Immediately upon hearing the news "Habemus Papam" and seized by a strong impulse of joy, we hurry to Rome with prayer, heart and telegram and express our pleasure, love and respect on behalf of the Lithuanian clergy (though for technical reasons we could not reach everyone), the faithful and all who hold the faith and the Church more dear than personal life. Moreover, we solemnly declare: Lithuania is ever loyal to the Apostles' Throne.
You, Holy Father, more than anyone else, fully understands our problems, hopes and expectations. May the affairs of the Catholic Church in Lithuania also find an appropriate place in your noble heart. And we will incessantly pray the Almighty, through the honorable servant of God Archbishop Jurgis Matulevičius, to grant you His countless blessings and assistance in fulfilling the vital expectations of millions of believers and people of good will.
Lithuania — Kaunas
Priests: Mykolas Buožius, Pranciškus Gaižauskas, Liudvikas Siemaška, Jonas Rakauskas, Jonas Kazlauskas, Jonas Augustauskas, Juozas Vaičeliūnas, Romas Macevičius, Juozas Čepėnas, Alfonsas Svarinskas.
Atheists Are Concerned About Church Discipline
Our bishops and administrators go to the countryside to administer the sacrament of Confirmation only a few times per year. This means that the sacrament is administered in only two places in the diocese, not counting the center. It is therefore not surprising that an extraordinarily large crowd of people results, the necessary solemnity is not maintained, and people are exhausted. Church law (canons) require a bishop to visit a parish at least every five years, but bishops are not allowed to meet this requirement. There are many parishes where the sacrament of confirmation has not been administered for twenty or more years.
The situation in the Vilnius diocese is even more distressing. The diocesan administrator Č.(eslovas) Krivaitis has withdrawn from pastoral work for several years: he has withdrawn from the altar, the pulpit and the confessional. He approaches the altar only in the churches of Vilnius during important feasts. Moreover, he has become notorious as a zealous party-goer. The people are outraged and priests are ashamed to allow him into their churches to administer the sacrament of Confirmation. In accordance with canon law, the pastors began this summer (1978) to administesr themselves this sacrament to their parishioners (in Adutiškis, Dubinčiai, Kles-nikai, Eišiškė, Butrimonys, Valkininkai). It was very convenient for the people: everything was conducted in their native language, there were no crowds (the Sacrament was administered only to older teenagers).
The atheists became very disturbed at this. Nearly all these priests and certain deans (in Švenčionėliai) had to explain to Rayon authorities why they are disrupting discipline, why they do not make arrangements with administrator Č. Krivaitis. They are warned to renounce this idea or suffer the consequences.
How should we view this concern by atheist organs that priests obey this administrator?
To: Religious Affairs Commissioner P. Anilionis. I received your letter directing me to come to Vilnius at 10:00 A.M. on October 3rd of this year.
I will not be able to come for the following reasons:
At present, my colleague is ailing and I am working alone. It is quite impossible for me to leave my duties for a longer length of time.
The letter does not state the purpose of the visit. We priests are accustomed to the Commissioner's diverse attacks and scoldings. Over the long years it has become customary that the accuser is right and the priest is always considered guilty. It is therefore necessary to prepare for such visits beforehand: review various codes and USSR international agreements.
The Council for Religious Affairs does not fulfill its assigned role—be a mediator between the state and the Church— but is the official whip of the godless to punish priests, scold them and transfer them from place to place. It does not mediate, but helps destroy the Church.
I feel it is senseless to drive 400 km (250 miles) by car to and from Vilnius in 8 hours for a routine scolding. Besides, Raseiniai or Viduklė is just as suitable a place for a scolding.
Last time, I was summoned to Vilnius on January 19th of this year. I therefore have neither the desire nor the energy to travel to Vilnius so frequently.
In the future, it would be more appropriate to act through the Chancery Office.
Viduklė Pastor of Viduklė
10/2/1978 Rev. A. Svarinskas
The Rayon newspapers of Raseiniai, Jurbarkas and Šakiai wrote about the Rev. A. Lazdauskas who works as a priest while married and dupes the faithful. The JurbarkasRayon newspaper Šviesa (Light) writes: "We must also question the sincerity of the pastors of Paluobiai, Skirsnemunė and other parishes. It is with good reason that, in a letter to the editor, the faithful were outraged at P. Račiūnas who often uses the services of A. Lazdauskas . . ."
A number of pastors—Rev. P. Račiūnas, Rev. M. Buožius, Rev. V. Požėla—responded to this rebuke in their sermons. Rev. A. Lazdauskas is an Eastern rite Catholic priest and has the right to perform the duties of a priest. It is not the atheists' business to interfere in internal Church affairs.
