• Visiting Italian journalist receives "objective" information about the situation of the Catholic Church in Lithuania
• Numerous raids by the security police are followed by interrogations
• Text of petition sent by 1,000 believers requesting an able-bodied priest for their parish; and its aftermath
• Priests are fined for catechization of children (Father Molis, Father Nykštus, Father Žvinys, Father Galvydis)
• Text of a declaration sent by Father B. Laurinavičius to various ecclesiastical and Soviet authorities
• Nuns are dismissed from their positions
• The authorities allow twelve candidates to enter the theological seminary
• The erection of a cross on the Hill of Crosses results in interrogations
• The authorities hamper believers on their way to a religious festival at Šiluva
• Pastor is upbraided for organizing volunteer workers to clean the church
• Confirmation rites are cancelled due to "harvesting"
• Tarasov of the Council for Religious Affairs declares that the believers of Klaipėda must be content with their overcrowded church
• Woman is fined for selling devotional articles
• Classmates are not allowed to attend a boy's funeral
• Schoolchildren are made to answer a questionnaire on religious topics
At the invitation of the press agency Novosti, the editor of an Italian Catholic weekly, Rugiero Orfeio, visited Soviet Lithuania. The guest from Rome toured the Vilnius home construction combination, viewed Lazdynai, Karoliniškė, the architectural landmarks of the old-town section, and spent some time in several churches during services. At the end of his visit, R. Orfeio stated, "Of great interest to me was the condition of Catholics under socialism. I was in [Saints] Peter and Paul's as well as [Saint] Ann's churches during services. After seeing the religious rites with my own eyes, I became convinced that Catholics are not being persecuted but are free to fulfill their duties. This impression of mine was confirmed by a lengthy and open discussion with Msgr. Česlovas Krivaitis, the ecclesiastical administrator of the Vilnius Archdiocese. This distinguished clergyman gave me an objective account of the field of action of the Roman Catholic Church in Lithuania and of the situation of the clergy and the believers. The concrete facts that he presented convinced me that the Catholic Church in Soviet Lithuania functions normally. Unfortunately, in Italy many individuals provide inaccurate information, with the goal of distorting and blackening the reality of this socialistic country. Upon my return to my homeland, I shall relate at great length my impressions of Lithuania, which has attained a number of worthy achievements" (Gimtasis kraštas [Native land], Nov. 8, 1973).
To enable the formation of a more comprehensive picture of the situation of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, we shall present the following remarks:
1. For some reason the editors [of Gimtasis kraštas"] failed to mention the title of the Catholic weekly, and therefore the thought comes to mind that the aforementioned editor is a member of the staff of L'Unita [Italian Communist newspaper]. Since when has the press agency Novosti become concerned about presenting "objective" information to the world through Catholic journalists?
RELIGIOUS "FREEDOM" IN LITHUANIA
On November 14, 1973, the decision was made by the State Security Committee to organize a great number of searches in order to liquidate the secret publication TheChronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania and the underground centers at which prayer books and religious literature are printed and to destroy all literature of a religious nature.
Before dawn on November 20, 1973, a group of security police arrived to search the quarters of Father J. Lauriūnas, pastor of the parish in Kabeliai. In command was Capt. Kazanavičius of the State Security Committee Interrogation Department. The security police had brought with them from Druskininkai as witnesses Vytautas Žukauskas and Juozas Šlikas, who actually functioned as security agents during the search. Documents and literature slandering the Soviet form of government were sought in both the residence and the outbuildings. Taken during the search were two typewriters; nine typewriter ribbons; a goodly amount of writing paper; approximately ten typewritten religious books, among them, Niekšybės paslaptis [The mystery of iniquity], Kristus ir krikščioniškoji asmenybė [Christ and the Christian personality], Viešpatie, ateik [Come, O Lord]; some twenty metallic pictures, and a great number of various manuscripts. In one room even the floor was torn up. The secret police searched Father Lauriūnas as well. Since the search, the pastor has already been interrogated twice, and it is uncertain how long this vexation will be continued.
