Concern over New Bishops

Two Lithuanian bishops, Julijonas Steponavičius and Vincentas Sladkevičius, have been prevented from exercising their duties as Shepherds for over twenty years by the Soviet government. The illegal exile of the bishops is a large mote in the eye of Soviet prestige. Therefore, Moscow apparently wants to allow both bishops to resume their duties but also hopes to use the occasion to promote their own candidates as new bishops. This effort by the Soviet government arouses concern among Lithuania's priests and believers. The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania has received a letter with the request that it be forwarded to the Holy Father. The letter reads as follows:

"To: His Holiness Pope John Paul II


"Most Holy Father, the speech Your Holiness delivered to mark Solidarity's first anniversary reached the hearts and minds of many, and especially of those who have suffered a great deal and are still suffering.

"It is truly horrible that during World War II the Polish nation lost six million of its people; every fifth citizen died. Our small nation lost 600,000; every fourth person sacrificed his life for God, Church, and the homeland. Therefore, the Catholics of Lithuania have earned the right to ask: How long will Moscow be choosing the candidates for bishops; We want bishops who possess a living faith and great love, who are capable of leading the spiritual rebirth of the faithful. We do not need bishops who are government men.

The annual procession to Šiluva has become a beautiful and meaningful tradition for Lithuania's faithful, but is a source of irritation to government atheists. Every year they rack their brains on how to disrupt the procession. More than one pilgrim has suffered the consequences. They were filmed, threatened, and put on trial, for example, [Miss] Jadvyga Stanelytė, Mečislovas Jurevičius, and Vytautas Vaičiūnas. These demagogic methods did not succeed in intimidating the faithful, however. On the contrary, this year all of Lithuania especially prepared for the pilgrimage to Šiluva. The day of the procession was publicized in churches.

Since those sentenced because of the procession were accused of not obtaining government permission, on July 8 the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights sent Document no. 49 to the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist party and to the Council of Ministers. The document stated: "On June 25 and 26 of this year, two trials were held in connection with the 1979 and 1980 religious processions from Tytuvėnai to Šiluva. The Lithuanian SSR Supreme Court in Vilnius convicted Mečislovas Jurevičius, a worker, to three years to be served in strict-regime correctional labor colonies. In Sirvintai, Vytautas Vaičiūnas, an engineer, was sentenced to two and one-half years to be served in ordinary-regime correctional work colonies. We cannot understand the grounds for trying Vytautas Vaičiūnas in Sirvintai. Both defendants, good Catholics and men of high morals, were charged with organizing and actively participating in processions from Tytuvėnai to Šiluva without executive committee permission. The defendants could not have organized marches of this magnitude, and not one witness substantiated this charge. Because Jurevičius and Vaičiūnas were not organizing the processions from Tytuvėnai to Šiluva, they did not request a permit. Processions from Tytuvėnai to Šiluva are traditional, and the faithful assemble for them without anyone organizing them.

On August 19, 1981, a group of young people from Vilnius, over twenty individuals, came to the village of Mindūnai in Molėtai Rayon and asked for lodgings at the home of [Miss] Monika Klimaitė. The purpose of the outing was to relax and at the same time gain a deeper understanding of religion. The youngsters were accompanied by Father Ričardas Černiauskas, assistant pastor of St. Nicholas Church in Vilnius.

On the first day some of the young people helped their hostess bring in the hay while others spread the hay on the barn floor. In the evening they all gathered near the barn and knelt on the grass for evening prayer. They slept in the barn. The girls assembled in one part of the barn, while the boys occupied the other part. Several adults stayed with them.

On August 20 the young people prayed, participated in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and listened to the priest's homily. During their free time they played soccer, water polo, and swam in the lake. That evening, following the Vatican Radio broadcast, several terrified girls ran up to the priest and told him the police had arrived. The priest calmed the frightened girls, telling them they had done nothing wrong and no one would touch them.

