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Issued since 1972.
Dedicated to the Friends of the Eucharist on their 10th anniversary.
CHRONICLE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN LITHUANIA No. 39
In this issue:
Lithuania .......................................... July 22, 1979
During June 2-10, 1979, the Holy Father John Paul II visited Poland. Although the Soviet government did not permit bishops, priests or believers from Lithuania to travel to Poland, nearly half of Lithuania was able to view the Pope's visit on television. The priests of Lithuania urged the faithful to at least follow the Holy Father's visit in Poland via television.
The Holy Father's visit to Poland left a deep impression not only on the faithful of Lithuania but also on atheists who had the opportunity to hear the Pope speak and witness how the authorities and millions of people of a communist state welcomed the head of the Catholic Church.
Lithuania's Soviet press printed only a few lines on the Pope's visit to Poland.
On June 16, 1978, a conference of Lithuanian Communist Party city and rayoncommittee secretaries and other ideological propaganda workers was held in Kaišiadorys on how further to "train workers in a communist manner." This time, attention was focused on civil ceremonies and traditions. The speeches and remarks of the participants were published as a separate brochure (Material, edited by P. Mišutis, Vilnius, 1979). The brochure is intended for ideological workers, is not available to the public and received a very limited printing—400 copies.
Of course, this brochure does not reflect all the subject matter discussed at the conference, it has been rather extensively edited, but nonetheless presents an overall view of what is of current concern to the Communist Party and what directives it issued to its propaganda workers.
In a speech on civil ceremonies, Deputy Chairman A. Česnavičius of the Council of Ministers stated: "An ever broader inculcation of the above-named should help solve more effectively the questions of reducing the influence of religion and the church on man, forming a materialistic outlook . . ." (page 3). Concerned over the fact that namesdays are still celebrated in Lithuania, Mišutis raises the question: "Therefore, should this "tradition" be retained?" And he of course suggests: "Perhaps birthdays would be enough, for their meaning is clear!" (page 41). Mišutis wants to eliminate the namesday tradition supposedly because their "meaning is unclear." On the other hand, he stated just earlier:" ... it (i.e. the namesday) used to have a religious nuance. And it is "holy" names with "patron saints" which were most commonly and widely celebrated. And now it is most frequently the names Antanas, Petras, Povilas, Juozapas, Kazimieras . .. which are celebrated . . ." (page 41).
On April 17, 1979 all the deans of the diocese were summoned to the TelSiai RayonExecutive Committee to meet with the Commissioner for Religious Affairs. The following attended on the part of the government: Commissioner P. Anilionis, Deputy Commissioner for Catholic Affairs Juozėnas, Vice-Chairman Jankus of the Telšiai Executive Committee and his Deputy for Religious Affairs Upermanas. (No one in Telšiai knows of such a "deputy.").
An incident took place before the start of the "talks." A large delegation (some 15 persons) of Klaipėda believers awaited the Commissioner's arrival from early morning, but they were continually deceived that the Commissioner had not yet arrived. Just before the start of the meeting, the diocesan administrator very politely reminded the Commissioner that people were waiting for him and that he could perhaps go out to meet with them for a minute.
The Commissioner ordered the aged diocesan chancellor, Canon Beinoris, to tell the Klaipeda residents that no one would speak with them because there was not enough time, and they should present their demands in writing. Some deans were visibly upset: How should this behavior of a representative of the peoples government toward workers be understood? People who had worked the night shift, had left their small children, were forced to wait until 5:00 P.M. without eating (they could not go anywhere for fear that the Commissioner might unexpectedly run away—leave). At 5:00 P.M. the Commissioner informed them that he could not help them in any way, for the matter was being debated by the council of Ministers. But could he not have said so from the start, could he not have informed the faithful in writing? It is sometimes inaccurately stated that only at the master's gate must a man wait like a dog: it apparently also holds true for Soviet officials.
