Žemaičių Kalvarija (Varduva, Plunge Rayon)
The great religious festival of Žemaičių Kalvarija (beginning July 2), was celebrated with great enthusiasm and devotion, in spite of constant government interference: checking of public transportation, registration of private automobiles, strict monitoring of people at work, etc.
Pivašiūnai (Alytus Rayon)
On August 11, 1985, the militia kept stopping people traveling to the religious festival of the Assumption celebrated in Pivašiūnai. That day, they allowed no one to drive into town, rerouting automobiles out into the fields. On the streets and in the churchyard, KGB agents icily scrutinized everyone going to church. The church and churchyard were full of worshippers. His Excellency, Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius also came to the devotions. The bishop concelebrated Holy Mass together with visiting priests, and preached the sermon, during which he emphasized the significance of Mary in our lives and her maternal protection, urging unreserved trust in her under all circumstances. "It is good for us to be here with our mother," said the bishop. In his sermon, he touched upon the fame of the Miraculous image of Mary in Pivašiūnai, known throughout the world. Even the Holy Father, speaking of Lithuania, mentioned it. (Trans, note - an allegedly miraculous painting of the Virgin Mary has twice survived the destruction of the Church of the Assumption, dating from 1648. The provenance of the painting is uncertain.)
Although the KGB did not interfere directly with worshippers, nevertheless, there was an air of tension in the churchyard. It was impossible to purchase any religious articles.
Giedraičiai (Molėtai Rayon)
On August 25, 1985, the 500-year jubilee of the Blessed Mykolas Giedraitis was commemorated. On that occasion, His Excellency Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius administered the Sacrament of Confirmation in Giedraičiai. To the festival came priests of neighboring parishes, and worshippers from various corners of Lithuania: Vilnius, Kaunas, Šiauliai; many children and youths came to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Before services, the bishop blessed an artistic statue of the Blessed Mykolas Giedraitis, carved from oak by folk sculptors for the jubilee. The principal Mass was celebrated by Bishop Sladkevičius, together with the visiting priests. On that occasion, the bishop preached. After services, children and youth greeted him. As might be expected, the jubilee made the authorities uneasy.
In the square before the church, and in the bus station, the militia were on duty, and everywhere the KGB poked about.
šiluva (Raseiniai Rayon)
This year, it was even more difficult to get to the religious festival of Šiluva. Some of the bus routes from rayons and cities had been discontinued, and most of the buses coming from the larger cities would take only as many passengers as there were seats. At the Kaunas bus station, this was a regular occurance. Tickets to Šiluva for the entire octave had been sold out in advance.
Regardless of the difficulties and obstructions, a crowd of worshippers gathered in Šiluva. On September 13, His Excellency Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius who was celebrating his thirtieth anniversary as a bishop, came to the festival at Šiluva.
Before the principal Mass, the clergy greeted the bishop. A large number of priests concelebrated the principal Mass with the bishop, during the sermon, Bishop Steponavičius urged everyone to be loyal to the faith, practice the virtues and to frequent the sacraments. After the services, the bishop was greeted by the children and the youth.
On September 15, the final day of the festival, almost all the bishops of Lithuania and a large crowd of the faithful participated in the serv i ces.
Throughout the entire octave, there were crowds of worshippers at the religious festival of Our Lady, Mother of Mercy of the Gates of Dawn (Aušros Vartų). Before the evening devotions, in the Gate of Dawn Chapel, young people prayed the rosary and sang hymns. There were so many people that the more feeble would not even attempt to climb up the stairs to the chapel, but remained praying on the stairs or in the corridor, which they used to fill right up to the doors.
In church, visiting choirs would sing every day in rotation. The persistence of the worshippers was surprising: hot and tired, not only without a place to sit down on account of the crowds of people, but without even a place to lean, they would remain praying for several hours at a time.
On All Souls' Day, 1985, in the Telšiai Municipal Cemetery, there was a solemn Catholic memorial service. The procession to the cemetery, with the clergy and a large throng of faithful participating, was led by His Excellency, Bishop Antanas Vaičius. The Catholics are grateful for this beautiful commemoration of the dead.
Butrimonys (Šalčininkai Rayon)
The District Chairman of Butrimonys warned Father Vytautas Pūkas through the chairman of the church committee not to organize any procession to the cemetery on All Souls' Day. Father Pūkas did not heed the warning. The atheists closely observed the procession, but did not interfere in the services directly.
At the end of December, 1985, the priests of the Rayon of Šalčininkai were summoned for a talk with local authorities. The traditional report about rayon economic achievements was followed by the Rayon Prosecutor's talk regarding "infractions of the law" and the possible penalties attached thereto. The Prosecutor threatened Father Jonas Vaitonis with penalties for trips to Byelorussia without government permission to minister to the faithful, and the pastor of Butrimonys, Father Vytautas Pūkas, for an All Souls' procession in the cemetery. The Prosecutor emphasized that in the future for teaching catechism to children, allowing children to participate in processions, to sing in choir and other "crimes", suitable penalties would be meted out to priests.
