The thirty-five year old organist at the church of Zhitomir, Sofija Bieliak, was sentenced to five years in prison and five years of exile for disseminating information about the apparition of the Mother of God at Fatima.


On September 10, two bus-loads of pilgrims (about sixty persons) were on their way from Riga to the religious festival at Šiluva, but they did not reach their destination. Not far from Šiluva, they were stopped by traffic police. The officers asked who had organized the pilgrims, and why they came to Lithuania to pray. Konstan­cija Cimanovskaya admitted being the organizer of the pilgrimage. Everyone was told to turn back. Since the people did not agree, they were taken off the bus and reached Šiluva by scheduled buses, while the militia escorted their rented buses to the border between Lithua­nia and Latvia and told the drivers never to return to Lithuania on such an errand.

The Plight of German Catholics in the USSR

At the invitation of Catherine the Great, many Germans settled along the Volga, and in certain regions of southern Ukraine. Before the deportations, there were about three million of them. A large number of them were Catholics. They had organized into parishes, had their own churches, priests and even a seminary. Even before World War II (about 1930), the government began closing the Germans' Catholic churches, and deporting them to Kazakh.

When Hitler attacked Russia, all the Germans were deported from Ukraine and scattered throughout the broad reaches of Kazakh. During the war, they took men and often women for the so-called "labor army", where many died from malnutrition. After the war, some of the Germans returned to the Volga basin, while others set­tled in the cities and villages of Kirghiz, Tadzhik and Uzbek, or remained in Kazakh where as the Lietuvos tarybinė encyklopedia (Lithuanian Soviet Encyclopedia) mentions, about one million Germans live.

During the war and immediately afterwards, the German Catholics did not have a single church, nor any priest. Only when priests were rehabilitated from the camps, some of them, including some Lithuanians, began ministering to the faithful, at first, visiting them unofficially and later, with permission. In some cases, the permissions were revoked, e.g., Father Antanas Šeškevičius, after working officialy for two years in Slavgorod, the Region of Altay, was required to leave for work in Kanta, not far from Frunze.

Setding near Frunze, he began with oral permission to erect a house of prayer. After some time, the house of prayer was closed, and Father Šeškevičius was arrested and sentenced in 1967. The government had promised the faithful of Kustanay that it would certify a priest for official work. Coming from Lithuania, Father Albinas Dumbliauskas obtained a house of prayer, and after working there almost half a year, again lost the right to work legally.

   Only five years later was another priest allowed to work officially among the faithful of Kustanay. Similarly, the faithful were "allow­ed" to obtain a house of prayer and to have their own priest in Frunze, Alma-Ata Aktyubinsk and elsewhere. Only when the Ger- ns mans began demanding the right to have a church with a priest was lis this granted to the faithful of German nationality in Karaganda ud and Tadzhik.

In Karaganda, Father Dumbliauskas began to work in Tadzhik (Dushanbe), Kurgan-Tyube and Vakhsh. Three parishes were estab­lished with Father J. Svidnickis began to minister. In Kurgan-Tyube, in 1982, a house of prayer was erected where Father J. Bieleckis (sic) began to minister. In 1980, in Celinograd, Father B. Babrauskas began ministering to the faithful.

Presently in Kazakh, ten priests are working three in Kara­ganda, and one each in: Alma-Ata, Aktyubinsk, Celinograd, Dzham-bul, Kustanay, Krasnoarmeysk and Prokopyevsk; in Kirghiz there are two. Some of them have to minister to the faithful, not only where they live, but throughout the region. This year, the German Catho­lics lost five priests: the pastor of Pavlodar; Bishop Alexander, who had worked in Karaganda; and the pastor of Frunze, Father Keller. In Tadzhik, Father J. Bielickis (sic) resigned because the climate was bad for his health, and Father P. Krikščiukaitis left Dushanbe.

Hence at the present time, all of Tadzhik (where there were three communities) has been left without a priest, and the entire region of Pavlodar (where three communities also were operating) has been left without a priest.

There are some faithful in Tashkent and next to it, in Uzbek, but these are not organized as a parish, and have no priest. Many German Catholics have left the wide expanses of the Russian republic: In the Regions of Prokhlodnoy, Saratov, Volgo­grad, Chelyabinsk, Omsk, Tomsk and Novosibirsk, and in the land of Altay.Currently, there is a priest only in Novosibirsk (since 1982); in the region of Saratov, Tomsk and the region of Altay — com­munities of faithful are organized in Volchikha — the committees of twenty are registered; hence they have the right to a house of prayer and a priest. There are especially many Germans in the region of Omsk (according to the Soviet Lithuanian Enciclopedia, about 120,000 residents) many of whom are Catholics.

The faithful who have no priest often gather in the house of prayer, and if they do not have one of these, in the homes, for Sunday prayer, for holy days, Lenten, June and May devotions.

Currently, the following places are looking for priests: Marx (Region of Saratov), Prokhlodnoy (Northern Caucasia), the Region of Petropavlovsk, the Region of Pavlodar, Tomsk, Volchikha (Region of Altay), Dushanbe and Kurgan-Tyube. There are enough candidates for the priesthood from among Germans themselves, but so far, only a few are studying at the seminary in Riga.