"To: The General Secretary of the Central Committee
of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, Leonid Brezhnev
"A Statement from the Priests of Lithuania
"The news has spread widely that on November 1 the Russian Orthodox priest Gleb Yakunin was arrested in Moscow. He is a faithful son of the Orthodox Church who has dedicated many years to the defense of the Church and the rights of believers. Father Gleb Yakunin's work has not been directed against the government and has been fully within the scope of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the USSR. The arrest of this honourable priest cannot but anger all justice-loving persons, regardless of their convictions. This arrest can achieve only one purpose: the further weakening of the Soviet Union's prestige throughout the world.
"We further protest the arrests of Tatyana Velikanova and Antanas Terleckas. Their activities, which sought to ensure that the rights and convictions of all citizens in the Soviet Union are respected, were also purely humane.
"One can already guess in advance that these three individuals — Father Yakunin, Velikanova, and Terleckas — will be charged with slandering the Soviet government and its social order. It is also understood by everyone that such a charge is ludicrous and unconvincing.
"We also wish to remind you that similar arrests will not serve to reduce international tension nor assist the struggle for world peace because the foundation of universal peace rests on the respect shown for every individual's rights.
(signed) Rev. Petras Dumbliauskas, Rev. Petras Našlėnas, Rev. Vincentas Jalinskas, Rev. Antanas Lukošaitis, Rev. Romualdas Macevičius, Rev. Juozas Zdebskis, Rev. Vaclovas Degutis, Rev. Gvidonas Dovydaitis, Rev. Juozas Mieldažys, Rev. Andriejus Gustaitis, Rev. Albinas Deltuva, Rev. Gintautas Steponaitis, Rev. Jonas Maksvytis, Rev. Gintautas Skučas, Rev. Juozas Kriščiūnas, Rev. Jurgis Sventickas, Rev. Boleslovas Rasukas, Rev. Antanas Aleksandravičius, Rev. Ignas Plioraitis, Rev. Sigitas Tamkevičius, Rev. Boleslovas Cegelskas, Rev. Vaclovas Stakėnas, Rev. Jonas Buga, Rev. Konstantinas Ambrasas, Rev. Algis Pasiliauskas, Rev. Vytautas Užkuraitis, Rev. Juozas Gumauskas, Rev. Liudvikas Semaška, Rev. Jonas Rakauskas, Rev. Juozas Čepėnas, Rev. Kazimieras Montvila, Rev. Vladas Bobinas, Rev. Juozas Adomaitis, Rev. Pranas Gaižauskas, Rev. Virgilijus Jaugelis."
"To: Secretary Griskevičius of the Central Committee
of the LSSR Communist Party
The Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR
"A Statement from the Believers of the Kybartai Parish
"On September 5 of this year Tiesa (The Truth) printed a news item from the Prosecutor's Office of the Lithuanian SSR, namely, that two priests, Father Svarinskas, the pastor of Viduklė, and our own pastor, Father Tamkevičius, have been admonished for propagating deliberate fabrications which discredit the Soviet system and for urging believers to disobey Soviet laws. In this regard we state that:
"For four years we have heard the sermons of our pastor every Sunday, and we never heard him slander anyone or speak lies. Father Tamkevičius did not incite us to break the laws. He taught us to believe in God and to live decently.
"During retreats and on the fiftieth anniversary of the Kybartai church, we heard Father Svarinskas's sermons but heard no slanderous fabrications in them.
"Therefore, these charges are unjust and based on the complaints of people who detest the faith. We ask that such persons be disciplined and their complaints be disregarded in the future. We also demand that Tiesa publicly retract the false charges against the two priests.
"Furthermore, we have heard that our pastor is accused of defending the rights of believers. In our opinion, this is not a crime but good work.
"Mr. Secretary, please order an end to the persecution of our priests."
Kybartai, September 8, 1979
Signed by 877 believers
"To: First Secretary P. Griskevičius of the Central
Committee of the LSSR Communist Party
I he Republican Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR
"A Statement from the Believers of the Simnas Parish
"We, the undersigned believers of the Simnas parish, voice our protest against the September 5 issue of Tiesa (Truth) admonishing Father A. Svarinskas, pastor of the Viduklė parish, and the pastor of the Kybartai parish, Father S. Tamkevičius, for using their sermons to propagate deliberate fabrications which discredit the Soviet political and social system.
"Father Tamkevičius worked in our parish for five years. We knew him as a decent, conscientious, and zealous priest. The Church and the faithful are rightfully proud of such priests. Father Tamkevičius has preached many sermons and has never said anything that was not true.