Pociūnėliai (Radviliškis Rayon)
From: The Commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs Attached to the Council of Ministers of the USSR, Lithuania, SSR
To: Pranciškus Kvietkevičius, son of Vincas, and Birutė Gaštentienė, daughter of Klemensas.
It has been determined that the Executive Organ of the Catholic Religious Community of Pociūnėliai, regardless of many repeated urgings from local authorities, has not organized parish founders ("committee of twenty") to sign a new agreement with the Rayon Executive Committee concerning the use of the house of worship and its religious inventory, art and cultural treasures without charge.
I demand that the Executive Organ of the Pociūnėliai community (parish) enter into a contract no later than November 1 of this year
(1985) with the Radviliškis Rayon Executive Committee, concerning the use of the house of worship.
I warn members of the Executive Organ that failing to enter into a contract, the religious association's registration can be nulified, and the church, since it is being used without a contract, can be closed, (signed) Commissioner Petras Anilionis September 18, 1985
October 14, 1985, the District chairman presented the warning to Father Antanas Jokubauskas, pastor of Pociūnėliai.
Viduklè (Raseiniai Rayon)
In the church of Viduklé, on the 26th day of each month -- the arrest date of parish pastor Father Alfonsas Svarinskas -- believers and priests gather in prayer for their imprisoned pastor and all prisoners. The atheists intimidate the youth as much as possible, especially in the school. Services are usually held in the evening, during which there are always detectives in church, counting to see how many school - children are in church, who they are and what they do: sing, lead the prayers, which of them begin the prayers and which of them end, etc. Later, the pupils who have participated in the services are intimidated in one way or another and discussed, whether they will be allowed to take examinations or whether upon completion of middle school, they wi I I not be able to go further for higher studies; they warn people that for their participation in services for convicts (especially the youth), they could be arrested. The detectives assigned observe the priests who arrive, and copy down the sermons they preach and the license numbers of automobiles parked there.
To: The Editor of the Klaipėda Rayon Newspaper Banga (Wave), A. Platužas
Copies to: LSSR Council of Ministers
Commissioner for the LSSR Council for Religious Affairs,
Petras Anilionis His Excellency, the Bishop of Telšiai, Antanas Vaičius
From: Gargždai Parish, Klaipėda Rayon
Associate Pastor Father Antanas Šeškevičius and Organist A. Bumbulius
Editor: In the July 27 issue of Banga, you published an untruthful article by Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis entitled "To
Whom Does the Cemetery Belong?" An explanation of the truth will reveal the falsehood.
1. In the Commissioner's article, J. Kavaliauskas is mentioned and the Commissioner himself speaks about a petition in which "it was written that in the Catholic cemetery of Gargždai, erecting monuments with crosses is prohibited." But they both missed the point, as though neither had seen the petition. We therefore enclose a complete text in the Russian language; this is how it was written to the Committee for Religious Affairs, attached to the USSR Council of Ministers, January 8, 1985, with the signatures of the faithful (150 believers signed -- Editor's Comment).
The petition begins: "You allowed us to erect crosses on the graves of the faithful. Commissioner Anilionis, in a conference in Gargždai, told us that the Factory for Essential Services has to manufacture the crosses at high cost, and factory workers make them secretly. Is that normal? Neither the Ministry of Essential Services nor the Rayon Executive Committee nor other authorities are concerned about this. In reality, there is no permission except your words."
The petition ends: "We sincerely ask you to use your good offices with the appropriate authorities so that the Factory for Essential Services would make us the crosses on order."
So the gist of the petition is as follows: Moscow gave permission to erect the crosses but the factory is not making them, so we asked it to make them.
It is now clear that Kavaliauskas and the Commissioner completely distorted the essence of the petition.
2. When the government opened a new cemetery for the residents of Gargždai, in Laugaliai, they no longer allowed the erection of crosses. Therefore, the church committee of the parish of Gargždai wrote to Commissioner Anilionis on August 2, 1984, the following petition:
"More than once, our parishioners have requested Chief Architect Kelbauskienė of the Klaipėda Rayon for crosses to be erected on graves in the cemetery. She would allow them only to put up a monument from an album of approved examples. In it however, there is no cross but only box-shaped stones, without any religious symbol. Can believers put up such an atheistic monument on the grave of a believer? This would mean that after death, believers are turned into atheists.
"Our parish, like all other parishes of the Diocese of Telšiai, has received from the chancery communication no. 577 (October 1-3, 1954) which says: 'Crosses are permitted to be put up not only in churchyards and cemeteries, but also in the yards of believers; elsewhere, crosses are not erected and not blessed.' That document, of course, was confirmed with the authorities and until now, has not been rescinded. Why then are the faithful now being forbidden to put up crosses and those already erected are being destroyed, causing a world-wide scandal? Therefore, we are forced to ask you that the matter be clearly settled according to the Soviet Const i tut ion.
