To: The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union— Yuri Andropov
Copy to: The Bishops and Diocesan Administrators of Lithuania From: The Priests of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys
We are concerned about the vicious attacks against religion which recently appeared in the press. In the speech of Petras Griškevičius, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Lithuania, he said, "We must strengthen in every way the bond between inte-national and patriotic education on one hand, and on the other, the struggle for the destruction of religious anachronisms." (Second Plenary Session of the Lithuanian Communist Party, Vilnius, June 17, 1981)
Communist Party Seceatary L. Šepetys has also spoken out in writing against religion and good priests, while Commissioner Petras Anilionis of the Council for Religious Affairs is demanding that the Regulations for Religious Associations, ratified by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR, July 28, 1976, be implemented.
The Lithuanian Catholic clergy would welcome normal relations between the government of the LSSR and the Catholic Church in Lithuania. Neither we nor our faithful refuse to carry out the just requirements of the Soviet government which do not contradict the Faith or morals of the Roman Catholic Church. We are determined with it to struggle agains moral evils in our nation: alcoholism, break-up of families, hooliganism, destruction of unborn life and especially, the wide-spread practice of abortion, now that the government has legalized it.
However, we wish to emphasize once again that we have no right to, and cannot carry out the Regulations for Religious Associations, since this is incompatible with our conscience. Some paragraphs of these regulations are not compatible with the Gospel of Christ, with Decrees of the Second Vatican Council, or for that matter, with the Constitution of the USSR, Lenin's Directives of January 23, 1918, the Communist Party Directives of November 10, 1954, with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Decisions of the Helsinki Final Act, by signing which, the Soviet Union obligated itself to make all of its laws compatible with the rules of the Helsinki Declaration.
We therefore declare:
We do not have the right to hand over the administration of the dioceses and parishes of the Roman Catholic Church to the civil government, or to committees composed of rank and file faithful, because in the Catholic Church, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has established a hierarchical order (Mat 16, 18-19). The Church is ruled by the pope, the bishops and their assistants, the priests . The same is stated by the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium (Par. 10, 1920-22); Codex Juris Canonici (Canons 218, 219, 329, 451). The transgression of the aforesaid canons is forbidden under penalty of excommunication (See Canons 2333 and 2334.2).
We are obliged and cannot refuse to administer the sacraments to those who request them, especially to the sick and dying, everywhere, regardless of the boundaries of our place of ministry (Canon 882).
We request and demand abolition of the government imposed quota on the number of seminarians at the Kaunas Seminary, since according to Canon Law (Canons 1352 and 1357), the bishops and diocesan administrators are responsible for accepting candidates to the seminary, the appointing of teachers and instruction and training.
We demand that the government place no obstacles to prevent the bishops of Lithuania and the administrators of dioceses, freely and independently, without requiring approval of the Commissioner of
A lecture at the Kaunas Theological Seminary. Prior to 1940, there were four seminaries in Lithuania. Admissions to the sole remaining seminary are strictly controlled.
the Council for Religious Affairs, to appoint clergy to various spiritual duties. (Canon 147.2, 152, 455.1)
We demand that officials of the Soviet government stop interfering with our visits as priests to our faithful, if they ask it. The obligation of making such visits is imposed on us by Canon Law (Canon 467.1), and Decrees of the Kaišiadorys Diocesan Synod. Now, however, such visitation is forbidden. For example, Soviet officials have prevented priests from visiting their parishioners in Alytus and Kapsukas, while in Prienai, Father Antanas Gražulis was even given an administrative fine.
We demand that Ordinaries be able to visit freely the parishes of their diocese.
The above-mentioned duties are imposed upon us Catholic clergy of Lithuania by the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, and decisions of councils and synods. Meanwhile, the Regulations for Religious Associations forbid us to fulfill these obligations. No matter what kind of sanctions the Soviet government applies to us, we must act in accordance with the instruction of Sacred Scripture: "Better to obey God, rather than men," (Acts 5, 29)
Normal relations of the Catholic Church with the Soviet government of Lithuania are always being disturbed by crude anti-religious propaganda offensive to the faithful; the excesses of Soviet officials; discrimination against believers at work; persecution of office workers, teachers and students for fulfilling their religious obligations; destruction of crosses; desecration of the Blessed Sacrament; closing of churches and robbery of churches and priests. The clergy and faithful were very offended on account of the repeated destruction of the Hill of Crosses (Village of Jurgaičiai, Rayon of Šiauliai), and Alkakalnis, or Maiden Hill (Rayon of Telšiai, Village of Pasruojė).
The Archcathedral of Vilnius has been converted into an art gallery, the Church of St. Casimir into the Museum of Atheism, the Church of the Queen of Peace in Klaipėda into a concert hall, even though the faithful of Klaipėda have no place to pray.
With the approach ol significant jubilees: 500 years since the death of St. Casimir (1984) and 600 years since the establishment of Christianity in Lithuania (1987), the priests and faithful of Lithuania are waiting for gestures of goodwill from the Party and the government:
1.To return to Catholics churches which have been closed and confiscated, especially the Archcathedral of Vilnius, the Church of Saint Casimir in Vilnius and the Queen of Peace Church in Klaipėda.
2.To forbid destruction of historical-religious treasures: crosses, wayside shrines and monuments; to forbid destruction of sites venerated and considered sacred by the faithful.
3.To amend the Regulations for Religious Associations, passed July 28, 1976, in such a way that they be compatible with the Canons of the Catholic Church, thereby making it possible for clergy and faithful to abide by them.
4.To return to his duties Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, exiled without trial for more than twenty years to Žagarė.
5.To review contracts with the government foisted upon parish committees by force and deceit.
6.To warn rayon and district officials to cease discrimination against priests and faithful, since the faithful constitute a majority of the population in Lithuania, and are known for their conscientious work. They should not be encouraged by the tactless actions of officials to look upon the Soviet government negatively.
7.To allow the erection of churches in new cities, and especially in the microrayons of expanding cities.
Exiled Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius encircled by friends in Lithuania. Standing next to and in back of the bishop are, respectively, Father Sigitas Tamke-vičius and Father Alfonsas Svarinskas (with glasses), both of whom were arrested in 1983 for religious activity. As charter members of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights, they petitioned the government to permit Bishop Steponavičius to resume his duties as Bishop of the Vilnius Archdiocese. He has been prevented from doing so by Soviet authorities since 1961.
8. To allow the fulfilling of religious ritual intended for burial of the dead.
We await your reply to our communications, to be sent to one of the undersigned priests of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys.
Priests of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys:
L. Puzonas, Z. Navickas, M. Misiūnas, K. Žilys, S. Linda, P. Bingelis, R. Šalčiūnas, V. Sidaras, J. Katulis, C. Kavaliauskas, J. Milašius, J. Zubrus, J. Tomkus, P. Žiugžda,E. Kraujalis, P. Guobys, K. Trimonis, B. Klimas, S. Kiškis, A. Šatas, B. Bulika, Z. Gustaitis, K. Pivariūnas, A. Ažubalis, Z. Stančiauskas, Z. Červokas, J. Stasiūnas, J. Pilka, N. Švogždys, P. Krikščiukaitis, J. Kazlauskas, P. Venckus, J. Voveris, J. Anusevičius, V. Avižienis, R. Puzonas.
About thirty signatures are illegible.