Father J.(uozas) Kauneckas, member of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers, came to the meeting along with the deans. Afti*r everyone had filed into the meeting room and had sat down to a cup of coffee, the Commissioner ordered the diocesan administrator to expel Father Kauneckas. The administrator excitedly whispered something in Father Kauneckas' ear but the latter remained seated. The Commissioner then stood up and loudly demanded that Father Kauneckas leave .. .
Religious Affairs Commissioner Anilionis replied in writing to the statements sent by priests (see Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, No. 38).
Reply to the Priests of the Archdiocese of Kaunas
Council for Religious Affairs of the Council of Ministers of the USSR Commissioner for the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic
232600, Vilnius, Lenino pr. 39, Tel: 22228
May 16, 1979 No. 140
To: Rev. G. Gudanavičius Rayon of Joniškis, Žagarė
At the direction of the Supreme Soviet Presidium of the Lithuanian SSR, we inform you, in reply to your statement of January 25, 1979, that we do not foresee changing or abolishing the Regulations for Religious Associations.
Commissioner, P. Anilionis
Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis summoned all the Ordinaries of Lithuania to his office on July 13, 1979.
First, Anilionis suggested that tribute be paid the memory of Bishop J. Labukas by standing up. Everyone stood up.
The Commissioner congratulated Bishop L. Povilonis and announced that he was granted permission to assume his post beginning July 9th. The Commissioner further stated that extremist priests have stepped up their activity; new attacks are expected. The extremists are few in number, and the majority of priests is loyal. Some priests are undecided: they do not know whom to follow.
The extremists even teach the Ordinaries. The Ordinaries must be more active so as to maintain the bishop's authority built up over many years.
The extremists formally refuse to observe Soviet laws.
Extremist priests have banded into two groups: the Helsinki Group and the Group of Five (The Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers — Trans. note). The late Father Garuckas has been replaced by Father Br. Laurinavičius.
The Group of Five was formed during the second half of 1978 and its activity is growing daily. They do not represent anyone, no one has elected them, but they still act. What is their role among the clergy?
They write documents, lie and do not state any facts. They want the bishops and administrators to listen to them.
Certain activists are even blackmailing certain bishops and administrators. Good upright persons might suffer because of them. The Ordinaries must not allow themselves to be slandered and trampled. Certain administrators are challenging them, while others are waiting to see what the government will do. And this results in disunity. The priests do not know whom to follow. The situation is very abnormal.
Petras Paulaitis writes: My dear brother,
Just a few words to you from hell.
I'm afraid to write anyone officially or in greater length because such letters are confiscated, our letters just disappear. Besides, I feel that those who receive my letters are followed more closely and persecuted. And yet we would like to be less completely isolated, less separated from our Homeland and her Sons and Daughters. But our opportunities to correspond are quite markedly decreasing and disappearing. As long as my heart beats in my breast I categorically refuse to cede any position to the enemy. The fact that our ranks are thinning out makes matters more difficult. There are no more people about whom we could still say:
I am truly a vortex,
I am truly fire,
I am truly heaven's spark
People have grown old, are worn out. And only those remain who concerned themselves with little else before. We are only 12 Lithuanians, and in all only 130 remain in our yard today. Political prisoner labor camps are being liquidated (imperceptibly): every week a small group is taken north to the Perma labor camps and a place is being prepared for the rest in Barashevo 3-5 from where we were moved last year.
1979 marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Friends of the Eucharist movement in Lithuania, listing among its ranks the finest sons and daughters of the Lithuanian Catholic Church. They include persons of varied ages and professions. However,their love of God and Country unites them. They are determined, with the help of Christ in the Eucharist, to revive the Nation and Church currently being stiffled by godlessness.
The Friends of the Eucharist commemorated their tenth anniversary on July 7th during the recollections of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Žemaičių Kalvarija. (Calvary of the Samogitians) The Friends of the Eucharist gathered at the famous Samogitian shrine from all corners of Lithuania to thank God for ten years of blessings and draw strength for new future tasks. On the occasion, Fathers Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius addressed the Friends of the Eucharist in church and all the members of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers con-celebrated the Holy Mass offered for the Friends of the Eucharist. The people of Samogitia say it has been long since they have seen so many people, especially young people, at Žemaičių Kalvarija. After the solemn High Mass, the Friends of the Eucharist made the outdoor Way of the Cross. Several sermons were preached by Father Kauneckas.
