The second half of 1972 was comparatively calm for the Catholic Church in Lithuania: the brazen persecution of the faithful and the clergy had decreased. Not even once was legal action taken against priests for the so-called illegal teaching of religious truths to children, although by making use of their "juridical" methods, the representatives of the Soviet government could have convicted more than one priest with little difficulty.

Government officials received the priests Juozas Zdebskis and Prosperas Bubnys rather politely upon their return from a prison camp, permitting them to perform their priestly duties for a time in their own parishes.

It was completely otherwise one year ago. In the fall of 1971, when Father A. Šeškevičius left the Alytus prison camp, he was told that for having committed crimes against the government he would not be allowed to perform his priestly work and would have to change his occupation. Only after great efforts by Father Šeškevičius did the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs, Rugienis, permit him to work as the curate of the parish in Šilalė in the Telšiai Diocese.

In 1972, for the first time in the history of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, the Soviet government began to tolerate retreats for the priests of an entire deanery. H.E. Bishop J. Labukas and H.E. Bishop J. Pletkus were permitted by Rugienis to travel to the retreats for the clergy and speak on topics concerning the inner life of the clergy. Some bishops even let it be known that deanery conferences regarding pastoral matters would be permitted.


On September 5, 1972, the faithful of the parish in Ceikiniai, which is in Ignalina Rayon, sent to Leonid Brezhnev, the General-Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, the following petition:

"It is very regrettable that we must appeal as high as to Moscow for such a trifle as the repair of a church storehouse. This trifle reminds us of a whole series of other painful matters which we would like to forget.

"Near the churchyard in Ceikiniai stand a decrepit parochial woodshed and a dilapidated storehouse. In their place we would like to build one orderly storehouse. We requested a repair permit in the beginning of 1971. After many trips and appeals, Vaitonis, the vice-chairman of the rayon Executive Committee, stated on May 27, 1971, that if we wanted to obtain a repair permit for this storehouse, we would have to apply to Vilnius to the commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs. We went there. The commissioner again referred us back to the rayon office. And there is no end to it—nearly two years have now passed. We made numerous trips ourselves, desiring to obtain a permit for these alterations, and rayon officials visited us a number of times. The vice-chairman of therayon Executive Committee came to see us with an interrogator, also the chief of the financial department, the police, the rayon architect (as many as four times), and, on several occasions, the locality's chairman and the secretary of the Party ... The documents concerning the materials purchased for the repairs were inspected as many as three times —as if they were capable of multiplying themselves.

In accordance with the order of October 15, 1972, given by Lauraitis, chief of the Interrogation Office of the Ministry of the Interior, Vytautas Lažinskas was brought to the Naujoji Vilnia psychoneurological hospital.

On the night of July 21, 1972, he had erected a metal cross that was five-and-a-half meters high near Klaipėda Road on the outskirts of Ariogala. Government officials pulled down the cross the next day and the "offender" was interrogated.

The court's psychiatric commission headed by Glau-berzonas determined that V. Lažinskas was lucid and of a good disposition except for a slightly weakened memory, that his intellect corresponded to his education and experience in life, that he showed no deviations of a physical or neurological nature.

The court's psychiatric commission pronounced V. Lažinskas to be suffering from paranoid psychopathy since he does not admit to having committed a crime and had recounted "systematized delirious ideas of a religious nature"; thus, he was irresponsible and in need of medical treatment in a psychiatric hospital.

As 1972 was ending, the Vaga Publishing House put out a two-volume edition of the writings of Bishop Motiejus Valančius.

Literary works are published in large editions of from 10,000 to 30,000 copies; however, there was a "shortage" of paper for the writings of Bishop Valančius, which are permeated with religious ideas—scarcely 5,000 copies were printed. Most Lithuanian bookstores did not receive this two-volume work at all.

Every book of better quality is immediately sold out, particularly if it contains religious or national ideas, whereas the "classics" of Marxism and atheistic literature lie on bookstore shelves for years on end.



On Nov. 10, 1972, at about 3 p.m. the Rev. Prosperas Bubnys was released from the Kaunas strict-regime prison camp after having been sentenced a year ago for teaching children the tenets of their faith. Priests and a group of believers greeted the prisoner. Some members of the prison administration were even able to see a scene unusual for this place—a bouquet of roses in the hands of the priest-prisoner.

On November 15 the choristers of Girkalnis organized a reception for Father Bubnys. The choir sang during mass, and the church was full of people even though the faithful had not been informed of the reception in advance. Everyone felt that the year spent in the camp was not just a victory for Father Bubnys alone, but for the entire Church in Lithuania.

The Raseiniai Rayon administration declared to Father Bubnys that it had no claims upon him and would not prevent him from performing his priestly duties.

After a few months had passed, Father Bubnys was appointed pastor at the parish in Lygumai.


