On January 9, 1978 Jonučiai (Kaunas Rayon) resident Juozas Vitkūnas invited the Rev. Vincentas Jalinskas to bless his home. Many guests had gathered for the occasion, especially youths and students, to whom the priest spoke on a religious theme. Suddenly, in the middle of the talk, a uniformed militiaman burst into the room. He was followed by two more militiamen and several civilians. A covered militia vehicle stopped at the door and there appeared more vehicles bringing militiamen and Security police. The house was surrounded and the road to the main street was bristling with militia. The militiaman who had entered the room demanded to see the owner of the house and signaled to the several adults to go into the next room. They were asked where they were from, their names and the like. The people questioned stated that they had committed no crime and would not give their names.
One woman guest told the intruders: "Are we some kind of criminals? You don't have the right to barge in and intimidate people!"
The Security agent retorted: "We will deal with you separately!" Father Jalinskas demanded to see the intruders' documents. The Security agent presented his employment card and stated that he has the right to disperse the gathering because such meetings are forbidden. When the officials ordered the priest to don his coat and get into the vehicle, he retorted: "We adults will not go, nor will we give you the children!" The militiamen tried to drag the adults to the vehicle by force. And all the while the children in the other room sang: Du gaideliai (Two Roosters) Jurgeli, meistreli (George, the craftsman) and other songs. A group of children managed to run away, but others were detained by officials who alertly guarded all exits. After the initial fright, the people attending the gathering began to mock the officials and did not disperse. The intruders demanded that they disperse and began to note the names of those leaving. Most gave fictitious names so the Security police would have less work in investigating this "crime." Only two adults were taken away for interrogation.
The militia chasing running children—what a "pretty" picture of the freedom of religion in present-day Lithuania!
At militia headquarters, the interrogator questioned those brought in after placing a stick on his table: a symbol of his justice and power.
He wanted to know who had invited the guests to the gathering, what the priest had said and the like.
Someone knocked loudly at the door of the Rev. K.(arolis) Garuckas at 5:00 P.M. on October 7, 1977. When he answered, a short, stocky man entered the room and said "Hello" in a rough voice. After asking whether the priest knew him, he snatched up letters which were on the table. After examining them, he began to rummage through books. He even barged into Father K. Garuckas' combination study and bedroom. Father Garuckas has only one room, divided by a wardrobe. He receives guests and parishioners on one side of the room, and works and sleeps on the other. When the intruder spied a typewriter on the table, he examined what was being written and asked: "Maybe you're writing for the Chronicle?
Only then did Father Garuckas remember that this man had interrogated him several years earlier. He was Paškevičius, Security chief of the Ignalina Rayon.Seeing a letter from a soldier and a photograph on the table, the Security agent asked: "What, are you even spying on the army? Where is this letter from? Whose picture is this?" The Security agent accused the priest of writing for the Chronicleand passing information abroad. When he noticed liturgical books with multi-colored ribbons he shouted, "What is this, the Lithuanian flag?"
Assured that he was mistaken, he snatched from the table typewritten sermon notes on Christ's Resurrection. The Security agent was interested in everything. When he saw a picture of Pope Paul VI hanging on the wall he asked, "Where did you get this?" and added "You detest the Soviet Union . . ."
Seeing that the Security agent was becoming carried away, the priest asked, "Did you come to conduct a search here?"
There would perhaps have been no end to the Security chief s arbitrariness, had the priest not been called away to visit a seriously ill patient. The Security agent then handed the priest a summons which stated that he was to go on October 10, 1977 to the State Security Committee in Vilnius to see Interrogator Lazarevičius.
Interrogator Lazarevičius greeted Father Garuckas very cordially. First, he stated that Ona Lukauskaitė-Poškienė and Eitan Finkel-stein had already been interrogated and that only he, Father Garuckas, was left. The interrogator was interested in the following questions:
How had Father Garuckas become a member of the Lithuanian Public Group Monitoring Adherence to the Helsinki Agreements? Where and when had the priest met Tomas Venclova and Viktoras Petkus?
The interrogator held up a handful of documents from the Lithuanian Public Group Monitoring Adherence to the Helsinki Agreements and asked whether the priest had seen them. He asked about the ties of the Lithuanian Helsinki Group with Moscow dissidents. Who was the chairman of this group? How often did the members of this group meet? What kind of statements did it write to the Belgrade Conference? What kind of statements did they write in unison?
The interrogator was especially interested in the Baltic National Committee. The interrogation lasted seven hours.