The atheist government became concened about Rev. A. Lazdauskas as well as other underground priests because they perform their duties without the government's permission. The government is very much opposed to having new priests appear without its blessing.
To: Secretary General of the Soviet Union Communist Party Central Committee, Chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium, L. Brezhnev.
Copies to: USSR Commissioner for Religious Affairs, LSSR Supreme Soviet Presidium, LSSR Commissioner for Religious Affairs, Chancery of the Vilnius Archdiocese.
A Statement from: The Church of Ignalina Ignalina, Lithuanian SSR.
In 1975, the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe was signed by 35 nations in Helsinki. Since you, Mr. Secretary General, personally signed the said document, it should follow that the rights and freedoms it enumerates are also guaranteed to Soviet Union citizens. It contains the statement: "The participating nations will respect fundamental human rights and freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief for all, regardless of differences of race, sex, language or religion." In other words, the document affirms complete freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief. And both the USSR Constitution (article 52) and the Lithuanian SSR Constitution (article 50)—though more narrowly—also guarantee the freedom of conscience to USSR citizens, that is, the right "to profess any religion whatsoever or not profess any, practice religious cults."
In practical life, we, the faithful of Ignalina, cannot fully enjoy the right to practice religious cults, because we do not have the necessary facilities. Our present church is an ordinary dilapidated house which cannot accomodate all the faithful. Currently (according to January 1978 statistics) 4,800 people live in Ignalina. Most are believers. Ignalina is theRayon center, to which many people come on Sundays on various business. Most try to fulfill their religious obligations, i.e. they wish to attend Holy Mass. In addition to the faithful, tourists come here in large numbers from all the republics, especially from Leningrad, Moscow . . . Our so-called church cannot accomodate everyone: People are forced to stand in the street in the cold and rain.
The still unfinished church of the Ignalina Parish was appropriated in post-war years by the local government and converted into a cultural center. For the purpose of having it returned to us, we have written many statements to various offices. Among them:
1)March 14, 1971 1,026 persons signed a statement to the Chairman of the LSSR Council of Ministers;
2)April 7, 1971 a statement from the church committee to the same body;
3)April 13, 1971 our pastor I. Jakutis was summoned to see LSSR Religious Affairs Commissioner Rugienis on this matter;
4)May 24, 1974, the church committee wrote a statement to the LSSR Religious Affairs Commissioner;
5)June 14, 1974 a statement to the Chairman of the Ignalina Rayon Executive Committee;
6)1974 The church committee and delegations of believers, as well as individuals, made many appeals to the Ignalina Rayon Executive Committee;
7)Sept. 9, 1975, upon the completion of the new cultural center in Ignalina, a delegation of church committee members went to see the Religious Affairs Commissioner, but the Commissioner refused to meet with it;
8)September 10, 1975 a statement written to you, Mr. Secretary General;
9)September 13, 1975 the church committee again went to see the LSSR Religious Affairs Commissioner;
10)January 19, 1976 statement to the Chairman of the Ignalina Rayon Executive Committee;
11)February 4, 1976 statement written to the LSSR Council of Ministers;
12)February 19, 1976 another statement to you, Mr. Secretary General;
13)April 24, 1976 statement to the LSSR Religious Affairs Commissioner;
14)1977 Religious Affairs Commissioner K. Tumėnas orally pledged to allow the present church to be rebuilt-expanded. At our request, our pastor I. Jakutis made many trips to Vilnius to see the Religious Affairs Commissioner, as did we the members of the church committee, but the promises were not kept.
It is strange that we received not a single reply from a singel office, not even from you, Mr. Secretary General, except for an occasional notification that our statement had been forwarded to a lower office. Why was it necessary to forward it and then to a lower office, when the appropriate agencies were sent copies of the statement? Is this not a way to avoid considering our statements and giving them concrete replies?
Today, the people of Ignalina enjoy their new cultural center, but do not yet enjoy a church. But we hope that this time you will grant our request and will return our church. Signed by 19 members of the church committee
Ignalina 10/10/1978 We await a reply:
LSSR Ignalina Laisvės 8 M. Juodagalvis
After Easter 1978, a group of believers from Šiauliai went to see their pastor, the Rev. Mažonavičius, to learn why the pastor does not allow children to serve at Holy Mass, why the church bells are not rung, why the pastor removes Eucharistic Society pins from children and why teenagers who serve at Mass are not allowed to make the Stations of the Cross. (At the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Šiauliai, school children make the Stations of the Cross before evening services).
The pastor Rev. Mažonavičius replied that he has enough altar boys and that the church is not a home for children [? —Ed. note.] As for the bells, the pastor explained that they are rung during important holy days. [Two times a year — Ed. note.].
