case without him. The court found that the pastor had violated Soviet laws and had been justly fined by the Administrative Commission.
Because Rev. Alfonsas Svarinskas did not pay the fine, the Raseiniai court-appointed executor arrived at the Viduklė rectory on January 31, 1979 and, in the absence of the pastor, confiscated an imported coffee service worth some 150 rubles and sold it at the commissary store for 52 rubles. For some strange reason, the court executor did not take the Soviet-made set which cost 70 rubles and would have more than covered the unpaid fine.
On January 19, 1979, the Religious Affairs Commissioner took all day to lecture the priests of Telšiai and the diocesan administrator, Rev. Antanas Vaičius. Vice-Chairman Jankus of the Telšiai City Executive Committee also attended the session. The commissioner was very displeased that church ceremonies attended by many priests, seminarians and young people are held at the Telšiai cathedral without the knowledge of the government. He also feels that too many boys serve at Masses at the cathedral. All this is forbidden by the "Statutes on Religious Congregations." The Rev. Juozas Pa-činskas, pastor of the cathedral, even pledged in writing to stop violating Soviet laws in the future. The Rev. Jonas Kauneckas, assistant pastor of the cathedral, was threatened with prosecution for his sermons. Father Jonas Kauneckas is already guilty merely by being a member of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers. During the postwar period, people were given 10-year sentences for just one signature, while Father Kauneckas has already contributed more than one signature to the Committee's work.
On January 22, 1979, Dr. Janulionis, Chief-of-Staff at the Telšiai Hospital, accused Nurse (Mrs) Mockevičienė of baptizing infants. For this, he sent her several times to the Telšiai security police for questioning. She had to wait for the security agents for several hours, though as the sole provider in her family she has ample work to do.
During the night of November 16, 1978, the faithful erected a five-meter (16.5-foot) cross on the so-called Hill of Brides and inscribed on it: "Lord, protect our youth from godlessness!" It was only for a short time that passersby removed their hats to the Crucified: The KGB annihilated the cross during the night of November 20th.
At the end of 1978, Vice-Chairman Juozas Urbonas of the Vilkaviškis Rayon Executive Committee again demanded Rayon parishes to renew their so-called "agreements." Unfortunately all of Urbonas' efforts were futile. The faithful of Didvyžiai and Gižai were harassed the most extensively on the "agreements." Adomas Gudynas, chairman of the Klausučiai district, stated that the "agreements" would have to be renewed on a yearly basis.
On October 17, 1978, Vice-Chairman A. Juškevičius of the Kėdainiai Rayon Executive Committee summoned the priests of the rayon to the Executive Committee building and lectured them on religious cults. During the lecture, he explained that minor children may not serve at Mass or participate in processions, priests may not conduct services in other parishes without the rayon permission, etc. Vice-Chairman Juškevičius noted that similar "discussions" will be held every year.
On December 18, 1978, Vice-Chairman Juškevičius of the Kėdainiai Rayon Executive Committee scolded the Rev. Jonas Survila, pastor of Pagiriai, because children serve at Mass and sing during services at the Pagiriai church.
"You have just recendy moved into our Rayon and you're already begun to agitate children," the Vice-Chairman scolded. "You know the law!"
"Yes, I know the law. It is written in the Gospels: "Suffer the little children to come unto me!"
The pastor refused to keep children away from the altar.
Vice-Chairman Firas of the Rokiškis Rayon Executive Committee came to Salos on January 3, 1979 accompanied by Deputy Commissioner for Religious Affairs Raslanas (a KGB agent). In the officials' opinion, the chairman of the Salos parish committee, (Mrs.) Leonora Bartkienė, is not right for the position. The former chairman who was recently relieved of his duties suited the government better.
The atheists of Salos are exerting considerable effort to have Father Petras Nykštus, the pastor of Salos, transferred to another parish. The visiting officials inquired how long Father Nykštus had worked at the Salos parish and said they would speak about him to Bishop Krikščiūnas. Pressure will probably be placed on the bishop to punish the priest whom the government finds displeasing, i.e. transfer him to another parish.
Višakio Rūda — Nemirai
We reprint excerpts from a statement written by the Rev. Gvidonas Dovydaitis to the Executive Committee of the Rayon of Šakiai:
"After holding services at the Nemirai church on November 26, 1978,1 decided to visit several families. I asked the driver to take me to the Chepajev state farm. Two men met me at the door when I left one house: State Farm Engineer Mindaugas Kaniauskas and Pranas Sutkus. They introduced themselves as auxiliary policemen and stated that I must not visit the people. I have heard that Negroes are forbidden to enter white districts in certain countries, but that was probably long ago. The color of my skin, it would seem, is no different from that of the workers who live on the Chepajev state farm. These guardians of the peace offered to escort me to my car. When I declined their services, they threatened that I would not be able to find the car which had brought me and would have to walk home. I thought this was a mere joke by pranksters, but it seems I was mistaken. The aforesaid men were not ordinary hoodlums: They were acting in the name of the law. When the time came for me to go home, there was no driver or car by the road; in vain did I search in the dark night, wading down the muddy road.