The priests of the Švenčionys Rayon received the following summons on November 10, 1977:
"The Švenčionys Rayon Peoples Council of Deputies Executive Committee is notifying you that a meeting will be held on November 15, 1977, at 11:00 A.M. at the Švenčionys Rayon Cultural Center recreation room (Švenčionys, Vilniaus g. No. 2, Second Floor) with the leading members of the Rayon Peoples Council of Deputies Executive Committee. You are invited to attend this meeting."
This notice was signed by Rayon Executive Committee Vice-Chairman V. Mačionis.
The priests assembled at the Švenčionys rectory and later proceeded to the Cultural Center in a group. There, they were cordially met by Vice-Chairman Mačionis who shook the hand of each and led them to the recreation room. Coffee cups and hard-to-come by candies were laid out on the table. The priests were invited to sit at the table. A very polite woman tied to serve the priests. Most declined the coffee because they felt this was a ludicrous comedy. Vice-chairman Mačionis, Rayon Agricultural Department Chief Lisauskas and the Rayon cultural department head sat behind the other table.
Mačionis spoke about all kinds of trivial things: how much was sold of various items, what industries exist in the Rayon and the like. Lisauskas spoke of pig sties, harvests and fields being upgraded, and the head of the cultural department talked about the schools.
They then allowed the priests to raise questions of interest to them. When asked how much alcohol is sold yearly in the Rayon, Mačionis replied: "2,500,000 rubles worth of alcohol is sold, and 1,300,000 rubles worth of wine." The Rayon has a population of 40,000. He noted that in other Rayons — Mažeikiai, for example — even more is consumed.
The priests asked Mačionis to have catechisms and hymnals printed, to have a new and larger printing of a prayerbook issued, to lower the rate per kilowatt of electricity used in churches from 25 kopecks to 4 kopecks (the rate paid by all Soviet citizens), to permit them freely to purchase material needed for church repairs, and to grant church employees pensions. Mačionis made notes of all therequests and stated: "I am not qualified to grant them." He promised to pass them on to the appropriate agencies.
Similar meetings of Rayon officials with priests were also arranged in otherRayons. What is their purpose? It would appear that it is an attempt to draw the attention of the Belgrade Conference to the "freedom of religion and conscience" in Soviet Lithuania. Or perhaps this is an attempt by the party and government authorities to educate the "backward", to reassure them, "Don't make a fuss, don't complain, we have noted down your demands, we will consider them, and so on."
On Sunday December 11, 1977, a first lieutenant of the militia dispersed old women selling religious articles near the Kaunas Cathedral.
People going into the church tried to defend the old women. The militiaman threatened them: "You're upset? Telephone Brezhnev. If you want to discuss politics, I'll take you to the station; you tan discuss politics there."
The faithful tried to explain that they have nowhere to purchase religious articles. How can the new Constitution be reconciled with believers' lack of rights?
The militia lieutenant retorted: "Have you read the Constitution thoroughly? Read it and you will see that the time when you did what you wanted has passed. You should know that the church belongs to the state, you are merely renting it. All church matters are now managed by the government."
The Rev. Alf. Svarinskas, Pastor of Viduklė, sent the following request on October 17, 1977 to Raseiniai Rayon Vice-Chairman Z. Butkus:
"Two cherished and important Catholic holy days are drawing near: All Saints and All Souls Days. During those two days the Church rejoices in her children who have attained heaven and joy, and pray at the gates of purgatory asking God's mercy for those who are suffering. Following a thousand-year-old tradition, the faithful go to cemeteries on the eve of All Souls Day to pay respect to their dead.
"I, therefore, ask you to grant permission for the Catholics of Vidukle to perform their sacred duty as provided in the Ritual Book (published in 1966). The procession will be purely religious, with the singing of the All Saints' Litany and Psalm 45—"God Is Our Comfort and Strength". It is planned to hold the procession between 5:00 and 6:00 P.M. We will thus not disturb the atheists in any way."
The Rayon government did not grant permission, but the procession was nonetheless held. Rayon officials do not issue such permits to anyone.
We reprint verbatim a petition to the bishops sent to chancery offices in September 1977 and circulated among the priests and the faithful:
"To: The Bishops and Diocesan Administrators of Lithuania "A great misfortune has befallen Lithuania: It is drowning in alcohol. People drink before work, during work and after work; people drink in the streets, squares, rest rooms , buses and trains; people drink at christenings, weddings and funerals. Factory and office managers as well as workers drink, men and women drink, even minors and children are already drinking. It is no secret that some of the faithful and even some priests partake of'Satan's drops'.