On July 22nd, hundreds of Friends of the Eucharist gathered in the church of Meškuičiai for a procession of reparation to the Hill of Crosses. Everyone received Holy Communion at Holy Mass and afterward began to line up for the procession. Twelve men used traditional Lithuanian sashes to lift a large wayside shrine which they intended to erect on the Hill of Crosses on this tenth anniversary. The militia, security police and other government officials attempted to prevent the procession, but were unsuccessful in detaining or dispersing the crowd. Father Algirdas Mocius joined the procession. He placed a large cross on his back and carried it barefoot 8 km (5 miles) to the Hill of Crosses.
May 5, 1979 No. 15
To: The Bishops and Diocesan Administrators of Lithuania
For a long time, we priests of Lithuania have waited for the Ordinaries to speak out on the current problems of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, we were therefore rather surprised to see the first public statement written on April 6th and addressed to the Office of the Commissioner for Religious Affairs. We thank Lithuania's Ordinaries for this public statement but also feel obliged to express our concern on most of the questions raised or excluded.
The priests of Lithuania are very concerned and doubt whether the Liturgical Commission will be capable of preparing a suitable final Lithuanian text for a Missal. For example, Father Č. Kavaliauskas' translation of the New Testament has met no little well-founded criticism. Would it not be worth making greater efforts to have our Liturgical Commission maintain contact with specialists in the field—emigrant Lithuanian priests — and adopt what they have accomplished and not start from the very beginning?
The Ordinaries are requesting 500,000 catechisms, but do not even mention prayerbooks which both children and adults find in such short supply. What will the 40,000 children who receive First Communion this year use to pray? In our opinion, it is high time continually to remind the Soviet government that we Catholics of Lithuania need not only religious primers and prayerbooks, but religious literature as well, because we must have the opportunity to breathe and nourish ourselves spiritually.
In the spring of this year, there appeared two letters addressed to the Bishops and Administrators of Lithuania: One was anonymous, signed "Group of priests from the Archdiocese of Kaunas", the other signed by a priest from Vilnius. Both dealt with approximately the same matters affecting the situation of the Church in Lithuania and hold similar viewpoints. I wish to share here certain thoughts which arose after I read these letters.
The question of bishops. In my opinion, at present this is not the most important question.
Would the bishops, if every diocese had them, be able to change the situation of the Church which is the result of state laws?
A more important question is the person of the bishop. It distresses the faithful when a bishop or administrator is a blind tool in the hands of the atheists, rarely seen in his church and even more rarely in the pulpit, while meantime his articles appear in atheist newspapers. Such a bishop has no authority with the faithful. We need bishops like St. Paul and not like old-time nobles busy with parties and hunting.
A more painful question: the training of new priests and the seminary's requisite quality. The letters state grievances, but prescribe no solution. The situation will apparently not change as long as the seminary is administered not by the bishops but by the civil government.
The authors of the letter are opposed to "catacomb" priests. But they have nothing to do with the situation. Catacombs appear where there is repression.
To: The Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Lithuanian SSSR , P. Griškevičius
In our first statement to P. Griškevičius, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party we noted that failing to receive restitution for the material loss we suffered, we would erect the cross ourselves. We held the silence of the Panemunė Rayon
Executive Committee to be consent. After a wait of four months, the parish rebuilt the cross. But we enjoyed this beautiful sight for but a brief time.