At 2:30 p.m. on August 19,1981, Zenonas Mištautas, an engineer who works at Kaunas Construction Board no. 1, was summoned to the Kaunas KGB headquarters.

The Chekists were interested in the following questions:

"When you lived on Linkuva Street (three years ago), who else lived there? Did a Ukrainian live there? Do you know that he completed secret seminary studies and is now a priest?"

"I know that a Ukrainian lived there but know nothing more about him," he replied.

"On New Year's Eve 1979 you made a political speech. There were twenty-four people there. You said that one must fight, must courageously express one's opinion and fear nothing, that many things should be changed in the system, and you urged people to participate in the procession to Šiluva."

 "To: His Excellency Bishop Liudas Povilionis, 
Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Kaunas 
and the Diocese of Vilkaviškis 
"From: Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, Pastor of Viduklė

"A Report

"During July 16-23 of this year (the dates of the Congress at Lourdes) the faithful of the Viduklė parish used to assemble every evening in their house of worship and, in a spirit of truth and love, joined in thought with all the participants of the Congress. Some one hundred believers, not just the old but also the young, would kneel at God's altar. During the first half of this year, 26,200 Holy Communion wafers were distributed.

"Viduklė has long been a mote in the eye for the atheists of Viduklė, who attempt to hurt the pastor and the faithful at every opportunity.

"From: The pastor of the Pagramantis parish

"A Supplementary Report

"It is with deep regret I inform you that during the night of July 8-9, 1981, unknown intruders broke into the Pagramantis church. They first attempted to enter through the side door of the church. The door was scratched around the lock. When this failed, a window of the addition to the church was removed, entry was gained, the lock was broken, and the bolt pushed back. They got into the church. They tried to break into the sacristy, for the locks were tampered with and an ax or other metal instrument was used to batter the hanging padlock, but they were unable to break in.

"The wooden throne at the main altar was knocked over, cut with a saw, and smashed with a crowbar. The metal tabernacle containing the ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament was ripped out. The tabernacle, the ciborium, and the Blessed Sacrament were carried out. The doors were left unlocked.

"Final Statement

"Chief Judge of the Supreme Court, councillors, government employees, and prison guards, I will not delay these proceedings for too long.

"The indictment alleges that I organized illegal activities. No, I did not organize anything. I respect everything holy and noble in our nation.

"There is an old truism that says when you want to fight against crime — weeds — you must seek out the ground where it grows and destroy its roots.

"For some reason our society acts in the opposite way. The fruits of crime are harvested and stored or, more precisely, ripened and then taken to still uncontaminated ground to disperse their seeds of evil.

"On March 25 of this year I was arrested as being a man dangerous to society and put in the Lukiškės warehouse of criminal fruit.

"To: P. Griškevičius, First Secretary of the Lithuanian 
Communist Party Central Committee 
The Lithuanian SSR Council of Ministers 
The Bishops of the Lithuanian Catholic Church
"From: Lithuanian Catholics

"A Statement

"The Lithuanian SSR Constitution proclaims that "The Church in the Lithuanian SSR is separate from the state" (Article 50). The press, radio, television, and propagandists continually proclaim to the people that the Soviet government does not interfere in internal church affairs. Unfortunately, the current reality is causing us, Lithuanian Catholics, great concern.

"It is not clear to us who is currently the actual administration of the theological seminary in Kaunas: the bishops of Lithuania or the Religious Affairs Commissioner's Office. According to Church law, the affairs of the theological seminary should be looked after by the bishops, but actually they are very often handled by Soviet government officials.

"In the fall of 1980 the Religious Affairs Commissioner's Office would not allow seventeen candidates into the seminary. Every year the seminary administration must send the Council for Religious Affairs a list of candidates requesting admission to the seminary, and the council confirms some and rejects others. Is the seminary a place for training party workers that government officials have the deciding word on who may or may not study there?

