To:   The General Secretary of the Central Committee of the

Communist Party of the Soviet Union Copy to: The First Secretary of the Central Committee of the

Communist Party of Lithuania From: The Priests of the Lithuanian SSR

A Petition

Thirty years ago, or earlier, during the era of personality cult, some leading personages in the Soviet Union thought that Commun­ism could not be brought about without force or fear. The XX Plenary Session of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union put an end to those shameful tactics. Many camps were emptied and closed. Exiles returned home, sundered families were reunited and cultural and economic life did not suffer at all as a result, but on the contrary, improved.

It is most unfortunate that not all the anomilies of the era of the personality cult were done away with. Some of them survive to this day. One of those anomalies is the restriction of the freedom of conscience and religion, the demeaning of religion, and atheization by force. That all this is truly an anomaly is clearly demonstrated from life. In Europe today, there is a whole array of socialist states, in which those anomalies are almost unknown; where believers are not discriminated against either in school or at work, where a voluminous religious press is published and where cultural and economic life nevertheless advances no more slowly than among us.

Thus it is, for example, in the German Democratic Republic. There they have about as many Catholics as in Lithuania, and the Sankt Beno Publishing House in twenty years has published more than 2000 (two thousand!) titles, for an average of two books a week. Meantime in Lithuania, as reported in the Valstiečių laikraštis (Peasants' Newspaper), 1983, Nr. 56, in the past twenty-eight years, permission has been given to publish barely twenty three publications, and the greater part of those was published in a very small quantity, just for the priests.

There, religious instruction is not forbidden in church or in buildings adjoining the church; there, in the schools, no one ridicules children on account of their religious convictions, forces them to write anti-religious compositions, or to recite anti-religious propa­ganda or to speak against their own convictions. There, convents and monasteries exist, and the number of seminarians is not limited by the government. There, religious pilgrimmages are not forbidden. And this is the Germany which was crushed the worst during the last war; economically it holds one of the highest places among socialist countries today. Religious freedom has not hurt it nor interfered with its economic or cultural development.

From the human and legal point of view, neither discrimination against the faithful or repression of religion can be justified in any way. Atheization by force has not justified itself: When the atheists say the influence of religion on the people is constantly decreasing and the facts of life demonstrate how drunkenness is constantly spreading, the breakup of families is increasing, moral corruption in public life is growing and believers are turned against the atheists themselves.

The Constitution of the Soviet Union guarantees freedom of conscience and religion for all: Everyone has the right to profess any religion, or to be an atheist. Hence atheists do not have the right to force others to be atheists by coercion or threats. They do not have the right to take advantage of believers, to deny them the most elementary right to profess and practice religion, to teach and educate their children according to their own   religious con­victions and to obtain literature necessary for that. The govern­ment, mindful of its commitments resulting from international declarations, MUST HELP PARENTS to enjoy their rights, and not interfere with them.

Meantime, in our country the school forces children to become atheists, contradicting the wishes of parents who practice their religion, and decreasing their authority. We would all consider it ab­normal if the children of atheists were signed up for some sort of religious organization, without the knowledge or consent of the parents. The greatest furor would arise! But in our country, that is just how the teachers act with the believing children of believing parents, signing them up by force in the Little Octobrists and Pioneers. Similarly, school children and students who are religious believers are forced to join the Communist Youth League.

The Soviet press reports that Soviet law is the same for everyone. However, certain laws or instructions (some of them secret), are aimed especially against believers and with their help, the atheists want to run religious life. It would be interesting to know what the atheists would say if believers began by the same means to run the public and private life of the atheists.

The Soviet press affirms that Soviet government organs do not interfere in the internal affairs of the church. But in truth, it is precisely they who finally decide who may study at the seminary and work as a priest, they decide on the quota for seminarians, they do not allow bishops to act independently, and they inter­fere with papal appointments of suitable new bishops for the Church. It is against such abnormalities that clergy and faithful have raised their voice, as well as the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights, to which Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and Father Sigitas Tamkevičius belong. They demanded such freedom of thought, conscience and religion, as spoken of by the international declarations, signed by the Soviet Union and other states.

