To: The Editors of Tiesa
Copies to: Their Excellencies the Bishops of Lithuania and Administrators of the Dioceses
Taking advantage of the freedom of speech and of the press guaranteed in Article 50 of the Constitution of the USSR, I ask you to print this public statement of mine:
An Open Letter to Correspondent Mockuvienė
Upon reading your article entitled, "The Rosary in One Hand, a Stick in the Other," published in Tiesa (Truth), December 3, 1984, I was surprised by its bias. The purpose of the article was to dis-inform the public, libeling a good and zealous priest in order to justify the transgressions of the atheists of Lithuania.
I must say that you picked a good title for your article, "The Rosary in One Hand, a Stick in the Other". In your desire to demean Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, you very accurately described his positive character traits: his deep priestly spirituality, and his courage in the struggle for the truth.
Father Sigitas Tamkevičius truly holds not in his hand, but in his heart, a stick with which he has struck our atheists hard, defending the rights of believers. However, that stick is not material, but spiritual. The stick of truth, directed not against the system and not
A commemorative card issued clandestinely in Lithuania in honor of Father Sigitas Tamkevičius. The caption reads: "Father Sigitas Tamkevičius. Born in 1938 in the Village of Gudoniai in the District of Alytus. Ordained in 1962 by Bishop P. Maželis. Arrested on May 6, 1983, at the trial of Father A. Svarinskas in Vilnius."
against just laws, but against the atheists' arbitrariness in transgressing against Soviet and international law, by discriminating against believers.
Our atheists, unable to fight their ideological foes with ideas, seize upon violence. Against Father Tamkevičius also, they used a physical stick: six years of labor camp and four years of exile. The same stick struck Father Alfonsas Svarinskas sometime earlier. But this does no honor to the court or the atheists of Lithuania. The harsh sentencing of two priests has seriously impaired the prestige of the USSR abroad and did it more damage in Lithuania than the activities of those priests.
Now let us see what Soviet laws Father Tamkevičius has broken: The USSR Constitution speaks about civil rights, as follows: "Article 34. Citizens of the USSR are equal before the law, without distinction of origin, social or property status, race or nationality, sex, education, language, attitude to religion, type and nature of occupation, domicile or other status."
"Article 50. Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly, meetings, street processions and demonstrations."
"Article 52. Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess or not to profess any religion, and to conduct religious worship oratheistic propaganda. Incitement of hostility or hatred on religious grounds is prohibited."
"In the USSR, the Church is separated from the state, and the school from the Church."
"Article 173. The Constitution of the USSR holds the highest legal power. All laws and acts of other state organs are promulgated on the basis of and in concordance with the Constitution of the USS."
Moreover, the government of the Soviet Union has signed certain international agreements, e.g., the UN Declaration of Human Rights, passed December 10, 1948. In that Declaration, it states:
"Article 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."
"Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right included freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
The question arises which of the above-mentioned laws, or what other law, has Father Tamkevičius broken, to be so harshly punished?
You write that Father Tamkevičius was punished according to Article 68, Par. Id of the Criminal Code of the Lithuanian SSR: "Anti-soviet agitation and propaganda", but what did he do specifically?
You write, "Sigitas Tamkevičius, as a priest, broke Soviet laws at various locations in the republic. Since 1971, he has had twelve warnings for organizing various parades, for teaching children in a group, for writing statements libelous in content, for collecting signatures under them in church and for arranging events unrelated to religious ceremonies."
And here is another terrible offense which Father Tamkevičius, according to you, committed: He arranged a Christmas party for the children in the churchyard!
So these are the offenses for which Father Tamkevičius has been sentenced: For carrying out his direct priestly duties: catechi-zation of children, funeral and All Souls' Processions to the cemeteries, for the organizing of a Christmas party where Santa Claus spoke with the children about matters of faith and Christian morality, and gave them gifts.
Moreover, Father Tamkevičius was punished for writing petitions to government officials and collecting signatures in defense of believers' rights with regard to discrimination against them by the atheists; for participating in the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights and for sending information abroad. But all of these rights are guaranteed by the Soviet Constitution and the Declaration of Human Rights, articles from which I have mentioned above.
Such is equality of all citizens before the law among us! In practice, only the atheists have all those rights. For their needs, they have the press, radio, television, meetings and parades; the atheistic education of children (even those of believing parents, against their will), beginning with kindergarten, and extending through all schools; atheistic organizations for children and youth into which they force children, even of believing parents, by every means.
The faithful, on the other hand, have none of these things.
Everywhere, discrimination against the faithful goes on. Believing children are ridiculed in school, all the teachers, far from defending them, actually lower their conduct mark for going to church, and especially for active participation in the liturgy. No practicing believer can occupy any higher position, especially one of leadership.
