For more than ten years, H.E. Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius has been living in exile within the parish in N. Radviliškis, which is by the Latvian border. At present he is performing the duties of pastor of the parish in N. Radviliškis since Rugienis does not allow the appointment of a pastor for this parish.
On July 21 of this year (1972), about thirty children who wanted to receive their First Communion assembled in church. As the bishop was testing the children, three women entered the church and observed everything that was taking place there.
One teacher and a policeman were standing guard by the church, waiting for the children to leave. They asked every one of them for his name and surname. Some of the children attempted to run away, but the policeman caught up to them and draged them back to the teacher, who wrote down the child's name.
After Bishop Sladkevičius had calmly concluded the testing of the children, one of the women who had arrived presented herself at the sacristy:
"We are from the Procurator's Office of Biržai."
The bishop explained that he had been merely testing the children and that the women who watched should have become convinced of this. The woman from the Procurator's Office declared that she would decide what had been going on here and would then enlighten the bishop.
On July 23 there were ceremonial services at the church in N. Radviliškis—the children received their First Communion and Bishop Sladkevičius solemnly administered to them the sacrament of Confirmation.
Last year H.E. Bishop Sladkevičius was also set upon by Biržai Rayon officials as he was testing children prior to their First Communion.
He had been testing the children on June 24, when the rayon procurator, a correspondent, a policeman, the chairman of the locality, and several teachers entered the church. In the church there were about thirty children, who had come together with their parents. When the bishop addressed the new arrivals asking how he might be of assistance to them, the procurator muttered abruptly:
"We're not bothering you, sir."
As the children were dispersing, the officials detained them in the churchyard: the correspondent was photographing them from all directions, and the procurator was asking them their names. Seeing that the children were very frightened, and some were even crying, Bishop Sladkevičius declared:
"Don't terrorize the children. I'm here, the children's parents are here—ask us."
The rayon officials drew up an official report at the office of the locality and brought it to the bishop to sign. Since it was noted in the document that twenty-eight children carrying catechisms had been found in the church and the fact that their parents had been with them had been omitted, Bishop Sladkevičius entered into the document the remark that he disagreed with the unobjective contents of the document.
Later, the bishop was interrogated at the Procurator's Office in Biržai. In concluding the interrogation, the procurator stated: "Whether charges will be brought against you or not, I can't say. That will become apparent later on."
After a few days, Karosas, the vice-chairman of the rayon, explained to the bishop: "Although by catechizing children you have committed an offense, and in one way or another we could have put together a case against you,, but because you're a bishop and everyone is taking an interest in you, starting with N. Radviliškis and ending with the Vatican, we'll consider this matter closed."
Bishop Sladkevičius declared that the rayon officials were causing a commotion when it was unnecessary and remained silent when they should have reacted energetically. When a few years ago a student had had his shoes stolen at the school in N. Radviliškis, the event had gone unnoticed, but when some children had actively participated in Holy Saturday services, then security officials and other functionaries from the rayon office had come flocking.
"We're not concerned about shoes, but about people," replied Vice-Chairman Karosas. "You can make new shoes, but not people."