"1. The erection of a religious monument on the grave of a believer is a part of cult, as emphasized in the Apeigynas (Ritual), Vol. II, pps. 286-288.
"2. To force a believer to choose a non-religious monument is to abrogate freedom of conscience and religion.
"3. The faithful wish not just to attach a small crucifix to the stone, but to erect a real cross.
"4. To force us to put up atheistic monuments in place of crosses is to empoverish Lithuanian art which, down the centuries, has been proud of its artistic crosses of which there are whole albums put together by world-renowned artists.
"5. According to the present plans the monuments would be stereotypic and there would be no room for spontaneous folk art.
"We request the honorable Commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs to grant the faithful the possibility of erecting religious monuments --crosses-- on the graves of the deceased. We await your favorable reply."
Commissioner Anilionis gave a negative reply, tel1ing us to choose a monument from the approved catalogue.
Then the church committee and faithful sent a petition to the Council for Religious Affairs in Moscow, and received a reply through Klaipėda Rayon Executive Committee Vice Chairman Leita, who read it to Chief Architect Kelbauskienė, and to me (Father Šeškevičius): "Whoever did not allow the cross to be erected has committed a grave injustice."
We rejoice that Moscow has allowed it, but alas, the crosses did not show up on the graves of the faithful because the factory did not manufacture them, but in five years, only carved one rather large cross on a rock. They give with one hand and take away with the other, and things remain the same.
Since a monument without a religious symbol cannot be blessed, the faithful attach some sort of crucifix to the rock or request that one be carved. About such "crosses" in the new cemetery, Kavaliauskas informs the Commissioner, while in the old ones are large crucifixes, but only from past times.
Monuments with a little cross carved on it were not allowed in the new cemetery. The faithful used to smear it with black and the security guards would not notice it, so there are monuments with little crosses, but not a single cross.
Editor, invite the author of the untruthful story, Commissioner Petras Anilionis, and go down to the new cemetery in Laugaliai and look for the cross everywhere, and you will not find a single one independently erected as much as 1.2 meters high. But you should have done this before the appearance of the article. J. Kavaliauskas, however, affirms that he found very many crosses. I enclose a view of the new cemetery, so that you may find "many crosses". You won't find them even with" binoculars.
So it is obvious how much such expressions are worth, and what they are good for: "Where do the calumnies come from which prepare such petitions? Why are they not taken to court for lying?" (J. Kavaliauskas) "The authors of the petition are lying and blackening reality" (P. An i l i on i s).
3. The Commissioner accuses us: "...Of collecting signatures of residents, most of which were forged..."
We respond: We absolutely deny that. No objective analysis can prove it, but only confirm that the signatures are authentic. We don't even have to multiply signatures, since we have them; thousands of parishioners would sign, but who needs so many? If they don't pay attention to a hundred, they won't pay any attention to a thousand! Here is a clear example: The Commissioner gladly accepted the untruthful report of one atheist, J. Kavaliauskas, as the real thing, and he did not pay any attention to more than a hundred of the faithful, and even accused them. What kind of logic, what kind of diplomacy is this, coming from such a high official who has been appointed to assist the public? After all, he clearly told the faithful in Gargždai that the factory must turn out the crosses, but he writes just the opposite. Even in Moscow, E.S. Galustian asked our représentâtive whether the factory in Gargždai is making the crosses. Told that it was not, he declared, "They should make them." Talk remains talk when no one puts it in motion.
Even in Akiratis (Perspective), the Commissioner accused us of falsifying signatures, because parishioners called repudiated their signatures. "A stick has two ends": There is another reason for repudiating, that is fear which continues from the days of Stalin. Vice Chairman A. Lei ta uses that means: He summons in writing some believer who has signed more legibly and asks whether he signed. The summons itself is frightening, and the questioning only increases the fear, so there are some who repudiate their signatures. One of those who repudiated his own signature expressed the thinking of all of them: "I signed, but why should I tel I them."
4. The Commissioner writes, "In burgeois Lithuania, church officials were in charge.of cemeteries. They used to decide who was to be buried where... They had set aside in the cemeteries so-called potter's fields where they used to order the burial of suicides, unbaptized children and, of course, non-believers -- atheists."