Try, Honorable Correspondent, to play the role of a believer, for at least a brief time. You would soon feel what equality of citizens before the law means. If you are a teacher, and dare to profess publicly your religious beliefs, you will soon be discharged, as were the teachers (Miss) Stasė Jasiūnaitė in Kulautuva, (Mrs.) Ona Brilienė in Vilkaviškis, and (Mrs.) Kaušienė in Šiauliai. If you were the chairman of a collective farm, you would also be discharged as was the exemplary leader and father of a large family, Antanas Gražulis.
When a few more zealous and courageous priests established the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights, it was held against them as a crime. When the faithful, lacking a press or other means of communication, began in defense of their rights to issue an underground newspaper, the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, this too was considered a crime.
When certain cases of discrimination against the faithful recorded in that Chronicle got abroad, this was considered vilification of the Soviet system, tantamount to betrayal of the government.
If there were no discrimination against the faithful in Lithuania, if the directives of the USSR Constitution and the UN Declaration of Human Rights were not just empty words, but a reality of life— there would be no Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights, and no Chronicle; there would be no case of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas or Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, or any cases similar to theirs.
Such treatment of zealous priests by the Soviet court does no honor to our government. After all, this is direct persecution of priests for routine fulfillment of their duties. The catechization of children is the most important duty of a priest. This, every conscientious priest understands, and he carries it out with the greatest zeal. The Soviet Constitution and the Declaration of Human Rights, as we see, do not forbid the teaching of religion. This is forbidden by the so-called "Religious Regulations" which contradict the Constitution, the Declaration of Human Rights and Canon Law. Against those religious regulations, over 500 Lithuanian priests and two bishops have spoken out in their petition to the government.
It is very regrettable that the government has ignored that petition of the priests.
The efforts by the government in all sorts of ways to make the nation atheistic are not understandable to us, and arouse concern. After all, life experience teaches that when religion is rejected morality loses its base. We see that already today: alcoholism, divorce, even crimes by school-age youth are quickly increasing. Brother atheists, where are you taking our nation? S.O.S.
Father Gustavas Gudanavičius
Žagarė, January 30, 1984
An Open Letter to Mrs. S. Mockuvienė
Copies to: The Editors of Tiesa (Truth) and Komjaunimo tiesa (Truth for Communist Youth)
The Rosary is Terrible, but the Truth is More Terrible than a Stick
You write that, "Sigitas Tamkevičius more than once said, 'I am interested in purely religious matters, political affairs are foreign to me.' If this were really so, Father Sigitas Tamkevičius would never have ended up in the prisoners' dock... Under the guise of his priesthood and its duties, he specifically and emphatically worked against the state system."
You further show concretely for what kind of "political offenses" this priest was sentenced: For organizing religious processions, for catechizing children, for organizing a children's Christmas party and for voicing a protest against the rampaging of the atheists...
Here you accompany the list of the priest's "offenses" with a self-righteous sigh: "Local government organs needed much patience and persistance to put up for as long as they did with the provocations of this brazen priest."
In showing this kind of self-righteousness, you do not even suspect that you are affronting the morality of civilized people, dooming it to extinction. After all, in any democratic society, similar activity on the part of a priest is not only not condemned, but receives wide approval from the public. Such approval was demonstrated by our people when, protesting against the unfounded accusations against Fathers Sigitas Tamkevičius and Alfonsas
Svarinskas, and at great risk to themselves, about 123,000 people dared to sign petitions. Meanwhile, you try in your barbaric article to foist on everybody the "laws" of life in the jungle. This is happening in the middle of Europe at the end of the Twentieth Century!
And it is without any reason that you are annoyed because the faithful try to compensate their priest for the insult experienced by him, bringing him in three days, an amount of money ten times larger than that of which the atheists robbed him on account of a religious procession. These are not naive people, but very intelligent and decent people. They understand that it is too much for one priest to repair all the wrongs being done by the atheists. It is fully understandable why, upon the arrest of this dedicated priest, believers came forward and signed in their own blood a petition of protest. Some even requested that they be taken to jail, and the priest released. Alas, we are probably trying to explain such things to you in vain.
You indicate that Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, in his sermons, "stated that the Soviet government persecutes believers, demeans believing youth, and students."
At this time, it is impossible to ascertain whether the priest blamed individual government officials for these wrongs, or the government itself, but it is an undeniable truth that these statements of his are true. If you were to ask to be shown even one school in Lithuania where believing pupils have not experienced various demotions, discrimination or other atheistic oppression and persecution, you would not find such a school without offending against the truth. This is witnessed by thousands of people in Lithuania, who, at the risk of their social status, have signed protests.