THE ARCHDIOCESE OF VILNIUS
"To: K. Tumėnas, LSSR Commissioner of the Council
for Religious Affairs
Rev. C. Krivaitis, the ecclesiastical administrator
of the Vilnius Archdiocese
A Petition from the faithful of the Parish in Mielagėnai
in Ignalina Rayon
"Because the pastor of our parish, Father Vincentas Miškinis, is already eighty years old and afflicted with a great number of illnesses, he is no longer able to minister to our needs. Several years ago, during Lent, some neighboring priests came to minister to us (hear confessions and preach). At that time, Gudukienė, chairwoman of the Ignalina Executive Committee summoned Father Miškinis and upbraided him because other priests were helping out at Mielagėnai.
"Last summer, our pastor went away to undergo treatment. Practically every Sunday during his absence no services were held. We then appealed to the archdiocesan curia to appoint us a priest who was not incapacitated. We promised to maintain both priests, since the state grants no pensions to elderly priests or sacristans who are no longer able to work (even though ministers of the cult are required to pay sizeable income taxes to the state).
Father Konstantinas Molis was preparing children for their first confession and First Communion. On May 27, 1973, a committee of six persons came to the church in Rūdiškės, where about fifty children had gathered. The members of the committee were very polite; they merely listened and waited in church for the end of the proceedings. When the priest, having finished with his explanation, dismissed the children, the members of the committee approached the parents. They asked why their children had assembled here. They wrote down the names of the parents and their addresses.
After several days, the Procurator of Trakai Rayon summoned many of the children and also Father Molis. During his interrogation, the priest admitted that he had been teaching the children. He said his conscience and his sense of priestly duties had compelled him to do so.
The people became frightened and addressed a petition to the Procurator of Trakai Rayon, which was signed by twenty persons. The petition pointed out that Father Molis was completely innocent because the parents had asked him to teach their children.
"To: Tarasov, the Commissioner of the Council for
Religious Affairs Attached to the Council
of Ministers of the USSR
H.E. Bishop J. Labukas, Apostolic Administrator
of the Kaunas Archdiocese
The Curia of the Vilnius Archdiocese
K. Tumėnas, Commissioner of the Council
for Religious Affairs
Purvaneckaitė, Chairwoman of the Švenčionys
Rayon Executive Committee
A Declaration by the Rev. B. Laurinavičius, a resident of
Adutiškis, Švenčionys R a y o n, the LSSR
"On July 16, 1973, Adutiškis Locality Chairman A. Laurinavičius demanded the church keys. When asked for the reason, he replied, 'An important guest has come from Moscow—Tarasov. He wants to inspect the church.'
"In the churchyard I met you; K. Tumėnas, the LSSR commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs; Purvaneckaitė, chairwoman of the Švenčionys Rayon Executive Committee; un unknown man; and A. Laurinavičius, chairman of Adutiškis Locality. You questioned me:
1. To the question 'How many come to church?' I replied that I did not know because we do not count. To enable me to answer your question, on July 22, 1973, we counted 722 persons. No conclusion can be drawn from this, however, since many are unable to come to church on account of distance, lack of transportation, and many other obstacles. For instance, one of my parishioners, Feliksas Kairys, bringing me home from sick call, on April 14, 1973, spoke to me with tears in his eyes: 'After working hard for some time, I bought myself a suit, but what's the use? It's been two years now that I've meant to put in on and go to church. Alas, I can't do it because I'm haunted by fear. In the spring, Director Galvydis of the Jakeliai State Farm threatened me, "If you don't come to work on Sunday, you won't get a horse, neither for harrowing nor for bringing in wood, nor any hay for your cow, nor the use of the combine to thresh your barley."'
1. [Miss] Bronė Pupkevičiūtė, candidate for a graduate degree in education, who had been working as a senior fellow at the Scientific Research Institute of Pedagogy. On May 7, 1973, V. Rajeckas, director of the institute, under pressure from the organs of state security, ordered her to submit a statement that she was resigning of her own free will. Pupkevičiūtė is accused of having been a nun.
2. [Miss] Domicėlė Gailiušytė, a French language instructor with a college degree, who had been working at the secondary school in N. Vilnia. She was discharged from work in May, 1973. Gailiušytė is accused of having been a nun.
3. [Miss] Elena Šulinauskaitė, chief laboratory assistant of the history department at the University of Vilnius (college graduate). In May, 1973, Assistant Rector B. Sudavičius informed her that it was impossible for her to engage in any educative work at the university because she was a nun.