We would like to explain: In Lithuania, every religious group had its own religious cemetery and put up its own religious monuments -- the Orthodox, the Lutherans, the Jews... where there was a demand, there was also a cemetery for free-thinkers and atheists, for example, near Šiauliai, where several free-thinkers were buried. So everyone was able to put up the kind of monumant he wanted and to choose the place. Since a religious community looks upon cemeteries with special respect, so the Catholic Church ordered them to be blessed (Code of Canon Law, Canon 1205), and to leave an unconsecrated section for those who could not be buried with the Church: "If possible, let a place be set aside and kept for those to whom a Church funeral has been refused." (Canon 1212)
Here they used to inter unbaptized children, for they were not yet members of the Church, and those who fell away: atheists, suicides and public sinners. Since they did not wish to be with us in life, they were left free in death.
Because the atheistic government has taken all cemeteries under its own administration, there are no denominational cemeteries; even though Kavaliauskas still speaks of a Catholic cemetery in Gargždai, even though freedom of conscience and religion is now proclaimed (Constitution, Art.
50), nevertheless, every religious group (Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Jews ...) have to inter their members only in common state cemeteries, and erect the kind of monuments which the state determines.
According to the Commissioner, there is greater freedom of conscience now. However every relgious group would be very grateful to the government if the latter assigned to the faithful at least the kind of corner the Church used to assign to atheists in its cemeteries. She never required that a few atheists be interred with the faithful, but used to segregate them according to religious principal, and now, all the faithful have to be interred in atheistic cemeteries where no religious monument or cross was provided for, as though only atheists were buried there. This is very painful for the faithful. They therefore request that they be allowed to erect a cross at least at the grave of a believer.
5. The Commissioner accuses us: "The petition was addressed to foreign anti-Soviet propaganda centers."
Response: This is made up of whole cloth, dishonorable and illogical. If the purpose were such, one signature would suffice, while we have been struggling for crosses in our cemetery for five years now, and we have not heard any report from abroad, even though the Commissioner heard: "This petition was soon read over Vatican Radio with juicy commentaries."
With regard to the razing of the church-barracks of Gargždai, the faithful have been writing petitions for perhaps eight months, and Moscow has been relaying them to the Commissioner, and he, to the Klaipėda Rayon Executive Committee, and always with the same annotation: No! "According to jurisdiction", as though the Commissioner's office were an empty place to send petitions. This shows that the Commissioner is not inclined to help the faithful, even though they are suffering in a barracks. This is confirmed by his final, distinctive reply: "There is no need!", even though thousands are requesting the raising of the roof, while he, Anilionis, is appointed to assist the public: "The Communist Party of the Soviet Union exists for the people and serves the people." (Constitution, Art.6)
Even though the authorities are acting so inhumanly at this point, nevertheless the people of Gargždai heard nothing about it from the Vatican. We've gathered all the Commissioner's accusations, publicly bare his morals which ignore Art. 55 of the LSSR Constitution and, by the same token, transgress Art. 52, stirring up discontent between Church and state, hurting himself and the state.
Intellectuals and diplomats do not act so. The Commissioner calls clergy the "church gang". Such nomenclature means that they are insulted, and shows the author's cultural level. How must a bishop or priest feel, addressing such an intermediary between Church and state? They label as extremists those priests who try the least bit to defend the Church's affairs, in an effort to demean and silence them.
6. We appeal to the LSSR Council of Ministers to see how the
Commissioner represents the state.
To our bishop, to be aware how the Commissioner treats priests. We appeal also to the Commissioner himself because silence would be a transgression against the truth.
We appeal to the editor of Banga so that he might be aware of how he is publishing false articles on questions of worldview. He goes by the rule: Whatever is against religion and priests is all true, because they have no voice in the press, and so they will have to keep quiet, and the one who vilifies them will be right. For example, the hack writer M. Dausynas wrote all sorts of nonsense in his anti-religious articles, and the editors published everything March 30. In Banga, he wrote, "According to the church people, it (confession) was instituted by Christ when, at the Last Supper, addressing His apostles... "
He thus showed that in the field of religion, he is an illiterate; such is the level of the editors also who print it. Since the faithful do not have any religious newspaper, they cannot write the truth, their plight is worse than that of the Negroes in Africa, or of the Asiatics. Although Art. 48 of the LSSR Constitution guarantees citizens freedom of speech and of the press, it would nevertheless be very naive to request the editor that the untruthful article of the Commissioner be unmasked and recalled in accordance with the specific facts in this petition.
The faithful have neither a religious newspaper, nor journal nor religious books to read, so they are forced to live in great religious obscurity such as our nation has never experienced. Under the Czar, book smugglers used to bring books over from Tilžė (Tilsit), but now it is iompossible to obtain any religious books from abroad. In the meantime, Poland, Democratic Germany and Hungary have religious magazines and books. True, during forty years of "freedom" of the press, they have allowed the clergy to publish a few books, an almanac, a catechism and a quantity of prayerbooks such that a hundred thousand people received only a few.
If, in former times, a beggar would have received so little alms, he would soon have died of starvation. Part of religious starvation is the fact that the priest has no right to teach a few children catechism in church. Where are they to learn if there is no catechism intended for children? How are the parents to teach them without a book? All that remains is to die of religious starvation and become atheists. Meanwhile, in other democratic lands, they teach secondary school students religion in church.