"We have also heard him speak on countless occasions during Church festivals and retreats and have never heard any deliberate fabrications. Who has dared to bring such false charges against these two diligent priests whom the faithful respect?
"We ask that you discipline the accusers and cease persecuting Father Svarinskas and Father Tamkevičius."
September 16, 1979
Signed by 269 believers of the Simnas parish.
"To: The General Secretary of the Central Committee of Communist Party of the Soviet Union, L. Brezhnev
"A Statement from the Believers of Prienai
"On September 5 Tiesa (Truth) announced news from the Lithuanian SSR Prosecutor's Office that two priests, S. Tamkevičius and A. Svarinskas, 'using the church and their positions as ministers are propagating deliberate fabrications which discredit the Soviet political and social system, violating the regulations of religious associations, and inciting believers.'
"Fr. Tamkevičius worked in our parish from September 1967 until May 1968. He also preached three sermons as a guest on August 25 of this year. During all this time we listened to a great number of his sermons, but we never heard any lies or slander.
"Therefore, we, the faithful of the Prienai parish, demand that this slanderous campaign against this honorable and well-known priest be stopped."
Signed by 1004 believers of the Prienai Parish
"To: Second Secretary of the Central Committee of the
LSSR Communist Party, N. K. Dybenko
"Copy to: The Prosecutor General of the USSR
"A Statement from the Believers of the Lazdijai Roman
"On September 5, 1979, the newspaper Tiesa (Truth) printed a news item from the Prosecutor's Office of the Lithuanian SSR about the reprimand issued to Father A. Svarinskas and Father S. Tamkevičius. These two priests were accused of deliberate fabrications which discredit the Soviet political and social system, and of urging the violation of Soviet laws.
"From 1965 to 1967 Father Tamkevičius worked in our parish. For a year and one-half we listened to his sermons, which never contained any deliberate fabrications. We are following the direction of his life even now. There has never been regression in his spiritual development. We, therefore, protest the slander printed about Father Tamkevičius in the pages of Tiesa and Valstiecių laikraštis (Farmers' paper).
"We are convinced that the charges reported against Father Svarinskas in that same issue of Tiesa are also false. We have heard his sermons in our parish church during devotions and retreats. We heard no fabrications or slander, only words which inspired goodness. At the present time, Father Svarinskas's respect for and love of the truth is well known throughout Lithuania.
"We turn to you, Comrade Dybenko, as the individual who has the greatest practical impact in shaping the future of the Lithuanian SSR and as the one who can help us believers the most."
November, 1979 Signed by 821 believers. A similar protest to the Soviet government regarding the persecution of Fathers Svarinskas and Tamkevičius was signed by 500 believers of the Igliauka parish.
"To: The Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR
"Copies to: His Excellency Bishop Liudvikas Povilonis,
Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of
Kaunas and the Diocese of Vilkaviškis;
The Catholic Committee for the Defense of
"A Statement from the Believers of the Viduklė Parish
1 Šaltinis St., Viduklė
"Once again there has been an attack by atheists against the believers of the parish of Viduklė.
"On November 19 of this year the Administrative Commission of the Raseiniai RayonExecutive Committee of the Soviet of People's Deputies imposed a 50-ruble fine against the pastor of Viduklė, Fafher Alfonsas Svarinskas, simply because 'the pastor of the Viduklė religious community organized a religious march at 5:15 p.m. on November 1, 1979, from the Viduklė church to the cemetery and back without obtaining permission from the rayon executive committee, thereby violating the May 12, 1966, decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR.'
"Let us explain what happened. This year, as in the past, on the evening of All Saints' Day, the believers of the Viduklė parish, together with the pastor, went to their cemetery from 5 to 6:45 p.m. to honor the dead. The pastor, being the spiritual leader of the parish, sent a statement to Rayon Executive Committee Vice Chairwoman O. Stonienė on October 10 in which he stated, among other things: 'In view of the October 1977 statement of former Vice Chairman Z. Butkus of the rayonexecutive committee that we will never grant you permission to go to the cemetery' and my own experience over three years (personal fines, administrative commissions, people's courts, etc.), 1 am not asking permission but am merely informing you of the fact. Even so, I ask but one thing: please ensure unobstructed passage on Tarybos Street in the city of Viduklė and in the cemetery. I believe that we, as believers living in our own homeland, can demand and expect this.'
"Unfortunately, the rayon authorities never sent a written reply to the pastor's written statement as required by Soviet law and took care to destroy the participants' devout mood.
"The procession was solely religious and orderly. It was headed by believers carrying a cross and two black flags. Following them came young girls and women dressed in national costumes, the priest, the choir, and some two thousand believers holding candles. Fifteen men dressed in surplices maintained order. The procession took up the right sidewalk and half of the street; cars were able to pass in both directions on the other side. A passing traffic policeman did not stop because the procession was a model of discipline.