At 8 p.m. on August 8, 1981, two criminals fatally stabbed Father Leonas Mažeika, pastor of Pamūšis, and his housekeeper, Sister Teklė Martinaitytė. After killing the priest, the culprits fled without taking anything. When the police arrived they were in no hurry to apprehend the perpetrators but instead examined drawers and counted money. The pastor died on the way to the hospital; he had been stabbed repeatedly in the stomach. His housekeeper died at the hospital.

The funeral was planned for Wednesday, but was suddenly changed to Tuesday by order of the bishop. The sermons were such that anyone who did not know the facts would have thought that Father Mažeika had not been murdered but had died of natural causes. Some one hundred priests attended the funeral. Following the funeral, a long line of believers stretched from the church to the rectory: people wanting to at least catch a glimpse of the pool of blood in which the priest's life had been extinguished.

On September 3, 1981, in an article entitled "Nusikalteliams pagal jstatymus" (The Law Catches up with Criminals), Gimtasis kraštas (Native land) lamented that foreign radio stations slander the Soviet judicial system when they claim that it does not seek out offenders who attack the clergy.

On July 3,1981, Vladas Lapienis, a fighter for the cause of freedom of belief, was released from exile. The exile returned physically exhausted but spiritually strong.


On July 30, 1981, Povilas Buzas, confined for one and one-half years in a strict-regime labor camp for duplicating religious underground publications, was set free.


Mečislovas  Jurevičius  is  serving  his  term  at  the Kapsukas strict-regime labor camp. His address: 
Kapsukas OC 12/3 Burys 5, brigada 51
Jurevičius, Mečislovas, Jurgio


Vytautas Vaičiūnas, an engineer, was interned in the Pravieniskes labor camp after his trial but was taken by prisoner convoy to the depths of Russia several months later. His address is still unknown.

"To: The Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party

"Twenty years ago the bishop of Vilnius, Julijonas Steponavičius, was exiled to Žagarė without a trial or any indication as to how long and for what reason.

"This bishop's exile brings no one the least benefit but only brings harm.

"It not only generates great discontent among the faithful but also compromises Soviet government organs in the eyes of the entire world, providing believers in other countries with the opportunity to discuss the persecution of the faithful.

"There are Communist states in the world where believers do not have to endure such incidents, for example, in neighboring Poland, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and other countries.

"Therefore, we faithful of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, appeal once again to the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party with the sincere request that the aged Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius be allowed to return to the Archdiocese of Vilnius and perform his duties as bishop until his death.

Antašava (Kupiškis Rayon)
On January 25,1981, a boy who died in a tragic accident was being buried in Antašava. An honor guard made up of grade-4B schoolgirls stood by the coffin in church. At the cemetery [Miss] Virginija Lukosevičiūtė, an eighth-grade student, read a religious poem.

Shortly after the funeral, [Mrs.] Dlutskienė, a teacher, summoned Lukosevičiūtė to the teachers' room and scolded her using profanities. The enraged teacher shouted, "You degrade the honor of the Soviet school. We'll write a bad letter of reference, and you won't be accepted at any school of higher education!"

Dlutskienė carried out her threat. The student's letter of reference notes "she has not developed a materialistic outlook."


In February 1946 through the efforts of the Soviet government, the Greek Rite Catholic (Uniate) Church was officially liquidated in the western part of the Ukraine. First all Uniate bishops were arrested, along with the Lvov Metropolitan, Josep Slipi. A church meeting was called, contrary to canon law, but not a single Uniate Church bishop attended. Only several priests who had sold out to the government and so-called lay representatives of the faithful chosen by the government were present. That meeting (sobor) decided to join the Greek Rite Catholic Church to the Russian Orthodox Church. Soviet sources depict this action as a decision accepted by the community of the faithful and insolently insist that there no longer remain any believers loyal to the union with the Roman Catholic Church.

That this is a blatant lie was evidenced by events which followed the solemn commemoration by the Russian Orthodox Church of the thirty-fifth anniversary of this "joining."