See what kind of freedom of religious speech and religious press we have! We do not expect any retraction, but only greater defamation.
1.Photographs of the old and new cemeteries of Gargždai.
2.Copy of the petition in Russian.
3.An article by Commissioner P. Anilionis
Gargždai, August 27, 1985
On September 17, 1985, Commissioner Petras Anilionis replied to Father Antanas Šeškevičius and organist A. Bumbulis, saying that the examples cited in the newspaper reflect reality, and so discussion regarding this question is unnecessary.
To: The LSSR Commissioner for Religious Affairs, Petras Anilionis
Copies to: The Honorable Bishops and Administrators of Lithuania
From: Father Gustavas Gudanavičius, Administrator
Esteemed Commissioner, in connection with my petition of August 25, 1985, to General Secretary MikhaiI Gorbachev, of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR, in which I expressed thanks for his determined war "on all sorts of evils which have become prevalent in our lifetime, and especially on the intemperate consumption of alcoholic beverages drunkenness", and I asked in the name of the faithful of Lithuania that one more evil "be abolished from our life, namely the carrying out on a wide scale among us of discrimination against the faithful". Coming to Joniškis, you "brainwashed me" for two hours in an effort to prove that black is white and white is black. You called my petition libellous, and you threatened me with certain articles of the Criminal Code if I did not stop writing.
Seeing evil manifest in the world or falsehood triumphant, losing patience, I occasionally write to someone. I write openly, making use of the freedom of speech and of press guaranteed in the Constitution, and if some correspondents use that material for their own ends, I will not be responsible.
Since after your long talk I was in a hurry and could not respond to you, therefore, I resolved to respond in writing to false accusations which you have brought against me. I would like to clear up certain details touched upon in my petition and in our conversation.
1. Honorable Commissioner, you affirm that there is no discrimination against the faithful among us, that all believers regardless of the position they occupy, may freely attend church: the parents have the right of teaching their children the truths of the faith, that enough prayerbooks, catechisms and other literature are published.
But what does the Constitution say on this question? "All citizens of the USSR are equal before the law, regardless of their origin, social status... education, language or relationship with religion." (Art. 34)
"Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of speech, the press, meetings and assembly, parades and demonstrations." (Art. 50)
"Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience; that is, the right to profess any religion or the right not to profess any. To engage in rel igious worship, or to conduct atheistic propaganda." (Art. 52)
"The Church is separated from the state, and the school from the Church."
Such is the law, and that is what you affirm, but how is it in practice? What do the facts say? All those articles of the Constitution just mentioned concerned with the faithful and government officials are violated. For processions to SHuva or to the cemetery on All Souls' to pray for the dead, for a publicly uttered word, defending believers' rights, for the group instruction of children in preparation for reception of the sacraments, priests and laity are punished by fines or imprisonment.
The faithful are absolutely terrorized, as a climate of intolerence in their regard is created. The children of believing parents are afraid to go to church, lest they suffer in school. Many employees, even at the lowest grade, are afraid to go to their own church lest they suffer at work. What are we to say about teachers? They are discharged from work. On this matter I wrote to General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.
Among us, for atheistic propaganda and the war against religion, the atheists have at their disposal the press, radio, television, auditoriums and squares, while believers have no right to avail themselves of all this. Believers have the right to carry out worship ceremonies only in church. The priest has no right to teach children the truths of religion, even in church at the request of the parents. There is your equality guaranteed before the law to all citizens!
According the Regulat ions for Religious Associat ions, priests may teach children the truths of religion only from the age of eighteen. And how about the teaching of atheism? Government officials strictly require of teachers that the children in all schools, beginning with kindergarten, be educated in the atheistic way. What a gross infraction of the rights of believing parents. Have believing parents, as citizens of the State with equal rights, conferred upon teachers such a right, the right to hurt their children?
2. Art. 52 of the Constitution states that in the USSR, the Church is separated from the State. If it is, then why do officials of the state interfere so grossly in the internal life of the Church?
Let us take the seminary. The last word concerning the suitability of a candidate to the seminary belongs not to the seminary administration or bishop, but to the Commissioner for Religious Affairs, presently you. To that abnormality, I directed the attention of the Honorable General Secretary Gorbachev in my petition. You did not deny that fact, but only offered the excuse that the candidates you cross off are politicians crippled by reactionary priests, and the Church does not need priest-politicians. In this way, you decide whether this candidate will make a good priest or a poor one.
Who gave you that right and omniscience? One would have to think that the seminary administration, in the course, of f ive years of studies and training, would better able to test whether such a candidate would result in a good priest or a politician. You evaluate people according to the standard of atheistic materialism, and so you designate the best priests as reactionary, as politicians, etc. You mentioned a few names to me, but these are our best priests, who, perhaps had even made some mistake in their youth, but they have atoned for it in good measure.