Four days passed after the cross was erected. On May 15th we found a hole dug in the churchyard, similar to a human grave. We unexpectedly learned that this hole was not for the purpose of burying a man, but our parish cross. We therefore rushed to the cross after the services. As we prayed the rosary, two trucks drove up at 11:30 P.M. In one of them sat six workers with shovels. When they saw the cross being guarded, they ordered the people to disperse and threatened trouble for the young people. The youths were not intimidated by the threats, but continued to ask why and with whose permission the cross was being stolen in the middle of the night. A character sitting in the cab explained that everything has been cleared with the parish pastor Father R. Liukas. The youths replied that the pastor has no right to help the atheists destroy the cross because he himself helped erect it. Aware that the people guarding the cross would not leave, they threatened to bring more officials and left. After they drove off, the youth at the cross finished saying the rosary. Militia vehicles kept driving by. Shortly a car marked LLŽ 10-07 arrived, from which emerged a man who asked: "Aren't there more of us." When we replied: 'When the need arises, there will be more," he drove off.
Issue No. 37 of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania reported that the KGB is building a case against Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, pastor of Kybartai, in connection with a traffic accident which took place on June 1, 1978.
Father Tamkevičius appealed to the State Security Committee of the Lithuanian SSR on January 31, 1979, protesting that the Committee is used to eliminate a priest (SeeChronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, No. 37).
On February 6th, on the basis of the statement made by Aleksandras Razvinavičius, the prosecutor's offfice of the Rayon of Varėna issued an indictment in the accident. Razvinavičius went to the Varėna prosecutor's office at the instigation of security police officials.
On February 13th, the head of the KGB Secretariat, A. Grakauskas, sent Father Tamkevičius the following reply:
"In reply to your statement of January 31, 1979, we inform you that investigating the circumstances surrounding traffic accidents is not within the jurisdiction of state security organs."
On February 19th, Father Tamkevičius was summoned to the Varėna militia for interrogation.
On March 4th, the Moscow Christian Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers protested to the Security Committee of the Lithuanian SSR concerning the persecution of Father Tamkevičius.
On May 30, 1979, the pastor of the Kirdeikiai parish, Father P. Kražauskas, sent a statement signed by 267 believers of the Kirdeikiai parish to His Excellency Bishop Sladkevičius, Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Kaišiadorys, ragarding the especially blatant interference of the atheist government in the parish's internal affairs. The statement reads as follows:
On May 13, 1979, the new executive committee of the Kirdeikiai church was elected under the direction of Vice Chairman Labanauskas of the Utena Rayon Executive Committee and Chairman Šapranauskas of the Saldutiškis district. This is how it happened:
On May 6, 1979, Chairman Šapranauskas of the Saldutiškis District posted the following notice on the doors of the church: "Attention, believers of the Kirdeikiai Parish! Immediately following services at 2:15 P.M. on May 13th, a meeting of the believing community will be held in the middle school auditorium. On the agenda: election of a new church committee. Chairman of the Saldutiškis District Council of People's Deputies, A. Šapranauskas."
Since I had the resignation of the church committee chairman (he is elderly and ailing) and was aware of the existing situation and the atheists' aims as well, I called a meeting of the Kirdeikiai church committee members on May 9th.
To: The Editor of the Banga (Wave) newspaper
A statement from: The Rev. Antanas Šeškevičius,
Assistant Pastor of the Gargždai Parish, Residing in Gargždai, Tilto g . 1-2.
On March 31st of this year your newspaper Banga, an organ of the Lithuanian Communist Party rayon of Klaipėda committee and of the rayon Council of People's Deputies, printed an article "Who Is Muddying the Water" by V. Savičius in which I am variously reviled, slandered and denigrated. I therefore ask the opportunity to present my remarks and protest.
More than two thousand years ago the Romans guarded a man's honor and had the rule: "Let the other side also be heard." The accused had the right to express his opinion and defend himself. Since then, the civilization of mankind has improved markedly, and I therefore think that, in the 20th century, the Soviet press will be civilized enough to permit me, a reviled priest, to publicly express my opinion. Assuming this illusion, I respond to the charges made by V. Savičius.
Incident No. 1 — The Patient J. Karnauskas
Savičius charges that I arbitrarily entered the hospital and spoke oppressing words to the patient J. Karnauskas.
In an attempt to justify the legality of repressing religious and civil rights in Lithuania, the government is venturing to establish this legality through various sociological "research."