The pastor denied removing Eucharistic Society pins but has simply forbidden the children to wear them.
The pastor also confirmed that he forbids altar boys to make the Stations of the Cross.
New priests ordained during the previous year were planning to concelebrate Holy Mass together at the Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Šiauliai on May 18, 1978, at which time the sermon was to have been preached by their classmate Rev. J. Kauneckas. Catering to the wishes of the government, Rev. Mažonavičius did not allow Rev. Kauneckas to preach. The newly-ordained priests then invited Rev. K.(arolis) Garuckas from Ceikiniai. At the last minute, when the church was full of people, the pastor also forbade Father Garuckas to preach the sermon, giving the excuse that the civil government might be displeased, etc.
It is very unfortunate that there is so much fear in the pastor's work. The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania advises Father Mažonavičius to change his course of action or cedd his position of pastor to a more courageous priest.
On December 10, 1977 the faithful of Klaipeda appealed to the Religious Affairs Commissioner's office in Vilnius, asking that at the very least permission be granted to enlarge the present church and do repair work. Among other things, the statement affirms: "The present church is too small. On ordinary Sundays people must stand outside even in the cold and rain; the church's floor is cement. . . There are no facilities to store church articles . . ."
In fact, the situation of the faithful of Klaipeda is truly lamentable. People faint during services. The faithful ask the Administrator of the Telšiai Diocese and the pastor of the Klaipeda church to take a more active interest in the affairs of their church.
The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania supports the faithful of Klaipeda and notes that Catholics themselves do not sufficiently rattle the doors of government agencies about their difficult situation.
On July 14, 1978, the pastor of the Cathedral Rev. J. Pačins-kas and assistant pastor Rev. J. Kauneckas were summoned to the Telšiai Rayon Executive Committee. Chairman Rasimavičius of the Telšiai Rayon Executive Committee spoke with them, in the presence of Education Department Director Savickis.
Chairman Rasimavičius asked what complaints Rev. Kauneckas had before the Executive Committee. The latter replied that, in connection with the destruction of the wayside shrine, his telephone had been disconnected illegally. He had written the Executive Committee on the matter. Chairman Rasimavičius accusingly stated: "It is known that the Rev. Kauneckas, along with other believers, signed a letter of protest to Brezhnev about the destruction of the wayside shrine and other matters." The assistant pastor explained: "The criticism and demands voiced in the protest are accurate; therefore I signed it." Rasimavičius yielded: "And we do not consider it slander. We have taken the protest under advisement and will take appropriate action."
The chairman then expressed his displeasure at the fact that the truths of the faith are expounded during services at the Cathedral. In his view, those are meetings which are not related to the practice of religion. If Father Kauneckas does not cease organizing such meetings, the Executive Committee will dismiss the church committee. If even this is not effective, the Telšiai religious community will be closed down. Moreover, the priest who now works in Telšiai could find himself in Upyna (the smallest parish in the Telšiai Rayonwithout a priest).
On July 17th, the Telšiai Cathedral church committee and the pastor, Father Pačinskas were summoned to the Telšiai Rayon executive Committee. They were charged, under the 7/28/1976 decree of the LSSR Supreme Soviet Presidium, with holding meetings in the Cathedral not related to religious practice.
Church committee member Jalinskas demanded to see the said decree, but was given a sharp reply and the document was nonetheless not shown.
In like manner, the Rayon Executive Committee harassed the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Telšiai. Choir practice was forbidden there because children sing in the choir, although choirs are not forbidden by the 7/18/1976 decree. Is it possible that the chairman of the Rayon Executive Committee himself does not know the law?! Where must the people of the Rayon turn if the highest Rayon government tramples their rights? When the faithful appeal to the highest USSR government agencies, all complaints are returned to the Rayons. Complaints in the Soviet Union are thus investigated by the very ones who break the law.
It is even worse when priests yield to the illegal demands of officials and themselves supress the religious life of the faithful. For example, intimidated by the Rayon Executive Committee, the pastor of the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Telšiai, the Rev. Bagdonas, himself forbade the organist to hold choir practice.
On August 6, 1978, during the Porciuncula Devotions, Inspector Vendzinskis of the Telšiai Finance department arrived at the Cathedral during services and demanded that the priest forbid the sale of religious articles. When the priests stated that no laws forbid the sale of religious articles, he personally, with the help of city hoodlums, assailed the religious article vendors, chased them from the churchyard, confiscated their religioius articles. How democratic of the Soviet government—its officials work together with hoodlums!