"Families, undermined by alcohol, are breaking up, thousands of innocents are perishing in auto accidents, detoxification cells and specialized hospitals are overflowing. Thanks to alcohol, criminal acts and venereal diseases are spreading. You, the Princes of the Church, must save the nation during these extremely difficult times. We believe in your works, we prayfor you that 'God might bless your pastoral work and impart through you the light of the Holy Spirit, faith, courage and Eucharistic love. We therefore ask you to join all enlightened society in the battle for sobriety. First, our priests must be examples of sobriety. Establish strict rules, order all bottles thrown out of rectories and refreshments served in the spirit of sobriety and refinement. This applies in particular to priests of the older generation with their outmoded drinking traditions.
"We are waiting for sermons on sobriety and national rebirth.
"We yearn for priests to show the nation the Way of Truth through sermons and the example of their lives, as they did a century ago during the time of the revered Bishop Motiejus Valančius, and join the battle for the nation's salvation.
"We hope that you will not destroy this letter or throw it into some chancery drawer, but will reply to it through your works and concrete measures. You will show thereby that you are concerned with the fate of the Lithuanian nation.
Catholics of Lithuania."
This petition by the faithful is well-founded, because the Ordinaries of Lithuania are rather passive in the face of this great misfortune. As an example, there are urban parishes served by alcoholic priests who are notorious throughout Lithuania and the Ordinaries dare not transfer them because they enjoy the protection of the atheist government.
On December 15, 1977, the pastor of Pociūnėliai, the Rev. A. Jo-kūbauskas, was visited by a five-person delegation from the Rayon, which came to investigate whether the pastor had repaired the church roof with stolen sheet metal. The delegation members estimated the church's roof area and calculated how many tons of sheet metal were used. They threatened to press charges. Not accomplishing anything, they went to the Kaunas warehouse and berated the stockmen for selling the church such an amount of sheet metal.
Up to now during repairs, priests have received only the following assistance from the Soviet government: scolding, verification of documents, threats and the like.
The pastor of the Viduklė parish, the Rev. Alfonsas Svarinskas, was summoned to Vilnius on January 17, 1978 to see Religious Affairs Commissioner K.(azimieras) Tumėnas. The meeting was also attended by Religious Affairs Commission official Raslanas (a KGB representative). The Commissioner accused Father Svarinskas of making a speech at the luncheon which followed the funeral of the Rev. J. Aleksa in Tabariškės and of blackmailing priests who are proponents of peace.
Father Svarinskas did in fact give a talk on that occasion in which he raised certain evils and errors in the lives of priests. He stated that there are priests who travel to Berlin to uphold peace, while we have no catechisms or prayerbooks. Such priests, who do not defend their Church, cannot represent her; they should therefore not wear cassocks when they travel to Berlin.
Public and bold statements by priests on the most vital current issues are a good sign, showing that the Catholic Church in Lithuania is capable of renewing herself and leading the nation's rebirth.
Issue No. 30 of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania reported on the pilgrimage of Lithuanian youth to Mary's shrine at Šiluva. In order to prevent the KGB from destroying the cross erected at the meeting place in the woods, the youth transferred it to a safer place on the property of (Mrs.) Zosė Alubickienė. However, four men arrived in a covered vehicle at 1:00 A.M. during the night of September 22nd, uprooted the cross, tore down the wreaths of rue and carted it away. Two Security agents came from Raseiniai during the morning of September 22nd and interrogated (Mrs) Alubickienė and her son about who had erected the cross on their property. To the great disappointment of the interrogators, neither the mother nor the son had seen the cross erected.
A cross bearing the inscription: '"The Rev. J. Noreika and the Kev. A. Gargas, Defenders of the Fatherland, executed by the Russians in 1863" stood in the cathedral yard. Someone repainted the entire inscription, but deleted the word "Russians." Who gave permission to deface the historical inscription which for over a century has proclaimed to the sons of this country who had executed these defenders of the Fatherland and why?
Now the cross stands in the corner of the churchyard bearing a fresh, open, bleeding wound, inflicted in the spring of 1977 by the hand of a degenerate Lithuanian.
