On November 22, 1978, three priests—Alfonsas Svarinskas, Sigitas Tamkevičius and Juozas Zdebskis—announced at a press conference for foreign correspondents that the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers had been set up in Lithuania on November 13th. The reporters were introduced to the members of the Committee, its goals and four documents which it has drafted.

We reprint below the Committee's appeal sent to Lithuania's bishops and Soviet authorities and handed out to the foreign correspondents:      ^

Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers


Since the end of World War II the bishops, priests and believers of Lithuania have often encountered religious discrimination. The situation of other believers in the Soviet Union is similar. Believers do not have the rights which atheists enjoy in the state. The Soviet Constitution only proclaims the freedom of religion, but even this limited freedom is often restricted in actual practice. Most of the laws which regulate the affairs of believers are inadequate for conditions in Lithuania and contradict not only the Soviet Constitu­tion, but international USSR agreements as well.

We Catholics have therefore resolved to found the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers which will strive to attain for Catholics rights equal to those of atheists. Through our activity we hope to help the faithful, and once the legal and practical equality of believers and atheists is achieved, the prestige of the Soviet Union in the Christian West will increase considerably.

The election of John Paul II as Supreme Shepherd of the Church is an especially historical event which not only has great significance in the life of the Catholic Church in general, but is especially important to the Catholics of Eastern Europe as well.

For the first time in the history of the Church we see a representative of Eastern Europe in the Apostolic See. Our Holy Father Pope John Paul II is one who personally experienced the horrors of World War II, and saw the terrible sufferings and death of many innocent people. He himself had to experience the worker's hard lot, and to study for the priesthood underground.

He has had the opportunity to be acquainted not only with the western world but also to become well acquainted with the deceitful and tireless Marxist-atheist war developed by Moscow against the work of the Church.

. . . This is a great encouragement not only to the Polish nation, but also and especially to Lithuania, Ukraine, Belorussia, and to all Catholics and Christians in the Soviet Union. The new pope was received with enthusiasm also by those struggling for human rights in the Soviet Union. We all expect to receive strong support from the new pope. Hence hope has returned that in the future we shall not feel abondoned to the will of the atheists in the Kremlin.

Our hopes have been justified from the start. In his very first address, the new pope recalled those imprisoned for the Faith. We have been moved by the Holy Father's statement that half his heart belongs to Lithuania, and that he thinks of us all the time. All Lithuanians felt themselves to be especially honored by the Holy Father, when during the inauguration ceremonies he spoke in Lithuanian and received our bishops in exceptional fashion, telling them that he is well acquainted with the affairs of the faithful in Lithuania. The faithful of Lithuania are full of hope that the new Holy Father will strongly support our battle for complete freedom of the Catholic Church and for human rights in the Soviet Union.

All city and district executive committees have received the following document and have been ordered to assemble the required information and secretly forward it to theirRayon executive committee:

.......... Rayon Peoples' Council for Deputies

Executive Committee
12/8/1978   No.

By January 2, 1979, please submit (personally) to the Rayon Executive Committee information on the status of religious associa­tions of all denominations, the state of religiousness in the district, area, city, clerical activity and the work of the district, town or city executive committee in enforcing laws on religious cults throughout 1978.

The information must include answers to all the questions enu­merated in the memorandum. Moreover, the enclosed forms No. 1 and No. 2 must be filled out accurately.

Questions which must be covered in the information submitted:



I. Status of religious communities of all denominations and the state of religiousness.

1.   How many houses of worship per individual denomination.

2.   Number of clergy in religious associations.


Nijolė Sadūnaitė is in poor health and is often sick. There is no one to relieve her, therefore she must go work even when ailing. In the fall, she suffered an entire month from acute bronchitis and intestinal inflammation. Only on October 18th did she return to work.


There has been no recent contact with Ona Pranskūnaitė, who is still serving in Ulyanovsk. It is assumed that she was taken from Ulyanovsk elsewhere at the end of her sentence. The KGB often does this. (Translator's Note: Since this was written, Ona Pranskunaite, has been released).


Before Christmas 1978, two members of the Krakow Chapter brought and presented to the Merciful Mother of Aušros Vartai (Gate of Dawn) in Vilnius the cardinal hat of Pope John Paul II. Up to now this news has been kept secret from the faithful of Lithuania.

Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis has asked Bishop Liudvikas Povilonis whether the pope may elevate someone to the rank of a cardinal without the knowledge of the Soviet government. Could he name an emigrant bishop or ordinary priest cardinal? The bishop confirmed that the possibility does exist in all three instances.