But are not those priests and seminarians recruited by state security agents greater politicians, who in their desire to enroll in the seminary, succumb to pressure and agree to cooperate, spying on their own leadership and friends? Perhaps you will say that this is calumny. This fact has long been known to everyone, but only recently Father Rokas Puzonas brought to light the fact that it is not calumny but the truth. And I have experienced it myself. About this, more later.
If the Church is separated from the state, then why do you assign priests to parishes? Having finished our conversation, I asked you why you keep the bishop from transferring me from Žagarė? You replied that it is the bishop's business. The bishop says that Commissioner Anilionis does not agree to it. I have been asking His Excellency the Bishop since 1978 to transfer me from Žagarė for pastoral reasons. But when, in the fall of 1983, the parish buiIding where I live was set afire by some unknown vandals, and I survived only by a miracle, I again asked the bishop to transfer me to another parish. The answer was the same, "The Commissioner does not agree to it."
So who assigns priests to parishes? Why do you interfere in the internal affairs of the Church? After all, the Church is separated from the state. That discrimination against the faithful, government officials have been practicing for a long time. I experienced this personally in 1961.
While administering the parish of Kulautuva, and at the same time recuperating from tuberculosis, I managed with some difficulty to construct a rectory for the parish. I helped out with the construction myself. I used to invest all of my personal savings. I had just about gotten into my new apartment still not entirely finished and was rejoicing at being able to get at least a little rest, to finish my treatment for tuberculosis in the pine stand of Kulautuva. But it was not to be... Immediately, a KGB agent showed up, and suggested that I "help educate priests". Since I did not feel prepared to be such a "pedagogue", and firmly refused, I was transferred from Kulautuva in a couple of months.
The late Canon J. Stankevičius, at that time the administrator of the archdiocese, summoned me and said, "Rugienis (at that time Commissioner for Religious Affairs) is demanding that you be transferred from Kulautuva and from the Kaunas Rayon, and we are suggesting that you go to Paliepiai, Raseiniai Rayon)."
It was then that my way of the cross began. Is this not gross interference in the affairs of the Church and discrimination against believers?
Is it not because of the same kind of gross interference of government officials in the affairs of the Church that Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius of Vilnius has been exiled to Žagarė without any trial and for twenty-five years now has been living in isolation from his flock?
3. In my petition to General Secretary Gorbachev, I wrote that the Reguiations for Religious Associations are contrary to the Constitution of the USSR and to international agreements, to the United Nations Deciaration of Human Rights and to the Helsinki Accords which the Soviet Union also signed, and obiligated itself to keep. I asked you to abolish those religious regulations. You replied that those international agreements are not legally binding with us. Strange! Why then sign if there is no intention of abiding by them. Is it really so?
4. I wrote to Mikhail Gorbachev that after years of interfering with the teaching of the truths of faith and Christian morals to children, and discrimination against the faithful going on, the morality of the youth is declining, alcoholism is rampant and criminal activity is on the increase.
You tried to explain that faith has nothing in common with morality, that religion does not have any influence on morality, and that believers, too, break the law. To prove this, you brought some pre-war publications in which were described terrible crimes: robberies and murders. It is not true. Religion is the basis of morality. True, the faithful also break the law, but this only shows the weakness of their faith. And conversely: with the diminishing of the inflence of religion, morality is on the decline. "If there is no God, then everything is allowed," says Doestoyevski's Ivan (Brothers Karamazov). History shows it.
Before the Second World War, I was a teacher, a class counselor. In those days, religion used to be taught in schools, and the high school Ateitininkai organizati on was operati ve with its motto, "To renew all things in Christ". The Scouts' organization was active with its motto, "For God, Country and neighbor." Pupils used to go to Communion and pray. How fine our youth was then. Crime among schoolchildren was a rare thing.
But what is going on today, when religion classes have been done away with, when even the children of believing parents are made into atheists in all sorts of ways? In 1984, In the Middle School of Žagarė, two instances of rape took place, and how much other hooliganism is there? When religious practice was done away with, so was sin, and a new road to crime opened up. And what has become of our families? Before the war, there were no divorces; families were large and morally sound. But what has happened in the last forty years? More than a third of marriages end in divorce. The average size of a family is 3.2, rampant alcoholism leads to fetal alcohol syndrome. In other words, the nation is dying. This is where atheism is taking the nation!
You express satisfaction that people today are much better off materially, with cars and good apartments, but what good is that when the nation is diminishing? Finally, can religion be an obstacle to a rise in the standard of living? I think that with the help of religion during the past forty years, we would have had better results materially, and especially spiritually.
