In this issue:
Lithuania ....................................... March 19, 1977
Word has reached Lithuania from Rome that Bishop Matulaitis-Labukas has requested the Vatican Curia for an invitation, to take care of matters pertaining to the Church in Lithuania—most probably to consult on the appointment of new bishops.
These matters pertaining to the Church are truly in an abnormal state. At the present time, not one diocese in Lithuania has its own Bishop Ordinary. Most Lithuanian dioceses are ruled not by bishops, but administrators. Two bishops, Julijus Steponavičius and Vincentas Sladkevičius, have been banished from their dioceses for over fifteen years now, without trial.
Is it a normal state of affairs that the Catholics of Lithuania have no prayer books, or catechisms, and that the youth is being pressured into atheism? The seminary is run by Dr. Viktoras Butkus, who has compromised himself both at home and abroad.
The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, as the only independent voice of priests and faithful, feels obliged to declare: Lithuania needs not new bishops, but new priests. In the Soviet system, a bishop is no more powerful than a simple priest-administrator of a diocese, when it comes to taking care of Church affairs. Even children in Lithuania know that priests are appointed to parishes not by the bishop or by the administrator, but by state security forces working through the atheist Kazimieras Tumenas.
We will not be exaggerating if we say that for the ordination of a few seminarians and the consecration of the holy oils, there are enough bishops in Lithuania at this time. The future of the Church in Lithuania depends not on the number of bishops or administrators, but on the work of dedicated rank-and-file priests on the pastoral front.
Sad news has reached us concerning the seminary and the kind of spirit which has recently taken hold there. Without mentioning specific facts, we urge you, Brothers, do not grow old in spirit. Only an old person feels an excessive need for rest, conveniences, warmth, and good food. Youth must be aggressive, heedless of any inconvenience, because it is fired by high ideals.
It is worth recalling our young people from times past. They used to organize groups to write, criticize, debate, without a single complaint about difficult conditions! All were concerned for their oppressed country. Hungry and ill-clothed, they used to devote all their energies to publishing and circulating books and newspapers.
We have few priests, so Lithuania is looking for resolute priests of noble spirit. How many priests and bishops were tortured to death for their loyalty to the Church and Country? How many today die before their time, because the Gulag Archipelago has drained their strength?
Their places must be taken not by spineless characters, but by men of fire with youthful and holy idealism. It will be your task to elevate the Nation's spirit, to stand up courageously against lies, deceit, hatred and the spirit of submissiveness. Will you be able to do so, if you get mired in a swamp of convenience and self-love?
WE WELCOME TIESOS KELIAS
At the end of January, 1977, a new publication for priests appeared in Lithuania, entitled Tiesos Kelias (Way of Truth). In appearance, it is similar to the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania and other underground publications. (Typed carbon copies passed from hand to hand — Transl. Note).
Tiesos Kelias, according to its publishers, will be "a window through which more light can be shed on the lives of our priests". It intends to share pastoral experience with priests, to acquaint them with new developments in theology and philosophy, and to provide news of the Catholic world.
A reading of the first issue of Tiesos Kelias leaves a good impression: The publishers deal with practical problems and try to answer them concretely. (A journal for priests and laity by the same title was published for years in independent Lithuania — Transl. Note).
We can only rejoice that Tiesos Kelias has come out just in time, for the Soviet government plans to publish an official journal for priests, like the Journal of the Patriarchate of Moscow. The priests of Lithuania want no such publication.
The Chronicle urges all priests to join actively in the publication and the circulation of Tiesos Kelias.
At the beginning of 1977, the apartments of the following individuals were searched:
1. Mrs. Ona Grigaliūnienė, resident of Kaunas
2. Leonardas Stovskis, resident of Kaunas, LTSR 25-čio g.
3. Jonas Petkevičius, resident of Šiauliai. Seized: a camera, The History of Christ by Papini, and other items.
4. Balys Gajauskas, resident of Kaunas, Spynu g. 3-8.
At the beginning of 1977, (Miss) Ona Pranckūnaitė was arrested in Panevėžys. TheChronicle has no further news about these raids nor concerning the arrest of Ona Pranckūnaitė.
Kapsukas, February 14, 1977. Four unknown men broke into the apartment of Janina Buzaitė. This apartment is under constant surveillance by Security. Many times, Miss Buzaitė's apartment in ' Kapsukas was searched in her absence. Persons acquainted with Miss Buzaitė were interrogated more than once. One of them was told by Security agents that Miss Buzaitė is a major offender who should be isolated from the public.
The third issue of the publication Dievas ir Tėvynė (God and Country) has appeared. The article entitled "Mankind Has Always Believed in God" contains a rebuttal to attacks in the book by S. Markonis, "You're Not Telling the Truth, Father".
Most of the issue consists of the article, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life", in which the historicity of Christ is demonstrated from various sources.
The article, "What is Atheism?" shows how world-famous people regard atheism, and how atheism stands up under the realities of everyday life and in the light of the Sacred Scriptures.
The article "Faith—the Eternal Light" critiques the television film, "Do You Believe?"
The publication, medium in size, is 68 pages long.
A STRIKING ILLUSTRATION OF "FREEDOM"
The political and religious brain-washing of students in Lithuanian institutions of higher learning demands of Security agents ever increasing effort. Every institution of higher learning has assigned to it, permanent "bosses"—security agents, who, like spiders, weave their web: They recruit teachers, at least one student from each class, and administrative assistants to keep track of one another, to watch, listen, and report, so that "everything" might be known to Security; that everyone, no matter where they might be, or what they might be doing, would at all times feel a nagging fear, that his or her conversations would be overheard and reported, so that students and teachers would be permeated with feelings of extreme hopelessness: "Even though everyone sees clearly the most brazen lies and constraint, nevertheless there is nothing which can be done about it; it is no use kicking against the goad."
