On December 25, 1978, the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers sent to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR a document outlining how the "Regulations for Religious Associations" issued by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR conflict with the Lithuanian SSR Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other international documents endorsed by the Soviet Union, and asked that the Regulations be repealed.
In a show of solidarity with the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers, priests from all the dioceses of Lithuania have sent various Soviet government agencies statements which we reprint below in full. These statements are vital documents which prove that the large majority of Lithuanian priests have not been broken in spirit and are fully determined to fight the goal of state atheism and stifle the Catholic Church in Lithuania.
To: The Prosecutor General of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics
Copies to: The Chancery of the Vilnius Archdiocese;
Lithuanian SSR Commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs under the Council of Ministers of the USSR;
Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers.
A Statement from: The priests of the Vilnius Archdiocese.
During the past several years, our Republic's Rayon Executive Committees have begun to summon for instructions priests and members of the executive organs of local religious communities, demanding that the "Regulations for Religious Associations" issued in 1979 by the Supreme Soviet Presidium of the Lithuanian SSR be fully implemented. Because the above document clearly contradicts the freedom of belief and the free activity of religious associations, the clergy and the believing community is gravely concerned at demands that it be observed in full.
1. Reliable state and Party individuals have solemnly assured us on many occasions that the state must not interfere in internal Church affairs, that churches have the right to manage their own affairs unhindered, according to their teachings and laws. However, the said "Regulations for Religious Associations" not merely make no mention of this right, but plainly deny it. Catholic, Orthodox and other Churches have hierarchical structures by their very nature and according to their canons: Only ordained persons—bishops and priests—can govern them and their subdivisions, while the "regulations" impose on them the structure of certain sects where the role of governing belongs to representatives of ordinary believers.
What is even stranger, local Soviet (atheist!) organs are accorded the right to intervene in the selection of members of religious community executive organs, but the hierarchy is forbidden this right. In other words, the Church should not care who manages the affairs of its local units: faithful Christians or atheist puppets . . . This is no ordinary interference in internal Church affairs, but a direct blow against the Church's very nature which it received from Christ and which it cannot alter.
For instance, Christ and the Church tell priests: "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to all creation.'' (Mark 16, 15), while the "Regulations" forbid them to minister to anyone beyond their parish boundaries, not even to a gravely ill or dying believer. There is no need to even ask whom the servant of Christ will obey in such an instance. There is only the question: Why must the state place priests and believers in the position where they are forced to disobey?
2. The "Foundations" of Soviet laws on education, marriage and family and related areas clearly indicate that if any article of Soviet law conflicts with international agreements ratified by Soviet authorities, that article is invalid and the rules of the international agreement must be applied. In the 1976 "Regulations" it is not an occasional article, but most articles, which contradict the spirit and letter of a variety of international agreements.
In concrete terms, they contradict Article 18 of the 1948 Universal declaration of Human Rights on the freedom of religious teaching, Article 19 on the freedom of disseminating ideas and article 30 on the prohibition of interpreting any articles of the Declaration to the detriment of rights and freedoms. They also contradict Article 5-b of the 1960 Convention on the War Against Discrimination in the Field of Education, which directs that parents be guaranteed the opportunity to raise their children in keeping with their religious and moral beliefs, and which forbids imposing on children religious teaching or anti-religious upbringing against their and their parents' will. Article 3 of the same Convention binds the signatory states to abrogate all legal rulings and administrative degrees which contradict the Convention, while the Supreme Soviet Presidium of our Republic ignores the Convention.
3. A number of paragraphs in the "Regulations" which contradict religious freedom and the equality of believing citizens and nonbelievers, cannot be reconciled with article 52 and 34 of the Constitution of the USSR and corresponding articles of the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR.
In view of the above-named reasons, neither we, nor our believers whom we are obliged to inform accurately, can consider the Regulations legal, and our conscience forbids us to obey them all.
In view of the fact that the Constitution has entrusted you, Mr. Prosecutor General of the USSR, with the supreme duty to protect the law throughout the territory of the USSR, we ask you to demand:
a) That the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR repeal the said "Regulations;"
b) That it guarantee to every Church (denomination) the right to adhere to its structure and follow its canons, and recognize the right of juridical entity to religious associations;
c) That it guarantee the hierarchy, religious associations and individual believers the right freely to disseminate their beliefs on an equal footing with representatives of other outlooks, and the freedom of systematic religious instruction of children and young people in keeping with their parents' and their own wishes;
d) That it guarantee citizens the right to express publicly their faith, and in the presence of the appropriate professional qualifications to fill any position in any area of industry, culture and other community activity.