4. Šidla Voldemaras, a graduate in economics, who worked as director of the School of Commerce. At the end of May, 1973, he was discharged because he would not expel two students who wanted to commemorate the sixteenth of February [Lithuanian Independence Day].
THE ARCHDIOCESE OF KAUNAS
In 1973 the authorities allowed the seminary administration to accept twelve applicants to the interdiocesan theological seminary in Kaunas. Two candidates were struck off the list by the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs, K. Tumėnas. The most important role in accepting applicants to the seminary is played by the security police. If a candidate seems somehow unsuitable to them, he is not allowed to enroll.
As 1973 was ending, forty-eight seminarians were studying at the theological seminary in Kaunas. The Soviet government awaits the day when there will be no more applicants for the seminary; then they will abolish the limitation—anyone who wants to will be able to join.
In Lithuania there is a famous fortress hill at Meškuičiai called the Hill of Crosses. At one time it was covered with a great number of crosses erected by many Lithuanians, but atheists have desecrated this sacred place many times, tearing down the crosses and burning them. People however have continued to cart, carry, and erect both large and little crosses on this hill so dear to the heart of every Lithuanian.
The Hill of Crosses had almost recovered from the damage it suffered during the devastation of 1961. Unfortunately, at the end of April, 1973, it was grievously ravaged once more; there was no sign left that once there had been crosses here. The desolate, denuded hill seemed to be waiting for believing hands and loving hearts to once more crown its desecrated head with the symbol of the Redemption—the Cross.
At midnight on May 19, 1973, an unusual procession appeared on the outskirts of the city of Šiauliai. A small group of serious and meditative young men and women were carrying a cross. They walked quietly, pensively, saying the rosary. From time to time the cross, measuring three meters (nine feet and nine inches) and weighing forty-five kilograms (ninety-nine pounds) was transferred from the shoulders of one youth to those of another. The cross was decorated with symbolic ornamentation: a heart pierced by two swords. On the handle of one sword was a swastika, and on the other, a five-pointed star.
Lithuanian youths were carrying the cross, not in the quest of health, but in atonement for the desecration of the Cross and in reparation for the sins of our nation against the Redeemer. They carried the cross as a symbol of victory. On the night of May 19, many people knew about this procession with the cross, and they devoted an hour to prayer and the veneration of the cross. During that hour, many, with hands joined in prayer, carried the Cross of Christ in spirit. All the crossbearers had received Holy Communion the previous evening.
In the early days of September, 1973, during the feast of the Nativity of Mary, huge crowds of people flocked to Šiluva. On Sunday, September 9, automobiles could no longer get into Šiluva and the fields around the town of Šiluva were full of cars. This year the auto inspectors were considerably more polite than they had been last year. Nevertheless, they still tried to nab the buses on which pilgrims were traveling to Šiluva. The pilgrims have recounted the following: "When we were about three kilometers from Šiluva, the auto inspectors and auxiliary policemen stopped our bus. For a long time our driver was grilled and accused of planning to let the passengers out at Šiluva and of not going to Pakruojis, for in the trip log, Pakruojis was listed as the final destination. After harassing the driver for half an hour, they confiscated his routing slip and passenger list, and issued him a permit to proceed only to Pakruojis. It was late at night when, after lengthy detours, the people reached Šiluva on foot."
On Sunday, September 9, the Raseiniai police confiscated the candles from vendors near the Šiluva chapel. They pushed one woman into their vehicle and took her away. On the evening of September 8, the police took away to Raseiniai an old woman who was shouting "People, help me!" as they drove off with her.
At the secondary school in Pabaiskas, a conference on nurturing the spirit of internationalism was organized for the teachers in early March, 1973. Vladas Vembrė, head of the department of education for Ukmergė Rayon came to the conference. Principal [Mrs.] E. Stasiukaitienė made a mention of churchgoing pupils, complaining, "Previously it was easier to deal with students' church attendance. The new minister of the cult, however, is a most authoritative figure, and he knows how to attract everyone; but most importantly, in his sermons he "stresses the nationalistic question."
The head of the department of education said that it is important to pay great attention to the question of nationalism, since many pupils are causing incidents. Several occurred this year at the schools within Jurbarkas Rayon on February 16: one secretary of the Young Communist League distributed anti-Soviet proclamations, and other students raised the tricolor flag [that of independent Lithuania].