"The procession had barely left the church when Susivienijimas Deputy Director of Transportation Lem-butis, following orders 'from above,' ordered a certain Andriulis to park a new truck in the street under the No Stopping sign, open the hood, and leave it, as if it had broken down. Meanwhile, the traffic police diverted all traffic from the highway into the town. Two Zhigulis (one white, the other yellow with license plate No. 78-02 LLZ, belonging to V. Šimkus) drove through the town at high speeds. It seems their purpose was to provoke an automobile accident. It then would have been easy to charge the believers and the pastor with violating some important article of the Criminal code.
"In the street and from the windows of the boarding school, various 'civilians' photographed the pastor and the participants of the procession. At the cemetery two powerful loudspeakers had been blaring sincenoon (before, they used to install only one). The people asked that the volume be lowered, but Director-on-duty Germanavičius of the Cultural Center stated they would hang him if he dared to tone down the tapes blasting Fascist brutalities. Therefore, even at the cemetery, the atheists obstructed the prayers of the people and the priest's preaching.
"The atheistic memorial ceremony was scheduled for 7 p.m. The believers left the cemetery on time.
"Unfortunately, the rayon authorities did not take notice of all the above hindrances and did not stop them. The thought arises that they themselves were the instigators of all this disorder.
"The faithful have never prevented atheists from paying respect to their dead on May 9 at the Soviet military cemetery or on the evening of November 1 at the Catholic cemetery. The faithful are convinced that there is enough room for everyone in Lithuania — believers and atheists. Unfortunately, wc are dealing with intolerant ideological enemies. This all attests to their low cultural level. Is it possible that there is no one to discipline the handful of atheists who so vehemently terrorize the believers?
"The Soviet Constitution speaks about freedom of conscience and the equality of all citizens before the law. Unfortunately, in practice we see something else. Atheists have the press, radio and television programs, art, and force, while we believers cannot visit the cemetery on All Souls' Day without the permission and direction of the atheists. This is how much freedom Catholics enjoy and how harsh is the fate of a Lithuanian living in his homeland and practicing his faith.
"We would like to remind the atheists of Raseiniai and the rayon authorities that the Soviet Union signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of December 10, 1948, and the Helsinki Final Act in 1975. Unfortunately, the first document was not publicized and there were only 7,000 copies of the latter printed in Lithuania. Article 18 of the Declaration states: 'Every person has the right to the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion: this right permits one to freely change one's religion, and individually, or together with others, publicly or alone, to freely learn about religion, to conduct services, and to perform religious rites.' The Helsinki Final Act declares: 'The participating nations shall respect man's rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion, or belief .... In this sense, the participating nations will recognize and respect a person's right to profess, individually or together with others, any religion or faith by acting according to his own conscience.'
"The atheists of Raseiniai work against believers in two ways. They complain against our pastor, Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, to higher authorities, hoping to eliminate him from the rayon and, thereby, deliver a blow to the believers of Viduklė. It is not difficult to fight against a priest because Soviet laws do not protect him. It is enough only to label him 'anti-Soviet.' Also, locally they favor nonbelieving students and constantly punish the pastor in the hope that he will lose his nerve and leave the rayon on his own. But these 'methods of ideological struggle' will not defeat the faithful. On the contrary, as in Viduklė, they will draw them together and will show the true face of atheism to all.
"With this letter we, the believers of Viduklė, protest the arbitrariness of the atheists. They have punished not only the pastor, but the 5,000-member Viduklė parish along with him. We all went to the cemetery. You should have punished us all.
"We protest the threat made by the Prosecutor's Office to deal with the pastor of Viduklė, Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, and the pastor of Kybartai, Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, 'by means of court action.' We know both priests and know that they fearlessly defend the matters of the Church and the believers. We will stand behind and defend them with all possible means!
"Every day is another example of the bankruptcy of the atheists' struggle and education. During the past several weeks, stores in Ariogala, Raseiniai, and Viduklė have been burglarized. On October 31,1979, Viduklė teenagers drank and smoked at the boarding school. The fire which broke out because of this was extinguished by a fireman and an agent of the deputy police chief. Unfortunately, no one punishes them; all that matters is that these students do not attend church.
"We expect that in the future the atheists will not compromise the Soviet government in the eyes of religious believers and the world and will allow us to worship God peaceably and freely, performing religious rites as required by Church law."
Viduklė, November 25, 1979
Feast of Christ the King
Signed by 1,064 believers