To a casual observer, it might appear that fresh breezes have begun to blow in the Catholic Church of Lithuania. In January, 1977, the Deputy of the Council for Religious Affairs, P. Makarcov, warned Party activists in Lithuania to treat priests more politely; and leaving for Moscow, he spoke of the easing of government policy with regard to the Church.
Before Easter, the authorities of the City of Šiauliai allowed the ringing of the bells of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, after twenty years.
At the end of January, 1977, the principal Mass on the occasion of the jubilee of the Servant of God, Bishop Jurgis Matulevičius, was celebrated by the exiled Bishop of Kaišiadorys, Vincentas Sladkevičius. A few years ago, on the occasion of the anniversary, even registered priests celebrated Mass in the sacristy at Marijampolė.
Priests in many places teach children catechism openly, with the government content to levy fines. No one speaks of trials such as those of Father Šeškevičius, Father Zdebskis, or Father Bubnis, nor does anyone believe that they could take place at this time What is the significance of all this?
Perhaps the Soviet government is demonstrating good will, and beginning to live up to what is written in the Constitution of the USSR and in the laws ascribed to international agreements: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Helsinki Final Act and elsewhere—things talked about for nineteen years, but never effected.
Perhaps it means the repeal of "untimely methods", which evoked a reaction from believers?
Dear Man of the Land!
With wonder and astonishment we are following the course of your star. We rejoice that for once in the arcane realm of politics, a personality has appeared who believes in God, and who respects human dignity and supreme duty. We salute a nation which is embodied in such a president. May God assist you!
Political Prisoners of Permė, USSR E. Sverstiuk S. Kovalev P. Plumpa K. Mendelev
April 19, 1977, at about 9 a.m., Antanas Miklyčius, residing in Kaunas, at Linkuvos 77-g, was taken from work and brought home, where a search warrant was served on him, and according to the directions of Senior Major for Interrogation Markevičius, a search was made of his apartment, basement and storage space. In charge of the search was Senior Lt. Gavėnas.
The search required about seven hours. Taking part in it were four security agents and two witnesses. Seized in the course of the search were a notebook and three books: At the Cross of Hope, Excerpts from the History of the Church and the Popes, "Diary" (typed pages), The Metropolitan Archbishop of Kaunas (pages), the article by Girnius entitled "History Repeats Itself", etc.
After the search Antanas Miklyčius was taken to Security for questioning.
April 19, security agents brought Jonas Rupšys home from work, and having shown him a warrant with Major Markevičius' signature, carried out a search at his home. The security people were looking for Aušra [another Lithuanian samizdat—Transl. Note], and for theChronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, as well as other illegal publications. The search took two hours; seized during the search were the book, "Sielos Kultūra (Culture of the Soul), and approximately twenty audio casettes. After the search, Jonas Rupšys was taken to Security for interrogation.
On April 19, at 6 a.m., an official alighted from a car, detained Dr. Povilas Butkevičius on his way to work, and took him back home (Kaunas, Molėtų 18). Here a woman and a man, who had come along, went to Dr. Butkevičius' apartment and introduced themselves as having been "sent by Alfonsas". When they had been allowed in, they showed their Security credentials and invited in five men who had been waiting outside.
November 17, 1976, the administrator of the Catholic Church in Grinkiškis sent the Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Rayon of Radviliškis, this petition:
"On November 16, 1976, Director Kirtiklis, of the Middle School of Grinkiškis, summoned pupil Rimantė Vaškytė and reprimanded her for visiting the rectory on several occasions. The Dirctor forbade the child to visit the priest, and threatened to have the priest transferred from Grinkiškis.
"A couple of times two boys stopped by—I don't even recall their names—and Director Kirtiklis forbade them too to see the priest. The pupil Vilė Dauknytė was also persecuted. Now, fearful of persecution, the girl stays away from church.
"Parents are always complaining to me that the atheists of the middle school of Grinkiškis persecute their children, and that the children are forbidden to go to church.
"Such behavior on the part of Kirtiklis and other atheists insults me not only as a priest, but above all as a person. To hear them talk, the priest is some kind of criminal, whom one can not agree to greet, or to engage in conversation, or visit socially. I know that there are atheists of such low culture, but the fact that teachers are such can only be regretable. In Grinkiškis, some school children break church windows — I would not be surprised if they started throwing stones at me, a priest—that's how they are trained by their atheist teachers.
A Statement by the Catholic Religious Community of Žalioji Addressed to the Deputy of the Committee for Religious Affairs. Copy to the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian S.S.R.