It would be difficult to asertain what Father Tamkevičius misspoke, as you say, "Comparing the years of Nazi occupation with life today". It is enough to mention only that the Nazis hauled off 300 Lithuanians to concentration camp, while the Soviets exiled to Siberia and crowed into camps in the katorga (penal labor—Trans Note) no fewer than 300,000 of our people... to say nothing of those tens of thousands of slaughtered youth and other civilians in our villages, fields and forests... —just because they wished to fight neither for Berlin nor for the interests of Moscow, but remained faithful to their ancestral home.
And the damage done to our people, and still being done by the Soviet atheists, cannot be measured in any way: the massive spread of drunkenness, thievery, delinquency, the plague of criminal offenses, murder, suicide, divorce, abortions more numerous than births, convent and monastery buildings full of syphilitics churches full of alcoholic beverages (thus is the "dark" past transformed into the "bright"future), is this not the result of compulsory Soviet atheism?
During the years of German occupation, they did not have time to go so far. It is terrible to acknowledge reality openly. But truth is truth, and it is wrong to deny the truth even though it be necessary to die for it in the Gulag.
Father Sigitas Tamkevičius was altogether correct when he dared to acknowledge openly that the Soviet press disseminates lies and deceit. It is not even necessary to prove that. Page through the Soviet press of 1950, 1960, and 1970, and you will see that the press which goes by the name of Truth (Tiesa, Pravda, etc.) condemns and criticizes that which had been proclaimed as the truth a decade earlier. Such heroes as Trotsky, Stalin, Beria, Molotov, Krushchev, Lysenko and others were praised, and later, they were all cast, one-by-one, on the trash heap. At one time, the sciences of cybernetics and genetics were crudely attacked and derided, and later, under the threat of economic catastrophy, all of this was quietly rehabilitated.
If Father Sigitas Tamkevičius advised believing youth not to join atheistic organizations, such advice on his part, teaching them not to be hypocritical, each decent person can only applaud. Can you say that compulsory, hypocritical participation by the youth in the activities of atheistic organizations promotes the development of conscientious citizens?
You ask what Father Tamkevičius has in mind, "threatening that there will be an uprising in the country if the faithful feel wronged"? Surely, you are not unacquainted with history, which shows that nothing evokes heroic resistance on the part of the people so much as attacks on the eternal and sacred values of a nation, among which are freedom of conscience and religion?
Do you really believe it when you say that in the Soviet Union "all—believers and atheists—are equal", etc?! Can you say how many believers are part of the Soviet government apparatus, how many of them work on the editorial staffs of radio, television and newspapers or what Soviet schoolteachers can openly go to church?! Unless it is those who belong to the KGB spy network... or those who, while practicing their religious beliefs, are forced to become
The faithful, gathered outside the courthouse during the 1979 trial of Father Sigitas Tamkevičius. Pastor of Kybartai. Fined 50 rubles for conducting an All Souls' Day procession to the cemetery, he appealed to the Vilkaviškis Rayon Court. Although the appeal was lost and the faithful were barred from the court, they declared a public solidarity with their pastor.
sacrifices of the atheistic government, as happened with the teachers Mrs. Brilienė, Mrs. Kaušienė and others.
Your remark that the Svarinskases and the Tamkevičiuses terrorize the people takes on the tone of raving, and takes your readers for idiots who do not think, and do not understand anything. Surely, those 123,000 people who signed petitions demanding the release of Fathers Svarinskas and Tamkevičius are not really just victims of terrorization on the part of these priests? Who is terrorizing whom here? What names should we use for those who arrested priests so beloved by the people, tried them in secret and hauled them off to the camps in the katorga, just because by word and writing, they dared to defend the rights of the persecuted and terrorized faithful?
Your admission that you did not understand what it means to act in an atheistic manner sounds strange. It would be like a fish complaining that it does not know what it means to swim in the water. I can explain: To act in an atheistic manner means to blaspheme God, the Church, to insult the faithful and everything that is dear and sacred to them in words, as you do in this historical article. The more active atheists rob and burn churches (as they did in Batakiai, Gaurė and Sangruda), desecrate the Blessed Sacrament, demolish Wayside Crosses and cemetery monuments.
There is no need for you to be surprised that Father Tamkevičius does not know the address of UNESCO. After all, you know very well that no complaints of citizens of the Soviet Empire sent to international organizations ever reach the addressee, so there is no need to send it directly to that address. THANKS ONLY TO THE ROUND-ABOUT ROUTES, THANKS TO RADIO, THE ADDRESSEES HEAR OUR CRY. The replies of international organizations to our complaints also never reach Soviet citizens.