How much we read in the Soviet press about the abuse of position and about lack of conscientiousness among workers. This is standard and necessary criticism of evils. In this respect, the Catholic Com­mittee for the Defense of Believers' Rights said nothing of morality and honesty, and in Church-state relations. However, this criticism the Soviet press called denigration and libel, and termed it a crime. We write this petition based exclusively on information provided by the press regarding the case of Father Alfonsas Sva­rinskas and with practical experience, since during the trial, not one fellow priest or interested believer was allowed into the courtroom.

Those wishing to get into the courtroom used to be kept back outside the courthouse, or even on Lenin Prospect, and driven as much as several score kilometers from Vilnius out into the woods, and there, forced to get out one-by-one. Some of them were given 50-ruble fines, others, ten days in jail. In one case, over a dozen priests were detained several hours at the militia department without any reason.

One conclusion suggests itself from all that: It is necessary not to imprison people for criticism, but to put into effect those inter­national rights which the entire civilized world observes, and which the Soviet Union also agreed to observe. In accordance with the deepest convictions of priests and faithful, the sentencing of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and the arrest of Father Sigitas Tamkevičius is a serious mistake. (This is confirmed by over 70000 signatures under the petition to you and to other agencies, saying that they are not guilty.), so we ask you to set aside the decision of the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR, and to release both these priests without delay. Signed by the priests of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, Fathers:

1. Vaclovas Aliulis, 2. Antanas Andriuškevičius. 3. Tūlius Baltušis, 4. Danielius Baužys, 5. Romualdas Blažys, 6. Janas Charukevič, 7. Aldas Čeponis, 8. Vladas Černiauskas, 9. Petras Daunoras, 10. Anta­nas Dilys, 11. Antonis Dziekan, 12. Kazimieras Gailius, 13. Konstanti­nas Gajauskas, 14. Ignas Jakutis, 15. Pijus Jankus, 16 Bronius Jaura.

17. Stanislovas Kakarieka, 18. Aleksandras Kaškevičius, 19. Algis Kazlauskas, 20. Algimantas Keina, 21. Kazimieras Kindurys, 22. Ta­deušas Kondrusevičius, 23. Jonas Kukta, 24. Jonas Lauriūnas, 25. Stasys Lidys, 26. Silvestras Malachovski, 27. Stasys Markevičius, 28. Alfonsas Merkys, 29. Konstantinas Molis.

30. Juzefas Obremski, 31. Nikodemas Pakalka, 32. Zenonas Patie-jūnas, 33. Edmundas Paulionis, 34. Mykolas Petravičius, 35. Alfon­sas Petronis, 36. Juozas Puidokas, 37, Stanislovas Puidokas, 28. Ka­zimieras Pukėnas, 39. Vytautas Pūkas, 40. Bronius Sakavičius, 41. Justinas Saulius, 42. Leonas Savickas, 43. Marijonas Savickas, 44. Antanas Simonaitis, 45. Martynas Stonys, 46. Jordanas Slėnys.

47. Alfonsas Tamulaitis, 48. Česlovas Taraškevičius, 49. Petras Tarvy­das, 50. Adolfas Trusevič, 51. Juozas Tunaitis, 52. Steponas Tunaitis, 53. Albertas Ulickas, 54. Jonas Vaitonis, 55. Domas Va­lančiauskas, 56. Kazimieras Valeikis, 57. Stanislovas Valiukėnas, 58. Donatas Valiukonis, 59. Kazimieras Vasiliauskas, 60. Vaclovas Ve-rikas, 61. Antonis Zaman, 62. Kazimieras Žemėnas, 63. Leonidas Nestiukas, 64. Anton Pilipčik, 65. Mykolas Žemaitis, 66. Petras Purlys, 67. Kazys Meilus, 68. Jonas Boruta, 69. Kazimieras Žilys (Diocese of Kaišiadorys).

The following refused to sign:

1. Henrikas Blaževič, 2. Ričardas Černiauskas, 3. Vytautas Jes-kelevičius, 4. Jonas Kardelis, 5. Napoleonas Norkūnas, 6. Juozas Norkūnas, 7. Ignas Baberžis, 8. Juozas Poškus, 9. Vytautas Rū­kas, 10. Juozas Urbonas, 11. Kazimieras Vaičionis, 12. Vladisla-vas Velymanski, 13. Edmundas Kulvietis, 14. Jonas Grigaitis.

The others were not approached.