The Catholic religious community (parish) of Žalioji was registered October 4, 1948, by Bronius Pusinis, Deputy of the Committee for Religious Affairs. It continued to operate until January 28, 1963. Despite the protests of the faithful, and the fact that the church was attended in great numbers by the faithful, the religious community of Žalioji was abolished and the church was arbitrarily closed by S. Rogov, Vice Chairman of the Rayon of Vilkaviškis. This can be confirmed by the priests and faithful of neighboring parishes. What an obvious offense against Soviet law concerning religious cults and freedom of conscience, to carry out all one's deceitful plans without the consent of the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian S.S.R., and moreover to send the militia, with District Chairman Makšriūnas, to Chairman Kazys Mažeika, to confiscate the parish seals!
The parish chairman, seeing the armed militia and the Chairman of the district, became frightened. Thinking that they had come to arrest him. Rogov himself had earlier threatened with prison anyone defending the Church. Before surrendering the seals, Mažeika demanded a written statement that the seals were being taken from him.
Chairman Mekšriūnas drafted a response and left it with Mažeika. Thus the religious community of Žalioji, although it has been guilty of no offense against Soviet law, was finally liquidated by administrative decision, with the help of the militia. What a brutal violation of the basic rights of the faithful! Based on the law, every Soviet citizen is free to decide for himself or herself his or her attitude towards religion and the Church, and not ex-vice-chairman Rogov. And with the help of the militia to boot! Why did Deputy for Religious Affairs Rugienis, and the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian S.S.R. allow Soviet law to be broken, and freedom of religion and conscience to be repressed?
In the February 2, 1977, issue of Tiesa (Truth) we read an article by J. Baltušis in reply to a foreign journalist, the correspondent of Figaro. The article is entitled, "The Distorted Mirror".
Not having seen the article in Figaro, we find it difficult to judge how much truth there is in it. We must surmise that the correspondent, having looked around a day or two in Lithuania, was not able to form a more complete picture.
However, we were surprised by Mr. Baltušis, who is known to the public as a writer of great talent, who has depicted beautifully more than one page of our not-too-distant past, looked about in America with open eyes and seen there not just the trash, but also some bright spots, something which some other of our writers who have visited there were unable to do. His article, touching on various areas of life in Lithuania: economic, cultural, political, historic, and religious,—came out looking like a distorted mirror. This is clear from reading if only those lines which touch on the religious aspect.
Baltušis is upset with the correspondent of Figaro, because the latter writes, "The Soviet regime represses religion to a considerable degree (they have closed churches, seminaries, monasteries and convents), and those who wish to have a good job cannot practice their faith publicly." Why be upset? After all, this is the honest truth!
Perhaps our honorable writer does not know that in Vilnius, let us say, out of several score churches only a few are open? How would he explain why the rest are closed? Did they shut down of themselves? There was a directive in 1948, by which many churches in Lithuania were closed; not just churches, but also all monasteries and convents.
To: The Minister for Internal Affairs of the Lithuanian SSR From: Citizen Bronislava Valaitytė, daughter of Jeronimas, Residing in Sasnava, Rayon of Kapsukas
On December 17, 1976, in Lazdijai, I was detained by the militia and minutely searched. In its communication No. 2/13-V-8 dated January 27, 1977, the Cadre Section of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Lithuanian SSR informed me that the search was demanded by a woman who had sat next to me, and had complained to Chairman Vaišnora, of the Executive Committee of the Comittee of Deputies of the Working People of the City of Veisėjai that her handbag had allegedly disappeared and that she suspected me of theft. This was a vicious lie and a calumny, since the woman who sat next to me on the bus that day registered no complaint with anyone.
On February 1, 1977, I sent Chairman Vaišnora a petition, requesting him to reveal to me the name and address of the calumniator, so that I might take her to court. However, he has not replied to date. Although one would not like to believe that this whole calumny was invented by Vaišnora himself, nevertheless it seems to me that a responsible Soviet official should not have the right to conceal calumniators.
I request you to require that Chairman A. Vaišnoras, of the Executive Committee of the Council of Deputies of the Working People reveal the names and adress of my calumniator.
Sasnava, March 12, 1977
(Miss) B. Valaitytė
To this petition, Miss Valaitytė received from Assistant Chief of the Cadre Section Z. Kalinski of the Ministry of Internal Affairs on March 29, 1977, Communication No. 2/3-V-7 as follows: "We wish to inform you that the name of the citizen mentioned in your petition has not been determined." In reality, during the search they were looking not for a stolen handbag, but for so-called anti-Soviet literature.