The faithful of Pandėlys and the surrounding area were expecting the arrival of His Excellency the Bishop of Panevėžys on July 30th. The local Soviet activists were not dozing either. During the night of July 28th to 29th, their henchmen removed the iron churchyard gate and placed a bottle of cheap wine on the head of Christ's statue. It seems to have been a reward to those who worked in implementing the plans and projects of the higher government.
To: Secretary of the LSSR Communist Party, P. Griškevičius. A Statement from: The faithful of Kybartai.
At 6:00 P.M. on November 1st of this year, we the faithful of Kybartai went in procession to the cemetery to pray for the dead. As we approached the cemetery where our parents, brothers and sisters are buried, we were met by loudspeakers broadcasting poems and speeches. Although it had been announced in the Rayon newspaper and on the city bulletin board that the civil ceremony for the dead would be held at 7:00 P.M., the atheists of Kybartai intentionally moved the ceremony up one hour to interfere with our prayers. When we arrived at the cemetery, poems were loudly broadcast throughout the entire services. We are deeply outraged at such behavior by the Kybartai atheists and ask you to take action to see to it that our religious beliefs are not ridiculed.
Moreover, two days later, the Vilkaviškis Rayon Administrative Commission fined our pastor fifty rubles because he went with us in procession to the cemetery. Our faith requires us to pray for the dead in the cemetery on All Souls Day. Where is freedom of belief if atheists can freely go to the cemetery and recite godless poems over the graves of our believers; but when we believers go pray, then various permits are required which no one usually grants.
Please review the directives which discriminate against the faithful and eliminate them as soon as possible.
Kybartai Signed by 740 believers of Kybartai
Slabadai (R a y o n of Vilkaviškis)
The faithful of the parish of Slabadai have again sent statements (7/16/1978) to Religious Affairs Commissioner Tumėnas and Vice-Chairman Urbonas of the VilkaviškisRayon Executive Committee demanding that the Slabadai religious community be registered, and her elected committee confirmed. In the statements the faithful brought up the government's pledge to confirm the church committee after one year. This was promised on June 30, 1977 when an inspection was made of the newly repaired Slabadai chapel.
After the statements were sent, Vice-Chairman Urbonas of the Vilkaviškis RayonExecutive Committee summoned Chairman Jonas Bašauskas of the Slabadai religious community on August 7, 1978. Other committee members also went to see the vice-chairman. They requested that the committee be confirmed and the church registered. Urbonas assured them that the committee would not be confirmed or the church registered. The people of Slabadai can elect three persons to the Didvyžiai committee and everything would be in order. Besides, the parishes will be consolidated. Committee member (Mrs.) O. Bušauskienė pointed out that many believers assemble in Slabadai, it is therefore essential that the church be registered. The delegation also asked that the priest who comes to Slabadai be given the use of a room where he can change and at least wash his hands after his trip. Urbonas refused the grant the committee's request, although he could have—the paramedical station had moved— using the excuse that the Rev. A. Lukošaitis is sufficiently vigorous and does not require such comforts.
The delegation from Slabadai did not yield and intended to go to Vilnius to see the Religious Affairs Commissioner and demand that the promises be kept.
Žalioji (Rayon of Vilkaviškis)
To: The Central Committee of the Lithuanian SSR Communist Party
A Statement from: The believing community of the Žalioji Catholic parish.
Once again we remind you that we, the believers of the Žalioji Catholic parish, have long been knocking at the door of various Soviet government agencies. We have written many times to the Vilkaviškis Rayon Executive Committee and personally went there in groups, demanding the return of our church. Several times we sent statemerits to the Religious Affairs Commissioner and continually travelled to Vilnius to ask that the church which belongs to us be returned. We were given an oral reply that it would be easier to reopen a church in Vilnius, than in our Rayon. So, everything has been in vain. We also wrote joint statements to Chairman J. Maniušis of the LSSR Council of Ministers, and to Secretary P. Griškevičius of the Central Committee of the LSSR Communist party. Finally, we appealed to Moscow, to the Council for Religious Affairs and the Secretary General of the USSR Communist Party and Chairman of the Supreme Soviet L. Brezhnev. But all our requests ended up in the wastebasket of the Vilkaviškis Rayon Executive Committee, and we were told in reply by the Rayon vice-chairman that our church would not be reopened.
With this letter, we once again appeal to the Central Committee of the Communist Party to redress this wrong—to return the Žalioji church. The new USSR Constitution (art. 58) gives us the right to make demands. Is it possible that we believers will again remain citizens with no rights, while the atheists have unlimited opportunity to mock us? If this request also goes unheard, we reserve the right to appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
Members of the believing community of the Žalioji Catholic parish. Signed by 51 believers.