The Commissioner's concern aroused both joy and fear in Lith­uania: It would truly be a great victory for the Catholic Church in Lithuania if she were to have a cardinal similar to the Polish Primate Cardinal Wyszinski, but it would be tragic if a collaborator of the atheist government were appointed to this high church post.

Speakers from the "Žinia" (Information) Society have men­tioned in their public lectures that the pastor of the Immaculate Conception Church in Vilnius, the Rev. Stanislovas Lidys, is a good friend of Pope John Paul II; Father Lidys himself is attempting to secure an invitation from Lithuanian priests living in Rome in order to visit Italy. Father Lidys has already visited the U.S., Poland, Portugal and is known as a close collaborator of the atheist government who maintains broad ties with emigrant Lithuanians.

Palomenė (R a y o n of Kaišiadorys)

To: The Religious Affairs Commissioner A Statemen from: Rev. Jonas Zubrus, residing in the Rayon of Kaišiadorys, Palomenė.

Like last year, students in grades five through eight at th< Palomenė Primary School were ordered by their homeroom teacher in October 1978 to fill out questionnaires on their religious beliefs The behavior of some teachers is contrary to both ethics and justice

After writing the question on the blackboard, fifth-grade homeroom teacher Ona Renkevičaitė began to explain to the students how they should answer. All students must write that they don't believe; to the question "Why don't you believe" they should write: "Because science has proven there is no God"; to the question "Do you attend church of your own will or at the behest of your parents" write "At the behest of my parents." Those who, despite the order to lie, had the courage to write as dictated by their conscience that they believe, were told by teacher Renkevičaitė: "Talk your mothers out of forcing you to attend church because the school requires that you not believe and not attend church."

Sixth-grade homeroom teacher Julija Pilkienė gave her students similar instructions. Students who did not know how to reply to the question "What atheist books have you read", were told to write Už vienuolyno sienų (Beyond Convent Walls) and Nenoriu dangaus (I Don't Want Heaven). When the students explained they had not read these books and could not answer if someone were to ask what was written in them, the homeroom teacher assured them: "No one will ask you." Some of the students did not reply to the question "Do you believe." They and student Vidas Žižliaus-kas who wrote "I believe" were ordered by the teacher to recopy everything from the beginning and write "I don't believe." She was particularly vehement against student Janonis who wrote "I believe" and who answered the question "Why do you believe?" with "Science has proven that God exists."

Belorussia Žaludka (District of Gardinas)

A 50-ruble fine was imposed in 1978 on Sakel, the chairman of the Žaludka parish religious community, because children had participated in the Easter procession. Two months after the feast, Sakel was summoned to the Rayon (Ščučin) and was informed that he was being fined fifty rubles for violating laws of cult. The Rayon government ordered state farm authorities to deduct this fine from Sakel's wages.

Žaludka (District of Gardinas)

On June 13, 1978, the Rev. Anton Chanko solemnly celebrated his first Mass at athe church of Žaludka. A large crowd of people assembled since this was the first time since the war that a first Mass celebration was being held in Belorussia. On the day of the first Mass, a loudspeaker was set up 20 meters from the church at the order of the school principal to prevent people from hearing any­thing. Members of the church committee requested that the loud­speaker be disconnected, but no one paid them any heed. Only later when the outraged people threatened to complain to Moscow about this disruption of prayer, was it disconnected immediately before the solemn High Mass.

Aušra (The Dawn), No. 13 (53). This issue writes about Lithuania's floundering in alcohol, about the activities of the Soviet Mafia—the KGB and many other topics. The issue came out in October 1978.

Rūpintojėlis (The Suffering Christ) No. 7. Appeared at the very end of 1978 and is dedicated to Virgilijus Jaugelis, a former prisoner jailed for making copies of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania who has now attained the priesthood through under­ground channels. The forward states:

Father Virgilijus:

From early childhood you nurtured the dream— "I'm going to be a priest." But you did not know how many obstacles you would meet on this road. For many years, the hand ot the KUB closed tfte seminary doors to you. That same hand shoved you into a labor camp merely for loving Your Motherland and the Church. The torturers feared you would die at their feet and threw you back half-dead at the gates of your home.

And yet even then you did not lose the hope—"I am going to be a priest!" And here you are at the Lord's altar. You place into Christ's Chalice of suffering your own days of suffering and offer them up.