On December 12, 1972, H.E. Bishop J. Labukas sent to the clergy of the Kaunas Archdiocese and the Vilkaviškis Diocese a circular which stated: "We direct you to take the Blessed Sacrament into the sacristy and place it in a suitably prepared place for the night in those churches where there are no night watchmen.

"No Church vessels are to be left in church at night. They must be kept in the sacristy or, it would be even better, if they were to be kept in the rectory."

The circular appeared in connection with increased burglaries of churches and desecrations of the Blessed Sacrament.

The Rev. V. Pesliakas, pastor of the parish in Juodaičiai, underwent medical treatment in June, 1972. When he returned home, he learned that the Raseiniai Rayon administration had been searching for him since the middle of June, demanding that he pick up his registration certificate and assume the duties of curate in Viduklė as soon as possible. H.E. Bishop Labukas explained to him that Rugienis had demanded his transfer to Viduklė, and H.E. Bishop Krikščiūnas told him: "You did your work well, but you should realize that Bishop Labukas will not leave two dioceses and travel to Žagarė on your account." (Žagarė is the residence of the exiled Bishop Steponavičius— ed.)

H.E. Bishop Labukas directed Father Pesliakas to assume the duties of curate of Viduklė or be suspended: "If you don't start work as the curate of the church in Viduklė by September 20, 1972, inclusive, you will be ipso facto stispensus a divinis." (The performance of priestly duties will be prohibited—ed.)

Realizing that the bishop was transferring him to Viduklė and demoting his position only because of pressure by Rugienis, Father Pesliakas refused to go to his new assignment.



During the postwar years, the members of the Astrauskas family were exiled to Siberia, where they suffered for eleven years. After returning to Lithuania, they found their homestead destroyed and their parents dead. As 1971 was ending, they erected a monument for them in the Palanga Cemetery. Next to their parents' grave the Astrauskases reserved two places for themselves, inscribing on the monument their birth dates. A talented artist designed the expensive monument. The monument failed to please only the Palanga city administration since its design reminded them of their deeds: the artistic bronze statue of Christ which had been overturned in the city park by a tractor and handed over to a scrap heap, the two destroyed statues of Mary on the Hill of Birutė, etc. On the Astrauskases' monument were depicted broken crosses and a Lithuanian girl with clasped hands praying: "Save us, O Lord!"


In December of 1972, Stapulionis, the vice-chairman of the Pasvalys Rayon Executive Committee, visited Saločiai. Failing to find the pastor at home, he himself began "taking charge" in the church and removed explanations about the season of Advent from the bulletin board.

Later, he rebuked Father Balaišis, pastor of Saločiai, for supposedly alarming people by predicting the end of the world to be at the end of this century. The explanation about Advent which Stapulionis stole from the bulletin board had mentioned that the second coming of Christ would be at the end of the world.

Stapulionis ordered the pastor of Saločiai not to accompany the deceased to the cemetery in a funeral procession.

On January 5, 1973, Stapulionis, the vice-chairman of the Pasvalys Rayon Executive Committee, summoned Father Raščius, pastor of the parish in Krinčinas, and indicated to him the following:

1. Priests are forbidden to accompany the deceased to the cemetery in a funeral procession since this interferes with traffic. The cemetery is 400 meters away from the church.

2. Participation in a church procession while wearing the national costume is prohibited, since nationalism is thus allegedly propagated within the Church.

3. Priests are strictly forbidden to collect contributions in church.

"You priests pounce upon money like dogs!" shouted Stapulionis hysterically.


In the summer of 1972, a girl helped the parishioners of Ąžuolu Būda prepare children for their First Communion. On August 3 this girl was apprehended by the principal of the secondary school in Ažuolų Būda and the secretary of the Party organization of the Šviesa[Light] Collective Farm and turned over to the secret police in Kapsukas.

After being interrogated, the "offender" was handed over to the school authorities for "re-education." It is unclear how this "re-education" is being accomplished.

On January 8, 1973, the Rev. J. Zdebskis was summoned to Prienai police headquarters, from where he was transported under police guard to an outpatient clinic for a medical examination to determine if he were capable of physical labor.


On May 15, 1972, K. Černeckis, the vice-chairman of the Prienai Rayon Executive Committee, warned the Rev. J. Matulaitis, pastor of Nemaniūnai, that he was not observing Soviet laws and forced him to sign the following warning: "It is known that in the parish church of Nemaniūnai children and adolescents assist in religious rites. This is a violation of Soviet laws. We are warning you not to involve children and adolescents in religious rites.

"In addition, you leave your parish without a permit and perform religious rites in churches of other parishes. We are warning you that this must not happen again."

A lecturer from Prienai came to the school in Nemaniūnai to "enlighten" the students on atheistic topics. The children were warned not to participate in processions. The more timid vanished from the processions, but the others continue to attend church diligently and participate in religious rites.