In July, 1982, the Apostolic See, with the agreement of Moscow, appointed the exiled Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys, and named Father Antanas Vaičius bishop, appointing him Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Telšiai and of the Prelature of Klaipėda. Lithuania is especially happy that one exiled bishop has been able to take over an episcopal see, but asks with uneasiness what the fate of the other bishop will be.
Today in Lithuania no one can tell why the Soviet government consented to the appointment of these two bishops. What advantage could it hope for? Does this appointment mean, as some foreign radio broadcasts commented, that the Soviet government is relaxing its oppressive stranglehold? Quite the contrary! Lately, even greater pressure is being felt by priests to conform with the Regulations for Religious Associations, the purpose of which is to strangle the Church. Those who try to defend the rights of the Church or of the faithful are being attacked even more vehemently.
Perhaps the most correct answer would be this: When the Soviet government's plan to raise to the episcopacy candidates favorable to itself fell through last year, this year it decided to carry out its plan more subtly: to allow first the arrangement acceptable to the faithful, and then, to take advantage of the momentum to try to push through candidates favorable to itself. For this reason in Lithuania, among the clergy and the laity, much uneasiness is felt, with reason, but everyone believes in the Providence of God and the vigilance of the Apostolic See. The faithful and priests of Lithuania want to find "in their shepherd spiritual care, zeal, and encouragement to persevere in faith" (John Paul II), But they are seriously afraid of experiencing the tragedy of the Orthodox Church with the hierarchy going one way, and the believing public — another!
Lithuania needs bishops who would be able to accompany the believing nation to jail, labor camp, and even to death; not those who would hinder from "below" the spiritual renaissance which has begun.
At the present time, of the six dioceses of Lithuania, only the question of the Archdiocese of Kaunas and the Dioceses of Telšiai and Kaišiadorys has been resolved. The Diocese of Vilkaviškis is assigned to the Archdiocese of Kaunas, and clearly wants to have its own suitable shepherd, and to take care of its own affairs.
The situation of the Diocese of Panevėžys is downright tragic, and the Soviet government will most surely try to prolong the status quo, so that the diocese might undergo as much damage as possible. Meanwhile, the episcopal throne of the Bishop of Vilnius has been waiting more than twenty years for its rightful occupant — the exiled Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius, who is especially beloved in Lithuania. Anyone who tried to contribute to the moral destruction of this bishop, would become a cancer as much in the nation as in the Church in Lithuania.