As I later learned, a whole group of auxiliary policemen approached my driver and ordered him to leave. The group included Mindaugas Karnauskas, Pranas Sutkus, Liudas Žamba (deputy chairman of the state farm), (Mrs) Žambienė, Cigana and Albinas Grikietis (state farm bookkeeper). The guardians of the peace wanted to let the air out of the car's tires and when it finally started off they accompanied it with the threat: "If you stop to wait, we'll slash your tires!"
Article 39 of the current Lithuanian SSR Constitution discriminates against state farm workers, because their rest time is regulated by state farm officials and they regulate it in such a manner that state farm workers do not even have Sundays off. Even serfs used to have days off. During the so-called era of exploiters, my father worked as a herder for the father of Antanas Sniečkus, former First Secretary of the Lithuanian SSR Communist Party, but even he allowed the shepherd to go to church on Sundays and Holydays. In this regard, the workers of the Chepajev state farm live under more difficult circumstances. State farm workers complain that those who want to attend church during recollections or the more important feasts are called church-mice by state farm officials and not allowed to go . . ."
Nemirai, December 2, 1978
Rev. Gvidonas Dovydaitis Pastor of the Parish of Nemirai
The Rev. Antanas Lukošaitis was visiting believing families in Slabadai (Rayon of Vilkaviškis) on January 18, 1979. A. Pečiulis, Chairman of the District of Juodupėnai, detained the priest and told him he would have to go to the Rayon to justify his actions, but Father Lukošaitis ignored the official's warning and continued to visit the parish.
The church of Vištytis was renovated during the summer of 1978. According to old tradition, someone goes among the parishioners whenever major work is done at the church, urging them to make a contribution for the repair work; if a donation is received at that time, it is placed in the church treasury. This is what Augustinas Snabaitis did. Vilkaviškis Rayon officials learned of Snabaitis' "criminal activity" .. . And, they began to harass him.
At the beginning of September, militiamen visited Snabaitis' home and place of employment and summoned him to the Rayon where he was interrogated and threatened with imprisonment for the "crime" he had committed; from the militia he was taken to see Vice Chairman Urbonas of the Rayon Executive Committee who again interrogated and threatened him with prosecution.
In October, several believers from Vištytis were summoned to the militia where they were interrogated on how Snabaitis had collected the donations. The faithful explained that they had given to the church freely and moreover they have the right to use their money as they please.
The Rev. Kazimieras Montvila, pastor of the parish, saw his parishioners being terrorized and went to see Urbonas at the Rayon to defend them. The official assured the pastor that a serious crime had been committed here and laws broken.
"We know your laws: They do not give or allow us anything, and we are not afraid if you punish us," Father Kazimieras Montvila retorted.
At the end of October, a Rayon Commission came to Vištytis to examine the parish's finances, but without success. Later, Urbonas personally came to "educate" the pastor, as did Rayon Judge Stankaitis. The latter shouted in a rage that the true masters of the church are the district and the Rayon. But when they attempted to enter and examine the church without the pastor's permission, the pastor stood in the doorway and protested:
"When you begin to attend services at the church you will then be its masters and will be permitted to enter the church."
Ever since then, no financial books are kept at the Vištytis parish. Since the "Church is separate from the state", it is not people like Urbonas who have the right to control parish finances, but the real owners of the parish.
Onuškis (R a y o n of Trakai)
The Rev. Jonas Voveris, who conducted his pastoral ministry in various parishes of the diocese of Kaišiadorys for some 40 years, died in Vievis on January 16, 1979. Before dying the decedent had requested that he be interred in the parish of his birth: the churchyard of Onuškis Parish. The Diocesan administrator Juozas Andrikonis forwarded this request to Religious Affairs Commissioner Anilionis. The latter told him to consult with the Rayongovernment, and it in turn sent him back to Anilionis. Finally, for want of a way to avoid a decision, the Commissioner stated "he had no special forms for such documents." On the day of the funeral, Commissioner Anilionis telephoned the diocesan administrator and told him to ignore the decedent's request and obey the rayon government. And so, Father Voveris was buried in the cemetery of the Onuškis parish.
The priests and faithful of Lithuania are increasingly raising the questions: Is it at all worth the trouble to request such permissions? Certain priests still live in a world of illusion and do not understand the deceit of the atheists.