At the beginning of 1978, a questionnaire was circulated in certain Lithuanian agencies whose employees were compelled to reply to a series of questions on their attitudes toward religion. Among other questions, were the following: "What is your attitude toward religion? Do you attend church for the purpose of prayer? Do you celebrate religious holidays? How would you evaluate religion?" These questions and possible replies to them (for example, the question "How would you evaluate religion" offers the following possible replies: "1. Religion is harmful; 2. Religion contradicts science; 3. Religion is useless but not harmful; 4. Religion comforts man; 5. No opinion.") are already anti-religion by their very nature.
Despite this, questionnaires could be accepted if they were conducted honestly and the results later made public and, on their basis, the condition of believers improved. However, the results of these questionnaires are contrived beforehand, for questionnaires are handed out, checked and compiled by party organization offices which destroy questionnaires favorable to religion and send the socialogical research center only those questionnaires which present a negative attitude toward religion.
In this way, the party secretary rather adroitly "makes" it appear that atheist education is excellent at his office and all employees are atheists. (An occasional questionnaire filled out by an uncommitted individual is included.) The secretary then avoids difficulties "from above" and the results of the socialogical "research" is of course falsified.
On June 23, 1979—midsummer's eve—a group of young people gathered at the tiny church of Paveisninkai which had been vandalized at the hands of the godless. At sunset, the group of youngsters, carrying a cross on their backs, singing hymns and saying the rosary aloud, headed for the spot where it had once been planned to build a church. Prayer rang out with hope on that quiet night, like a call to awaken the nation.
Several minutes later a beautiful cross bearing the inscription "Lord, renew the face of our Nation!" was erected.
Shortly, the security police and militia of Lazdijai stirred into action, searching for the youths who had erected the cross. The militia never displays such zeal in catching hoodlums.
On July 2nd, Vice Chairman VI. Kavaliukas took 10th-grader Antanas Tamanauskas from his home to the Kapčiamiestis militia department. The student was interrogated, threatened with dire consequences if he remains silent. At the militia, the Vice Chairman asked who organized the evening, who made, who blessed and who erected the cross, from where so much youth had come. The boy claimed he knew nothing.
"You won't graduate middle school and will be taken to a children's colony," threatened Inspector Kavaliukas. When he released him to go home, the agent ordered the boy to tell no one, not even his parents, about the interrogation.
On June 28, 1978 Tiesa (Truth) published an article by correspondent Vytautas Žeimantas entitled "Slander from the Pulpit" in which the author brutally attacked the pastor of Viduklė, Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, with various fabrications. The faithful of Viduklė wrote a letter of protest to First Secretary Griškevičius of the Lithuanian SSR Communist Party. The letter was signed by over 1,000 believers.
The faithful also wrote to Žeimantas, but of course received no reply. In lieu of a reply, Security Police Interrogator Major Matulevičius came to the Blinstrubiškis Nursing Home on March 28, 1979 and interrogated patient Stasė Navardauskaitė who had dared to defend the pastor.
When he arrived, the Major stated he would conduct the interrogation without any outsiders. Assistant Director Danutė Lipeikaitė left the room. Major Matulevičius then locked the door, took out a sheaf of papers and said:
"Let's begin ..."
After a series of meaningless questions, the interrogator suddenly asked:
"What can you tell me about pastor Svarinskas of Viduklė?"
"What can 1 tell you other than that he is a good man, a good priest, eloquent. His sermons draw people, are inspiring and rouse people from moral stagnation."
On May 29, 1979, Liudas Simutis was informed at the militia department of the Rayonof Panemunė of the City of Kaunas that he must leave Lithuania within 24 hours.
After serving 22 years in the Gulag for participating in the opposition movement against the occupant, Liudas Simutis returned to Lithuania and formed a family. Unfortunately, a Lithuanian does not have the right to live in his homeland. He must be replaced by a foreign occupant.
Simutis refused to leave. Lithuania. The militia has thus far remained silent.
