Archdiocese of Vilnius
To the General Secretary of the Communist Party Central
Committee of the USSR. To the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. To the Chief Prosecutor of the USSR.
To the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR. To the Chief Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR. To the Chanceries of the Dioceses of Vilnius, Kaunas, Panevėžys, and Kaišiadorys.
The Catholics of Lithuania suffer greatly, because they lack religious literature. It is true that the following books were published during the years of Soviet rule: A Prayerbook by Monsignor J.(uozas) Stankevičius, ALiturgical Prayerbook, The Decrees of Vatican II, The Ritual, The New Testament, The Psalmto. They did not satisfy the needs of the faithful, since the editions were so limited that they were useful only to the atheists, who in their propaganda abroad state that "we also have religious freedom." "For example, the parish of Ceikiniai, with a membership of 3,000 faithful, received only ten copies of the New Testament.
In response to the dearth of religious literature, a number of people, realizing that freedom of religion and freedom of press are guaranteed by Article 135 of the Constitution of the Soviet Union and Article 97 of the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR, and also that the government of the Lithuanian SSR, in violation of the above laws, does not permit the Catholics of Lithuania to publish religious books, decided to publish and distribute prayer-books secretly. Some were arrested in 1973. In December of 1974, the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR sentenced P.(aulius) Petronis to four years in a strict regime labor camp, P.(etras) Plumpa to eight years in a strict regime labor camp, J.(onas) Stašaitis to a year in prison, and V.(irgilijus) Jaugelis to two years in a standard regime labor camp.
Tiesa [the Lithuanian Communist Party newspaper analogous to Pravda. Trans. Note.] in its reports 12/23/73 and 12/29/74) on those individuals, did not specify to the general public what type of publications they published and distributed, "they illegally published and distributed publications which spread concocted provocative rumors, slandering the Soviet State and public order."
Tiesa did not disclose the titles of these publications. It was only the administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, Monsignor Č.(eslovas) Krivaitis, who on February 25, 1975, at a press conference in the United States mentioned that those individuals have, after a lengthy interrogation, been sentenced in connection with the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. Monsignor Krivaitis did not disclose the publication of prayerbooks, since in his view "the Catholic Church in Soviet Lithuania is functioning normally." (Gimtasis Kraštas, 11/8/73). [A propaganda newspaper published in Lithuania for the emigrees. — Tr. Note].
The Soviet press frequently brings to light, criticizes and condemns various faults and violations of the public good. No one, however, mentions the crimes against the faithful, despite the fact that sometimes they are of such magnitude that they violate the Soviet Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The entire Soviet press should be writing about it, but it is silent. This task is therefore performed by the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania.
The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania contains no statements against the Soviet system. It only brings nut the facts about crimes against believers, the truth of which no one will challenge. Are the statements of the faithful of the parishes of Ceikiniai, Adutiškis, Mielagėnai and Ignalina slanderous? No! No one can prove that. When the persecution of the faithful ceases, so will the various statements and petitions of the faithful, and as a result, the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania will also cease publication. Under present conditions the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania is the call for help of the suffering children of the Catholic Church in Lithuania.
We consider the decision of the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR unjust and request that it be rescinded for the following reasons:
1. If our basic law—the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR guarantees the freedoms of conscience, religious services and press, if on December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was signed by the Soviet Union, then the faithful must be guaranteed the means and the opportunity to become familiar with their faith and to profess it publicly. In other words, of what value is a right, if one lacks the opportunity to make use of it? To get to know one's faith, one needs catechisms, prayerbooks and religious literature, which the Soviet civil authorities of Lithuania do not permit. They thus violate the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR charged P.(ovilas) Petronis and J.(onas) Stašaitis with the manufacture and distribution of prayerbooks. In court, most of the witnesses spoke only about their printing, binding and distribution. The Suprme Court of the Lithuanian SSR, in rendering its decision, however, mentioned only the printing and distribution of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania and other "anti-Soviet" publications. Therefore, the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR acted unjustly in sentencing Petronis and Stašaitis, who printed and distributed prayerbooks. Religious literature is a vital matter for the faithful. Though courts may try people and assess the severest penalties, the faithful will continue illegally to produce as much religious literature as they are able, as long as the government officially prohibits its publication.
