TO OUR BELOVED IRISH BRETHREN:
On May 12, 1976 ,the Vatican Radio broadcast in Lithuanian the good news that in March, a group of Catholics in Ireland tried to submit through the Soviet embassy in Dublin a petition to the Soviet government concerning the persecution of Catholics in Lithuania.
The Soviet embassy refused the petition, and the Irish Catholic group, after reciting the rosary at the gates of the Soviet embassy, dispersed. The rejected petition was published the following day in the capital city's press.
The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, in the name of the entire nation of Lithuanian faithful, cordially thanks the Irish for the moral support to the Catholics of Lithuania, who are waging a life-and-death struggle against so-called militant atheism, which is supported by the gigantic machinery of the government.
What terrible hypocrisy comes to light when we hear how the Soviet newspapers constantly proclaim that the Soviet Union supports the nationalists of Africa, when at the same time they ship to Siberia Lithuanians who love their own nation, shut them up in psychiatric hospitals, refuse to register them after they are released from camps, and throw them out of work. The Soviet press proclaims that the Soviet Union is assisting the Catholics of Northern Ireland by all possible means, including arms. At the same time in Lithuania the Catholic Church is mercilessly being crushed: Our venerable historic and artistic churches are being converted into warehouses and museums: e.g., the Cathedral of Vilnius—a picture gallery, the Church of St. Casimir—a museum of atheism. The morality of the nation is being destroyed, and the character of Lithuania is being damaged.
On June 15, 1940, the Red Army cut us off from the Throne of St. Peter and from the entire non-Communist world. News from the outside world, on account of various obstacles, reaches us, only in part and late. Nevertheless, we know and rejoice that Ireland contributes the greatest percentage of missionairies, that 91% of its Catholics attend church on Sundays, that in the USA the best Catholics are the Irish immigrants. Thus, we hope that this protest by the Irish will not be the last!
Unfortunately, the Catholics of the West could learn from the Communists how to fight for one's principles. For example, the Communist (and even the non-Communist) press of the whole world cried out for years in behalf of Manoli Gleza. And they got what they were after! In the USA, they made a heroine out ot Angela Davis, who had committed a criminal offense.
But when 5 million Catholics in Western Ukraine have not one official church, when Belorussia has been left with barely a few elderly priests, when they do not have a single bishop—even a secret bishop as in the Ukraine—the Catholic press is content with an occasional rare item. Ireland, which has suffered so much, understands what persecution of religion means!
The Catholic Church of Lithuania—the furthest outpost of the Church in Northern Europe, has been waging a one-sided battle against an atheism imported from abroad. Brother and sister Catholics of the whole world, help us! Your prayers and every act of protest will give us moral strength, will help us to win the right to worship God without restraint, and to feel like citizens with equal rights in our own homeland.
The only force that every offender, including militant atheism, fears is public opinion. The Jews have the resolute Senator Jackson. Can not Catholics have someone similar? Proclaim to the world that we Catholics not only do not have those rights which the Negroes of America have, but we do not have any press, not even a Catholic calendar, prayer books, or catechisms; that priests are imprisoned for teaching religion; that the youth are persecuted for going to church (believing youth in school receive only a passing mark in deportment). Proclaim to the world that the dioceses of Lithuania do not have a single Ordinary. Vilnius—the capital of Lithuania— has neither a bishop nor a cathedral. Two bishops—Julijonas Steponavičius and Vincentas Sladkevičius—have been exiled for fifteen years now without trial. The one seminary, that of Kaunas, used to produce barely a few priests a year. This number, on account of protests at home and abroad has increased to ten. But each year, about twenty priests die. The average age of the Lithuanian priest is over 60.
Our Irish brothers, train missionaries for Lithuania as well! Even now the Ukraine recalls with respect the sacrifices of Irish priests in Lvov and elsewhere. In time, they will have to come to our poor homeland as well. . .
Your prayers and your resolute protest are our hope for survival and victory.
June 13, 1976