While making a speech at the Vilkaviškis Sewing Factory on July 12, 1979, Secretary Tėvelis of the rayon party committee stated that crosses are being erected here and there in the rayon of Vilkaviškis. Although the laws do not forbid the erection of crosses, they must be removed when they are erected in "prohibited" places. This has happened in ourrayon: A cross was erected on the grave of a "bandit" (pure fabrication — Ed. note); it therefore had to be removed as a monument to the enemy. A second cross was erected on an ancient mound located halfway between Vilkaviškis and Kapsukas. Secretary Tėvelis called this mound a "historical landmark" where all excavation is forbidden, this cross therefore also had to be removed.
On January 29, 1979, a Week of Atheism was declared at the Pasvalys Middle School. A display of student artwork on atheist subjects was held. As in all such programs, the students were unwilling to participate. There were barely several drawings from the upper grades, all others (some 40) were from grades 5 and 6 where the students had to draw them during art class. Teacher Slanciauskiene went into classrooms and demanded that the drawings be finished more quickly.
During the night of February 1 to 2, all the drawings and the atheist school newspaper disappeared, and a poster with excerpts from the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR (art. 50) was hung on the bulletin board: "Citizens of the Lithuanian SSR are guaranteed the freedom of conscience; that is, the right to profess any religion whatsoever, or not profess any, practice religious cults or conduct atheist propaganda. Fomenting discord and hatred in connection with religious beliefs is forbidden. The church in the Lithuanian SSR is separate from the state and the school from the church."
In the morning, the teachers quickly set up a new display in order to conceal the "theft."
A meeting of middle school and university students, attended by some 300 persons, was held on February 3rd. Proclamations were pasted to unoccupied seats, the Lithuanian tricolor flag was conspicuous, as well as slogans: "Russian occupants go home!", "Freedom for Lithuania!" and others. Short four line poems:
"Red, green and yellow,
Our tricolor flag.
Let's fight for freedom, brothers,
And Lithuania will once again be free, etc.
The pastor of Gervėčiai, Father Stanislov Chodygo, died in September 1978. Although Polish, he respected the Lithuanians and during services also read the gospel in Lithuanian.
The inhabitants of Gervėčiai, Rimdžiūnai, Giriai and other villages endeavored to get a new priest from Lithuania. Father Petravičius came, but it soon became apparent that the district refused to register him.
The priest of Rodunė also died at the end of 1978. And so, not only Rodunė, but the inhabitants of the Lithuanian island of Pelesa were left without a priest.
At the beginning of 1979, the priest of Barunai, Father Kozlovskį who served several parishes, died at the age of 85. Thus, the last remaining priests are beginning to die out in Belorussia.
On April 23, 1979, the pastor of Novego Dvor and Vosiliškiai, Father Antonij Chanko, was issued a warning at the rayon because children serve at Mass.
Several weeks later, the rayon government imposed a 20-ruble fine on Father Chanko and the chairman of the N. Dvor church committee because children participated in the Easter procession.
August 16, 1951
Marijampole Rayon Council of Workers Deputies Executive Committee
To: The Executive Committee of the Liudvinas Catholic Parish
In reply to your statement regarding permission to hold services on August 26, 1951 and hold a procession around the church, I inform you, as directed by the chairman of theRayon Executive Committee, that priests are not allowed to come from outside the parish.
The procession is not permitted in the churchyard, because the churchyard is not completely screened from the outside.
Chief of the General Department
August 1, 1963
Liudvinavas District Council of Workers Deputies To: The Pastor of the Liudvinavas Church
The Executive Committee of the Liudvinavas District Council of workers Deputies informs you, on the basis of a telegram received from the Executive Committee of theRayon of Kapsukas, that permission is not granted to hold any devotions in August of this year in connection with spreading livestock disease.
Chairman of the Liudvinavas District Vaida
FELLOW LITHUANIAN, DON'T FORGET!
Petras Plumpa, Nijole Sadunaite, Sergei Kovalev, Vladas Lapie-nis, Balys Gajauskas, Viktoras Petkus, Petras Paulaitis and others who bear the shackles of prison so that you may freely live and believe.
Liudas Simutis who served 22 years in Soviet labor camps for the freedom of the Nation and Church is being driven out of Lithuania!