Honorable Commissioner, you even make use of Canon Law to support your theses. The fact that you read is commendable. I have an earnest request: do not keep the Catholic Church from acting in accord with Canon Law and there will be no conflicts. The Church does not meddle in the rights of the civil government. It brings nations the Good News of Christ, it forms souls, elevates the morality of nations, and by the same token helps states and nations. I am reminded of a lecture by our renowned educator, the late Stasys Šalkauskis, on the partners in education: They are the state, the Church and the school. Only the close cooperation of the three brings good results. The truth of that statement was witnessed by the gaps in the education of our younger generation today. Once atheism has been proclaimed as a state religion and the Church is prevented in all sorts of ways from carrying out its mission, more and more apemen turn up, living only the life of the senses, as slaves to their baser instincts. This is why there are so many criminals, alcoholics and wrecked families.
Even the war against alcohol ism would be more effective if the Church were not prevented from carrying out its mission. Bishop Motiejus Valančius, in the 19th Century, slew this dragon in two years with the help of temperence brotherhoods. The bishop's authority and the living faith of the people saved the nation. It is doubtful whether the pedagogy of monetary fines and camps will be so successful. As liaison between Church and state, please convey these thoughts to the honorable Secretary, Mikhail Gorbachev.
Žagarė, December 17, 1985
Gargždai (Klaipėda Rayon)
On June 29, 1985, Petronė Kapičkienė, an eighty-one year-old lady living in Gargždai, at Komjaunimo 61, was visited by two government representatives, Teacher Pukinskaitė and a man in civilian garb. In the apartment with Mrs. Kapičkienė they found twenty-three children preparing for First Confession and Communion. The frightened children wanted to flee, but only one girl was successful. The old lady was told, "You have no right to teach. Let the parents teach them, or let them study themselves. You are going to be punished. That's the law!"
"I'm not doing anything wrong, I don't take money for teaching them. The people compensate me with food. I receive only 28 rubles in pension, and I have a daughter who has been an invalid for 55 years...," Mrs. Kapičkienė defended herself.
"You'll sell the food and pay your fine," warned the government officials and wrote a report on her. From that day on, the children stopped coming to study with Mrs. Kapičkienė. Twenty of them, the little old lady prepared by teaching them in the churchyard. Sometime later, she received a notice that at 5:00 PM, July 31, 1985, a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Peoples' Deputies of the City of Gargždai of the Administrative Committee, Klaipėda Rayon, would take place which she was obliged to attend. Her case would be discussed for teaching children catechism.
The little old lady became ill, and was admitted to the hospital, so she did not go to the meeting of the administrative committee. Returning from the hospital, Mrs. Kapičkienė received a second summons to come to the meeting of the administrative committee August 28. She did not go because she was not feeling well again. To her daughter who attended, it was explained that her mother was doing great damage to the state. "She was teaching children their prayers..."
Finally, Mrs. Kapičkienė received in the mail a document in which it is indicated, "We are sending you the June 28, 1985 decision of the City of Gargždai Soviet Executive Committee, by which you are warned for transgression of Par 214 of the Lithuanian SSR Code of Administrative Law. M. Jurevičiūtė, Chair of the Administrative Committee."
"Administrative Case No. 23-85 Decision, Gargždai, August 28, 1985: "The Administrative Committee of the Executive Committee of Gargždai, Klaipėda Rayon:
Chai r Miss M. Jurevičiūtė
Secretary Mrs. J. Surplienė
Members: Z. Lukas, Mrs. M. Vaišnorienė
"Having considered in open session Administrative Case No. 23-85, it has been determined that Petronė Kapičkienė, daughter of Pranas, residing at Gargždai, Komjaunimo 61, on June 29, 1985, taught twenty-three children catechism and so transgressed againt Par. 214 of the Code of Offenses Against USSR Administrative Law.
"Complying with the Régulât ions for Administering and Recovering of Administrative Fines, this committee has decided to issue Mrs. p. Kapičkienė an administrative fine in the form of a warning."
Viduklė (Raseiniai Rayon)
For a long time, the KGB demanded that Mrs. Stonienė, a resident of Viduklė, Šaltinio-5, remove from the register Monika Gavėnaitė, former housekeeper of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, registered as living with her. Since Mrs. Stonienė has refused to comply with the demands of the KGB, Miss Gavėnaitė's registration was cancelled by her sister, Ona Gudaitytė.
Miss Gavėnaitė attempted to register with other residents of the town. However, when they filled out registration blanks, KGB agents would visit them with various warnings and calumnies to the effect that Miss Gavėnaitė was a state criminal and could cause them problems.
Having been unable to register in Viduklė-, she tried to register in Šiauliai, but there also, KGB agents came and explained to the landlady that Miss Gavėnaitė was a deserter, a state criminal and finally, with regard to registering, they threatened to take away from her her cooperative apartment. After such "explanations" and others like them, and warnings, the woman actually fell ill. Miss Gavėnaitė was sucessful in registering only in a village: Adakavas, Tauragė Rayon.
