On May 6, 1983, in Vilnius, in the course of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas' trial, a criminal case was started against Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, on the basis of the LSSR Criminal Code Par. 68. Id. He was arrested right in the courtroom, and confined in the KGB isolation prison.
Even before his arrest, on May 4, when Father Tamkevičius was summoned to the LSSR Supreme Court in Vilnius as a witness in the case of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, large numbers of KGB and militia arrived in Kybartai. At about 1:00 PM, militia officials, coming to the rectory, demanded to see Father Jonas Boruta, but he was no* home at the time. All three days, up till the arrest of the pastor, Kybartai was zealously guarded by local agents of the KGB and militia, along with those who had come in from elsewhere.
Saturday, May 7, militia officia, A. Kazlauskas came to the rectory and asked again for Father Boruta. Not finding him, he warned once more that if Father Boruta said Mass on Sunday in the Church in Kybartai, he would meet the same fate as Father Tamkevičius.
Sunday, May 8, the church in Kybartai could hardly contain the faithful gathered for services. During the 10:00 AM Mass, the Dean of Vilkaviškis, Father J. Preikšą, spoke directly to the aching hearts of the faithful: "I know that today your pain is so great that any
A card being circulated in Lithuania following the arrest of Father Sigitas Tamkevičius. "Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, Pastor of the parish of Kybartai, member of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights. Arrested May 6, 1983. Kybartai, August 6, 1983."
words of comfort would ring hollow; however, keep always before your eyes the event described in Holy Scripture when the prayers of the faithful reached heaven and an angel freed their beloved teacher, the Apostle, Saint Peter from prison. So you are powerless today, but at the same time strong, because on your side you have God, you have prayer. Our greatest weapon is prayer," said Father Preikša, or words to that effect.
The main Mass was offered and the sermon delivered by Father Jonas Boruta. After Mass, a procession of a thousand of the faithful of Kybartai, proceeding on its knees and praying the rosary, moved off through the yard around the church. It was an unprecedented sight. With rosaries in their hands and tears in their eyes, the children, youth grownups — men and women — moved; at the head of the column, a youth carried a cross draped with a red stole, a symbol of sacrifice and suffering. When the participants in the procession finished praying the rosary, the heart-rending hymn rose to heaven, "Mary, Mary" . . . lighten our slavery. . . save us from the terrible foe!"
The intercessory procession was closely observed by groups of KGB, militia officials, representatives of the Communist Party, and teachers of the Middle School in Kybartai. They stood brazenly around the churchyard fence, the better to recognize and memorize the faces of participants in the procession.
May 10, militia official A. Kazlauskas arrived at the rectory along with a fire inspector, who did not give his name. The latter wanted to inspect the rectory and church. However, the church cleaning lady, (Miss) Ona Kavaliauskaitė, told them that the pastor, who was chairman of the parish committee and in charge of the rectory, had been arrested. Without him, a check was not possible.
Kazlauskas demanded to see Father Matulionis, on whom he was supposed to serve a summons to report to the Vilkaviškis Rayon Assistant Prosecutor, but he did not find Matulionis at the rectory. He was told that Father Matulionis would return about 7:30 P.M.
Coming back to the rectory that evening, the militia officer found no one. Approaching the churchyard gates, he called to two girls of the parish, and tried to convince them to sign an acknowledgement of the summons intended for Father Matulionis, and pass the summons on to him, but they categorically refused. There was nothing for Agent Kazlauskas then, but to go to the sacristy and serve the summons on Father Matulionis in person.
At that point, a little group of the faithful hurried to the sacristy, to ask what the official wanted. Learning that he was looking for Father Matulionis, they became quite annoyed and said, "You've already taken one priest! Isn't that enough? Oh no, you won't get this one! This one is ours! We aren't about to turn him over to anyone!"
The official still tried to say something, but the faithful opened the door and asked him to leave the church immediately. After this incident with the faithful, the government officials left Father Matulionis in peace.
After the arrest of the Pastor of Kybartai, Father Sigitas Tam-kevičius, lectures were presented in a number of offices, communal farms and shops in Kybartai, during which the speakers explained how terrible Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and Father Sigitas Tam-kevičius are. An attempt was made to convince the listeners that the priests had been justly arrested, and warnings were given that Kybartai would be assigned the kind of pastor who would put all churchmice and believers in their place, and would establish 'order'.
On May 18, 1983, at the Kybartai trade furnishings factory, the KGB Chief of the Vilkaviškis Rayon, Vaišvila, gave a lecture. He said that Father Tamkevičius had libeled teachers, accusing them of persecuting religiously believing children. After the talk, (Mrs.) Ona Griškaitienė arose in the audience. She stated that she is a believer and has three children, who on account of their religious beliefs have been constantly discriminated against, even though they are good students. She presented a list of specific examples of discrimination, and asked, "Who is doing the libeling — the pastor, or you?"
The lecturer offered to explain everything to (Mrs.) Griškaitienė in private, but he woman would not give up, saying, "If you vilify the pastor in the hearing of the entire audience, then let everyone hear the truth, too."
Finally the KGB agent, not knowing what to do, began reassuring her, "You'll soon get a new pastor, and the situation will get back to normal."