The accusations against Father Sigitas Tamkevičius concerning the Christmas tree erected in the churchyard sound strange and downright unintelligible. Let us take a look at the history of the origin of Christmas trees and their symbolism, and we will find that the custom of decorating Christmas trees came to Lithuania, together with the Christmas holidays AS A COMPLEMENT TO THE HOLIDAY. Why should the atheists have the right to have them, and not the faithful?
(And still it is emphasized that there is no discrimination against the faithful.) The Christmas tree is part of the celebration, and not a means of subverting the atheistic Soviet government which has the greatest arsenal of tanks, rockets and atomic bombs in the world. Surely, that little Christmas tree erected in the churchyard of Kybartai could destroy such a great power?
How fearful those atheists are!... A still-greater terror was caused for the atheists in the fact that that Christmas tree ended up in the Chronicle and even in the hands of "calumniators" abroad. It is impossible even to imagine what a terrible weapon this is in the hands of the Soviet government's enemies!
And finally, that Chronicle which is driving the atheists mad with its truth. What have the government atheists not done, and what are they not doing in their attempts to silence the voice of this publication and to extinguish the truth it proclaims? However, no one has been successful in smothering those words written in blood and tears, for which the faithful have willingly gone and are still going the rocky roads of Soviet katorgas and prisons.
And when we speak about the horrible destruction of Wayside Crosses in Lithuania, it is very wrong and dishonest to blame it all on land reclamation. What reclamation experts, and what powerline interests have repeatedly destroyed thousands of crosses on the fortress-hill of Meškuičiai? Was it not those same "land reclamation engineers" from the KGB headquarters who "reclaimed" the crosses from the Cathedral of Vilnius, from the Hill of the Three Crosses in Vilnius, from the Barracks (Įgula) Church in Kaunas and Maiden Hill (Panų Kalnas) in Samogitia? Have they not forbidden monument manufacturers to turn out cemetery monuments in the form of the cross?
In vain do the atheists try to convince the public (and you defend them), that they have not had a hand in the murder of priests. The priests of Lithuania do not walk about with sticks, nor do they crack heads. On the contrary, it is the atheists who break THEIR heads, push them under cars, put them in prison, and aim at them a whole complex of traumatizing methods of which it would be worth speaking more, in a separate article. The fact that the atheists—you among them—call the obvious truth and the rosary a stick, is no surprise. After all, even the powers of hell shudder at these weapons.
January 25, 1984
To: Yuri Andropov, Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR
From: Liudvika K. Mažeikaitė-Sakalauskienė
Taikos pr. 75-47. Copy to: The Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights
Iwas deeply shocked by the imprisonment of the Pastor of Viduklė, Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, and by similar court proceedings being prepared against the Pastor of Kybartai, Sigitas Tamkevičius. There is enough material to enable one to come to the conclusion that you want to "take care of the faithful and the priests who are their leaders, just as you did in Russia. As a matter of fact, they have done nothing wrong against you. After all, even the laws of the USSR do not forbid one to defend oneself or to defend others, if someone attacks you unjustly, or wrongs you. Both of these priests have done their noble duty. They have defended the personal rights and freedoms of people who are believers (and at the same time, human rights and freedoms in general), because the Soviet government is always interfering in ecclesiastical matters trying constantly to do damage. If you try priests, you should also try atheists who in all public media attack religion and priests struggling for the vital interests of the faithful. After all, priests are obliged to defend themselves from the attacks of the atheists, and from terror. This defense, however, you consider a crime.
The Soviet government which you head is based on the law of separation of Church and state, however, you see clearly that it is impossible to separate the Church from the people: Many thousands of people are asking that these two priests be released. On the contrary, it is high time for government officials to become concerned and to draw certain conclusions from their unjust actions, and to begin taking the public seriously. (Would there be such a huge number of witnesses on their behalf if they had done wrong instead of good for people?)
At the beginning of 1983, I was discharged from work ostensibly because of budget cuts. (In accord with Work Code Article 43, Par. 1, I had worked in the bindery of the Kaunas Public Library eleven years and five months, without any demerits. At first. I worked as a librarian, and later, as senior bibliographer.) This happened right after a discussion at work of my letter to you, Comrade Andropov. In it, I had complained that they were trying to put me out of work, and out of my home (Chairman of the Cooperative, A. Antanavičius, and his assistant, Lučkaitis). However, Director Pupienis of the Kaunas Public Library, and other "comrades" used to say, "Don't complain because you'll only make it worse for yourself!"
They have already carried out their words, but I became even more convinced that Soviet government officials can act very unjustly, and even use cruel means of force if one disobeys them without justification.
Therefore, with some reason, I protest against the unjust imprisonment of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and against the trial being prepared for Father Sigitas Tamkevičius. I am in solidarity with those who agreed to go to prison just so they might be free.
October 14, 1983