On December 16, she was summoned to the rayon and warned by the KGB chief to live quietly in his rayon, since according to available information, she had not lived in other rayons peacefully.
Kiaukliai (Širvintai Rayon)
At the beginning of June, 1985, the faithful erected an artistic cross on the gravesite of a soldier who had been killed at some time or other at Kiaukliai, along the highway to Širvintai. On the morning of June 12, the people of Kiaukliai saw that their cross had been dug up and the planted flowers uprooted. Residents Malvina Butkuvienė, Genė Gudonienė, Robertas Grigas, Ona Polkienė and Karolis Dėdelis spoke with District Chairman Karoliūnas, demanding that he find the night marauders and compensate for the moral and material damage done to the faithful. The chairman explained that the cross had been demolished on orders from above, that it had been erected without government permission and moreover, on collective farm land.
Karaliūnas reminded them of the Regulations for Religious Associ at ions, and when it was pointed out that they contravene Canon Law, that more than 500 priests refuse to abide by them, he retorted, "Perhaps ten million Party members voted for those Regulations. To whom should we I isten?"
Since the Chairman said that he could neither allow the reconstruction of the cross nor find the culprits, the people went to see Vice Chairman Tvirbutas at the rayon but they could not find him. The rayon architect explained that this was the first case in his professional experience, and he could do nothing without consultation with Vilnius.
The people went to the rayon militia and wrote a complaint addressed to the Chief, demanding that he find the culprits and rectify the wrong done to the faithful. On June 17, Ona Polkienė, Mykolas Butkus, Genė Gudonienė and Robertas Grigas went to Širvintai and presented a similar petition, signed by eleven residents of Kiaukliai to Vice Chairman Tvirbutas. The latter ominously asked whether the church committee was concerned in this, or "was another organization starting up".
To the explanation that the demolition of the cross wronged not only the members of the committee but to every believer, he did not respond. He demanded that they tell who, specifically, made and erected the cross. Then the government would negotiate with him personally about compensation for damages. When the faithful replied that everyone worked on it and erected it together, the Vice Cha irman refused to talk with them any further. He was very angry that they had come as a delegation and not as individuals. He accused the sacristan, Robertas Grigas, of inciting people and threatened to square accounts with him and Father Rokas Puzonas in the near future.
"The days of the crosses are gone and they will never return," the Vice Chairman spoke angrily, "the Soviet government will go on forever!"
During the conversât ion, the Vice Chairman assailed Father Rokas Puzonas, explaining that a priest is forbidden to associate with youth, his sphere of activity is strictly regulated, confined to the house of prayer and not beyond. When the people bridled at such Soviet "equality", the Vice Chairman affirmed that believers would not attain any other equality, that all the offenses being committed by the pastor of Kiaukliai were being recorded and when the time came, "The accounts would be rendered."
He said that the government knows everything, but is being lenient, patiently waiting for things to improve, and this was why it had not meted out any penalty last year for teaching children or for the school childrens' "trips" this year.
When Ona Polkienė explained that the children associate with the priest in keeping with the parents' wishes, and expressed annoyance at the fact that they are being enrolled in atheistic organizations under duress, and being coerced without the parents' knowledge to write statements and testify against the pastor and being threatened and interrogated, Tvirbutas replied that it was legal: one is allegedly allowed to question children in the presence of the teacher.
On the night of October 8-9, 1985, in place of the demolished cross, there appeared another one, of iron, in the form of a shoot sprouting out of a cut-off stump. The cross stood on the old site, between four evergreens planted in the square where, according to the testimony of people, the grave had been.
On October 9, District Chairman Karaliūnas, Collective Farm Chairman Kinshev, Party Organizer J. Stakelskis and Agronomist V. Kanaprokas came. The officials threw a cable around the cross, uprooted it and hauled it off to the cemetery.
Sometime later, in one of the evergreens, just about at the top, the people fastened an artisticly designed little shrine. Within a few days, the evergreens had been cut down.
Gargždai (Klaipėda Rayon)
In the spring of 1985, not without the knowledge of Gargždai Soviet Farm Director Melderis, under the pretense of reclamation work, an old wayside cross of wood which had stood in the Village of Kvietiniai was knocked down. At the end of May, the faithful erected another cross in place of the one which had been toppled. Before it had been there a month, the second cross too was pushed over.
Marcinkonys (Varėna Rayon)
During the month of December, 1985, by order of the Marcinkonys Farm Director, a fallen cross which the faithful (tardily, to be sure) had been preparing to repair was cut up for firewood.
On August 17, 1985, in the recovery room of the Klaipėda City Hospital, Pranas Paulauskas, a religious believer, died without receiving the sacraments. Mrs. Vanda Paulauskienė, the patient's wife, had repeatedly requested the doctor on duty to allow a priest to come in, but the doctor would not