"So it follows that you even assign pastors!" Griškaitienė said heatedly. "We believers still don't know who our pastor is going to be, and you do know?"
Unnerved, and at a loss for words, KGB chief Vaišvila picked up form the table a copy of Soviet laws, and began explaining, "This is the law, and we must keep it!"
The woman shot back, "I know the law as well as you do, and I've seen this booklet more than once! But you don't keep the law! It would be better if you showed me the "book of tricks" which you go by!"
In connection with the arrest of Father Sigitas Tamkevičius on Pentecost Sunday in many parishes of Lithuania, intercessory prayers took place for the arrested priests. Masses were offered, hours of adoration held, a special public prayer was read, the rosary was recited, and there were other forms of devotion. Moreover, in spite of warnings, the believing public began again to collect signatures under new protests.
Mažeikiai — 672 signatures Viešvienai — 89 signatures
Ieckava — 31 signatures Virbalis — 127 signatures
Telšiai — 1007 signatures
Sigitas Tamkevičius was born November 7, 1938, in the District of Alytus, the Village of Gudoniai. In 1955, he finished the Seirijai Middle School and entered the seminary in Kaunas. The formation of his priestly vocation was greatly influenced by religious books, and by association with the saintly Father Antanas Skelčius. In 1957, Tamkevičius was conscripted from the third year of he seminary into the army. "After three years in the army, you won't need the seminary," said the Military Commissar.
Upon completion of his military service, Tamkevičius in 1960 returned to the seminary, and finished in 1962, being ordained at the hands of His Excellency, Petras Maželis. In 1961, KGB agents twice tried unsuccessfully to recruit him as their agent, threatening otherwise to expell him from the seminary.
In 1962, after his ordination to the priesthood, they tried again to recruit Tamkevičius into the ranks of KGB collaborators, but again, unsuccessfully. Upon completion of seminary studies, Father Tamkevičius served as assistant pastor in Alytus. In 1963, the KGB tried for the last time to talk Father Tamkevičius into helping them: They promised him a good parish, an opportunity to study in Rome, etc.
Rebuffed, they called him a fanatic, and promised to wait a few years until he changed his mind. While Father Tamkevičius was assistant pastor in Lazdijai, Religious Affairs Commissioner Rugienis sternly reprimanded him for his sermons, and for catechizing children, and threatened to take away the priest's registration card. The administrator of the diocese was pressured to transfer Father Tamkevičius to another parish. In Kudirkos Naumieštis and Prienai, he served briefly as assistant pastor. The Chief of of Šakiai KGB scolded Tamkevičius for breaking Soviet law.
In Prienai, the Commissioner for Religious Affairs, Rugienis, forbade him to give sermons, threatening to take away his registration card, and not allow him to function as a priest. He was accused of wrongdoing because during his sermon, Father Tamkevičius had mentioned that President Johnson of the USA was a religious believer and prayed. Rugienis accused Father Tamkevičius of not praising Kosygin or other Soviet leaders during his sermons. In 1969, Father Tamkevičius served as assistant pastor in Vilkaviškis. Together with other priests, he drew up a petition that the quota system at the seminary be abolished, and he collected the signatures of priests of the Diocese of Vilkaviškis.
For this "crime", Father Tamkevičius was interrogated several times by the chekists, and at the order of Lieutenant Colonel Koldov of the KGB, Religious Affairs Commissioner Rugienis forbade him to function as a priest. Then Father Tamkevičius went to work in a factory in Vilkaviškis making metal objects, and later together with Father Juozas Zdebskis, at the Prienai land reclamation project.
In his spare time, he used to conduct clandestine retreats, and did other priestly work. In 1970., Commissioner Rugienis, seeing that the sentence had not broken Father Tamkevičius, and that the KGB was unable to monitor his activities, once more officially allowed him to do parish work. He was assistant pastor in Simnas. In 1974, after the arrest of Nijolė Sadūnaitė, Father Tamkevičius'place was searched, and he was summoned to Vilnius for questioning, the chekists wishing to accuse him of editing and disseminating the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania.
In 1975, Religious Affairs Commissioner Tumėnas told Bishop Labukas to transfer Father Tamkevičius to a larger parish, so that he would have plenty of work; otherwise, he was in danger of being arrested. The Bishop assigned Father Tamkevičius as pastor of Kybartai. Here Vice Chairman Urbonas of the Vilkaviškis Rayon Executive Committee constantly badgered him. The KGB tried to fabricate a case against him in connection with an automobile accident. On November 13, 1978, Father Tamkevičius, with four other priests, established the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights, and he participated in its activities until the day of his arrest.
On April 17, 1980, a group of chekists carefully searched Father Tamkevičius' quarters all day long, especially going into all sorts of manuscripts and duplication supplies: paper, carbon paper, etc. After the raid, word was spread even more intensively that Father Tamkevičius was to be arrested. Similar talk had already been spread for ten years, by biased persons.
Summoning him to Vilnius KGB Headquarters for questioning in connection with Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, chekist Baltinas smeared Father Tamkevičius with all sorts of unfounded accusations: Allegedly he shelters those returning from prison, he edits the Chronicle, in his sermons he agitates agains the Soviet government, etc. According to them, he should have been arrested before Father Svarinskas.