Every year, the pastors of Lithuanian parishes must fill out the following questionnaire and submit it to their chancery offices which in turn pass them on to the Religious Affairs Commissioner:
I. Balance as of January 1, 1976
1. Voluntary donations
2. Other receipts (indicate source) Total receipts
Total receipts including balance from previous year
1. Employee salaries
2. Church repairs
4. Mandatory insurance
5. Maintenance of church
6. Contributions to the Peace Fund
7. Contributions to the Architectural and Historical Monuments Fund
8. Seminary support
9. Other expenses
Balance as of January 1, 1977
The sum distributed as follows:
a)in the bank
III. Religious services performed:
1. Total baptisms
b)children between 3 and 7
c) school-age children
4. First Communion recipients
5. Confirmation recipients
IV. Permanent employees of the church:
3.Church bell ringers
8.Number of members in church choir.
Since the atheists of Lithuania need this information as a basis for their decisions where to step up their atheistic work, priests submit falsified information. Some give lower figures, others higher ones; the data is thus worthless. Is it not time that priests refused to submit this data? Let the atheists personally collect the data they need.
After an interruption of nineteen years, funeral services were held at the Žvirgždaičiai chapel on October 10, 1977. The Šakiai Rayon authorities gave the K.(udirkos) Naumiestis pastor, the Rev. J. Jakaitis permission to serve the faithful of Žvirgždaičiai. The chapel and the altar were consecrated. People cried from joy, but Chairman Lisauskas of the Jaunoji Gvardija (Young Guard) state farm, in whose territory Žvirgždaičiai is located, fumed and asked the people who was the moving force behind the believers' fight for the chapel. This state farm chairman is notorious for his despotism and people fear him like the secret police. On the eve of All Souls Day, services were again held and many people attended them. Afterward, the state farm chairman asserted: "I will destroy these Vatican hotbeds!" The faithful of Žvirgždaičiai are required to receive written permission for each service from the Šakiai Rayon Executive Committee.
Klausučiai District Chairman St. Kundrotas attempted to persuade people who demanded that their church be reopened (see Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania No. 30) to retract their signatures. After summoning people to his office, he had no qualms in even ridiculing the faithful.
On November 16, 1977, two members of the religious community's (parish) committee were summoned to Vilkaviškis to see Rayon Vice-Chairman Urbonas. Seven went. The Vice-Chairman announced that Lithuanian Communist Party Central Committee Secretary Griškevičius had replied in the negative to the believers' statement (see Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania No. 30)—the Central Committee will not consider the church matter. Vice-Chairman Urbonas stated that the Religious Affairs Commissioner is also powerless in this matter. The Vilkaviškis Rayon authorities have been granted full power to decide on the fate of the Žalioji parish and he, the Vice-Chairman, will use his influence to see to it that the Rayon Executive Committee does not agree to reopen the Žalioji church.
One hundred twenty-six Žalioji believers sent a statement to Leonid Brezhnev on November 20, 1977, asking his help in reopening their parish church. The statement ends with the following words:
"This year, we have heard many beautiful words about the new Constitution: that it guarantees all citizens the right to freedom of conscience and religion. In ourRayon, however, the rights of believers are observed about as much as are the rights of blacks in South Africa.
"We ask you, Mr. Secretary General, to use your influence in this matter which is causing us great anguish, because we have already exhausted all channels, except for international human rights organizations."
On December 26, 1977, Religious Affairs Commissioner K. Tumėnas received the following believers of the Žalioji parish: J. Nešukaitis, J. Jasaitis, B. Gudaitienė, K. Bubnaitienė and T. Kaminskienė. Tumėnas reproached the faithful for not celebrating Christmas and coming to see him instead. They retorted that they have no place to pray, because a mill has been set up in the church. The Commissioner stated that it is easier for him to open any church in Vilnius than in Žalioji and advised them to rent facilities somewhere for cult matters.
The fight of the Žalioji parish Catholics for their church illustrates the impossible situation of believers: wherever you turn you are sent to the Rayon government which is headed by some narrow-minded and blind official who will fanatically deny and forbid everything.
On October 28, 1977 Vilkaviškis Rayon Vice-Chairman Urbonas summoned the following women from Slabadai: O. Bušauskienė and J. Naujokienė. The Vice-Chairman informed them that the Slabadai and Žalioji parish committees would not be confirmed. Mocking the two women, Urbonas asked: "And what does that faith give you?" "Very much!" retorted (Mrs.) Naujokienė.
During the night of September 24, 1977 somebody broke into the Girdžiai church. The intruders were for some reason most interested in two thick notebooks of sermons. They took them from a cabinet, locked the cabinet with a key they found and pocketed the key.
Three churches were burglarized during 1977: the churches of Girdžiai. Vertimai and Eržvilkas.