In 1948, the Soviet government ordered that every church have a "committee of twenty" of the faithful, and allowed them, in accord with a "contract" drawn up by the government, to rent their own churches, which the government had confiscated. If the committee did not sign the contract, the church was threatened with closure.
No one doubted that Stalin was capable of carrying out this threat. The country was cowed: People were being hauled off to Siberia, prisons and dungeons were packed with innocent people, in the city squares lay the mutilated bodies of partisans, a third of the priests were in the Gulag Archipelago, and the only bishop left
in all of Lithuania, Kazimieras Paltarokas, hoping to save priests and faithful, did not oppose the compulsory signing of the "contract" too strenuously.
Here is the kind of "contract" which was foisted on the faithful of Lithuania:
"1. We, the undersigned citizens, contract to take care of the house of prayer consigned to us, together with all property belonging to it, and to use it exclusively for the purposes for which it has been assigned. We accept the responsibility of keeping up and guarding the property consigned to us, and of carrying out all the responsibilities which this contract places upon us.
"2. We contract to use the bulding, and to make it available to all others of the same faith, exclusively for purposes of religious worship and not to allow to perform therein such religious services, any ministers of cult not registered with the Deputy for the Lithuanian SSR, of the Council for Religious Cults attached to the Council of Ministers of the USSR.
"3. We contract to do everything necessary, so that the property entrusted to us would not be used for purposes not in accord with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of this contract.
To the Chief Prosecutor of the LSSR
Copy to: His Excellency Bishop Liudas Povilonis
A Statement by the Rev. J. Zdebskis
At the beginning of December, 1976, while I was out, four unknown citizens arrived, one of them in militia uniform. Finding my mother and some guests at home, they arbitrarily walked about my rooms, insulting my guests with threats. They gave no names, nor did they leave any warrant, or record of the search.
A few days earlier, a similar operation was carried out by other persons, among whom was the principal of the Šlavantai Middle School, J. Petrauskas.
I request the Prosecutor to explain the incident and to remind the persons mentioned of Soviet law.
Šlavantai, December 20, 1976 Pastor of Šlavantai
Žemaitkiemis (Rayon of Ukmergė). June 6, 1976, in the parish church of Žemaitkiemis, the Solemn First Mass of Father Vytautas Kapočius took place. Taking part in the solemnities were pupils of the elementary school of Žemaitkiemis. Eighth-grader Roma Slaitai-tė carried a miniature altar in the procession.
A week later, Teacher Ana Ulozienė and Principal Stasys Misiūnas interrogated the girl in school. The teachers asked Romutė who told her to walk in the procession, who gave her the clothes, and other details. The girl answered that she goes to church on her own, and on her own took part in the procession.
A class meeting of the eighth grade was called, in which the pupils considered how to punish the "offender". Her classmates suggested that Roma be given a written reprimand, but Communist Youth League member Danguolė Šniraitė protested, "That is too little! I move that she be given a stern reprimand."
Roma Šlaitaitė had her conduct mark reduced to the minimum acceptable, while her file was annotated: "Roma used to be taken to church by her parents, and now the pupil is incorrigible."
School Principal Misiūnas is conducting a fanatical atheistic campaign. During Lent, all pupils from Grade i to Grade 8 are given lectures in atheism.
The week before Christmas, an announcement appeared in the elementary school at Žemaitkiemis, saying that at 9 a.m. on December 25, 1976 (the hour at which the Shepherds' Mass takes place in the church at Žemaitkiemis), the film The Black Processionwould be shown. Attendance was compulsory; those not attending were threatened with lower marks in conduct.
The principal himself provided the commentary during the film, criticizing and ridiculing the Church, priests and faithful, as well as threatening children who were believers.
To prevent children from assisting at Mass on Christmas Day, Principal Misiūnas organized a trip to Kaunas.
His wife, Alfa Misiūnienė, who works as a medical aide at the dispensary in Žemaitkiemis, is just as bad as her husband. She visits uninvited the parents of believing children, ridiculing their convic-tons and threatening them in various ways.
Imbradas. Sixteen years since the death of the Rev. Pastor, Father V.Šamšonas.
Ten kilometers from Zarasai in the direction of Obeliai is the village of Imbradas. The wooden church is surrounded with the graves of village ancestors. Among them rest the remains of priests. The last pastor was buried there sixteen years ago. Marking his grave is a stone cross with the inscription:
R.I.P. Father Vytautas Antanas Šamšonas August 17, 1912 - January 28, 1961 The boundless love of the Lord grant him peace. To the Pastor of Imbrada of many years, From his grateful parishioners. He was so young—barely forty-eight—when death took him from his work!
The pastor loved his people, and the people their pastor. The pastor lived with his mother, who kept house for him. It was January 28, 1961. The pastor asked his mother to heat some water for a shampoo, while he went to church to pray.
When he failed to return, the mother summoned the sexton and went to look for him. To their surprise, they found the pastor lying dead in a pool of blood. The government spread the rumor that the pastor had committed suicide by jumping through a hole in the ceiling. (True, the ceiling was soiled, but from underneath.) The veins of both wrists were severed (In the opinion of physicians, a person could not do this to himself) and his skull was fractured.
The pastor was from the Parish of Papiliai. He had studied for the priesthood at the seminary in Kaunas. He was a well-educated, serious, and decorous priest. Recently, he had been summoned by the KGB many times.
A small detail: A few years after the death of Father Samsonas, the security people summoned an old priest living in Pasvalys, a Doctor of Philosophy, to the military commisariate, and there inquired how Father Samsonas died... Even after several years, they have no peace...