2. The Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR charged P.(etras) Plumpa and V.(irgilijus) Jaugelis with the printing and distribution of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, and in March 1975, sentenced J.(uozas) Gražys to three years in prison for the binding of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. N.(ijolė) Sadūnaitė, who was arrested in 1974, is still being interrogated and is awaiting trial. [As of 1975.—Tr. Note]
We consider the sentencing of some and the imprisonment of others illegal, because the activities of the above-mentioned individuals were not crimes. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19) says that "Everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas...through any media." Hence, they committed no crime by reproducing and distributing the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. The Criminal Code of the Lithuanian SSR cannot contradict the Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Besides, the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania is not a publication for slander but for true facts. Some Lithuanian bishops, administrators of dioceses and priests in general in their interviews with the foreign press and radio will not deny that the faithful of Lithuania are living in a period of oppression. For example, the Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius Monsignor Č. Krivaitis, in a New York press conference, according to Tiesa (2/20/75), stated: "The faithful of Soviet Lithuania have all the necessary means to practice their religion. Neither they, nor their children are persecuted for their beliefs. We the clergy have all the means necessary to carry on our work."
If that were the truth, if we had all the means necessary to carry on our work, then why, in the Archdiocese of Vilnius, should eight priests have to care for two parishes each, while Father Alfonsas Merkys is in charge of three—Turmantą, Tilžė and Smalvos? Why should the following priests of the Diocese of Vilnius continue to serve their parishes despite their age: P.(ovilas) Bekiš (77), the pastor of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius; L.(eopoldas) Chomski (90), the pastor of the parish of Baltoji vokė; L.(ionginas) Ivančik (79), the pastor of Korvis; L.(eonas) Laucevič (80), the pastor of Rūdininkai; A.(leksandras Liachovič (80), the pastor of Mickūnai; S.(ilvestras) Malachovski (77), the pastor of Eitmo-niškės; V.(ladas) Novicki (78), the pastor of Parudaminis. With the exception of Rev. P. Bekis, these priests have no curates.
The cited examples prove the magnitude of the shortage of priests in Lithuania. Meanwhile, a large number of candidates, who desire to become priests, are not admitted to the Theological Seminary because the Security organs will not clear them.
Twenty two priests died in Lithuania in 1974, and only eight were ordained. Ten new seminarians were admitted. Therefore, the situation of the faithful cannot be considered normal; the Church is oppressed.
3. The trial of the above mentioned "criminals" is the clearest example of the situation in which the faithful have no rights. The articles of the Criminal Code do not apply to the Security organs in their struggle against the faithful. The Criminal Code of the Lithuanian SSR (Article 106) states that only in very complex cases may the Prosecutor General extend the time for pre-trial investigation to nine months from the date of arrest. The pre-trial investigation and imprisonment of Petronis and Plumpa lasted for twelve and a half months (11/19/73 to 12/2/74), that of J. Gražys— eleven months (4/24/74 to March, 1975). In light of all these facts, we request that the decision of the Supreme Court of the Lithuanian SSR in the cases of the above-mentioned individuals be overturned and those sentenced as well as those held for investigation be released, while the faithful of Lithuania are guaranteed the right to make use of the freedoms, guaranteed by the Soviet Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
April 28, 1975
Ceikiniai, Ignalina Rayon, Lithuania SSR, Rev. Karolis Garuckas
Smalavos, Zarasai Rayon, Rev. Alfonsas Merkys
Adutiškis, Švenčionys Rayon, Rev. Bronislavas Laurinavičius
Nemenčinė, Vilnius Rayon, Rev. Kazimieras Pukėnas
7-3 Kretinga Street, Vilnius, Rev. Stasys Valiukėnas
20 Nugalėtojai Street, Vilnius, Rev