At the end of May, during the commencement exercises, school Principal E. Stasiukaitienė announced publicly that seventh-class student [Miss] Valė Amankavičiūtė had had her conduct mark lowered for attending church.
On August 4-5, 1973, the Sacrament of Confirmation was to be administered at Alunta. Unfortunately, the rites were cancelled by telegram from the curia of Panevėžys "because of the harvesting." The telegrams were received on August 3-4, when it was already too late to even inform the people. A huge crowd of people gathered. There were also a goodly number of police. The people repeatedly cursed the government for interfering in the bishop's administration of the sacraments. People were saying that even during the days of serfdom it was possible to keep holy the Sabbath, but under the Soviet regime, people were expected to work like slaves all year long.
THE DIOCESE OF TELŠIAI
On July 14, 1973, the church in Klaipėda was visited by Tarasov, an official of the Council for Religious Affairs, accompanied by Commissioner K. Tumėnas, Ruginis, Vice-Chairman of the Klaipėda City Executive Committee, and a security official (see the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, no. 7). When the Catholics of Klaipeda learned that Tarasov had stated that the church in Klaipėda was no smaller than the Catholic church in Moscow, and that it was entirely adequate for the believers' needs, they were scandalized. The parish in Klaipėda has about 6000 parishioners. Every year, about 800-900 children prepare to receive their First Communion! The faithful must crowd into a church measuring 288 square meters, which doesn't even have a churchyard. On holy days and during religious festivals, even when it is raining or freezing the believers must stand in the streets since it is impossible for many of them to get inside the church. When the pastor of the parish in Klaipėda reminded Tarasov that the church could be enlarged if the sheds leaning against the back of the church were torn down, the latter replied, "We shall see later."
In the month of October, 1973, [Mrs.] Augustinavičienė, a resident of Klaipėda, was apprehended and taken to police headquarters for selling religious articles at the church door. The People's Court fined Augustinavičienė twenty rubles and confiscated the religious goods.
In early 1973 government officials had instructed the pastor of Klaipėda to drive away from the vicinity of the church all vendors of religious objects. The police and the auxiliary police would rather not arrest those who sell religious objects right at the church door.
With such "freedom" of religion, where are the faithful to purchase rosaries, prayer books, or medals?
In September, 1973, a fourth-class student at the eight-year school in Kašučiai (Kretinga Rayon) named Andrijauskas died. His devout parents buried their son with religious rites. School Principal Povilaitis forbade the students to participate in their friend's funeral procession.
"Where the Church plays a role, that is no place for us," stated the principal.
Hearing the mournful funeral music, the students wept during the entire lesson, but they were not allowed to leave their classroom.
Whenever Principal Povilaitis sees any of his students in Darbėnai, where the church is located, he accuses them, "You've been to church, you degenerate!" The principal upbraids the suspects in class, and lowers their marks.
Povilaitis has been in charge of the Kašučiai eight-year school for eight years now. One former student recounts how the principal used to try to force them to join the Young Communist League. During class time the principal would pick out some student and demand, "Are you going to join the Young Communist League?" If the pupil refused, the principal would grab the student's hand and whack it against his desk. Some even had their knuckles bloodied. After one such execution, the students wrote a protest to the Ministry of Education. A commission arrived and supposedly checked out the facts, but the principal continues to terrorize the students who are believers.
On October 19, 1973, a questionnaire was distributed to the eighth-class students of the secondary school in Kuršėnai, with the following questions:
1. Are your parents religious?
2. Do your parents force you to take part in religious rites?
3. Do you take part in religious rites (attend church, pray, observe holy days) ?
4. Have you begun to doubt yet that our lives are ruled by supernatural forces?
5. Do you consider yourself a believer of religious dogma or a nonbeliever?
6. Are you convinced that religious superstitions are harmful, that explanatory education is necessary, and that . an atheistic world view should be fostered?
7. Have you ever had to explain the antagonism between science and religion? How successful were you? Do you have the necessary information?
8. Have you read any scientific-atheistic literature, and what do you remember about it?
9. Do you think that religious superstition will disappear spontaneously, that no one will be interested anymore in such questions?