If full legality and complete equality of citizens were implemented, it would serve truly to unite citizens, to solve the domestic, cultural and moral problems which exist in our society and enhance the international reputation of the Soviet Union.
Lithuanian SSR February 1979
Priests of the Vilnius Archdiocese:
Rev. K.(arolis) Garuckas, member of the Lithuanian Community Group Monitoring the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements, Rev. B.(ronius) Laurinavičius, member of the Lithuanian Community Group Monitoring the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements, (Signed) V. Černiauskas, A. Keina, J. Lauriunas, M. Petravičius, J. Vaitonis, A. Andriuškevičius,K. Gajauskas, N. Pakalka, N. Jaura, D. Baužys, K. Molis, J. Budrevičius, J. Grigaitis, M. Stonis, K. Pukėnas, A. Dziekan, A. Trusevic, J. Obremski, K. Vaičionis, P. Jankus, S. Malachovski, L. Savickas, S. Valiukėnas, J. Slėnys, J. Juodagalvis, V. Bronickis, P. Bekiš, K. Vasiliauskas, I. Paberžis, A. Valatka, R. Blažys, J. Tunaitis, S. Puidokas, V. Aliulis, S. Tunaitis, A. Čeponis, V. Rūkas, A. Simonaitis, K.
Gailius, K. Žemėnas, D. Valančiauskas, A. Kanišauskas, A. Ulic-kas, D. Valiukonis, J. Baltušis, R. Černiauskas, J. Kardelis, D. Puidokas, M. Savickas, A. Petronis, A. Merkys, K. Valeikis, V. Jes-kelevičius, J. Kukta, S. Kakarieka, S. Markevičius, I. Jakutis, P., Tarvydas
To: The Supreme Soviet Presidium of the USSR;
The Supreme Soviet Presidium of the Lithuanian SSR.
Copies to: The Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers;
The Bishops and Diocesan Administrators of Lithuania;
Religious Affairs Commissioner P. Anilionis.
We the undersigned priests of the Vilnius Archdiocese support statement No. 5 of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers dated December 25, 1978 to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR, the bishops and diocesan administrators of Lithuania and Religious Affairs Commissioner P.(etras) Anilionis, and affirm that we consider the Regulations for Religious Associations to be legally invalid and that we cannot observe them because they discriminate against believers, restrict their conscience, are contrary to the teachings and laws (cannons) of the Catholic Church, the Constitutions of the Soviet Union and the Lithuanian SSR, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international commitments of the Soviet Union.
Lithuania January 25, 1979
(Signed) Members of the Lithuanian Community Group Monitoring the Implementation of the Helsinki Agreements, the Reverends Karolis Garuckas and Bronius Laurinavičius, and the Reverends: V. Černiauskas, A. Keina, M. Petravičius, J. Vaitonis, J. Lauriū-nas, A. Andriuškevičius, K. Gajauskas, N. Pakalka, N. Jaura, D. Baužys, K. Molis, J. Budrevičius, J. Grigaitis, M. Stonys, K. Pukė-nas, A. Dziekan, A. Trusevic, J. Obrembski, K. Vaičionis, L. Savickas, P. Jankus, S. Malachovski, S. Valiukėnas, J. Slėnys, V. Bronickis, K. Vasiliauskas, S. Puidokas, S. Tunaitis, A. Čeponis, A. Simonaitis, K. Žemėnas, A. Kanišauskas, D. Valiukonis, D. Valančiauškąs, A. Ulickas, J. Baltušis, J. Kardelis, M. Savickas, A. Merkys, V. Jeskelevičius, J. Kukta, I. Paberžis, P. Tarvydas, R. Blažys, J. Tunaitis, S. Kakarieka, V. Rūkas, K. Gailius, R. Černiauskas, D. Puidokas, A. Petronis, K. Valeikis, J. Jakutis, P. Bekis, A. Valatka, S. Markevičius.
To: The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR.
Copies to: The Bishops and Diocesan Administrators of Lithuania;
The Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers. A Statement from: The Priests of the Kaunas Archdiocese,
235467 Žagarė, Joniškis Rayon, Rev. Gustavas Gudanavičius.
On August 1, 1975 in Helsinki, 34 states, among them the USSR and the Vatican, signed the Final Act which reads as follows:
— The participating states will respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, regardless of differences of race, sex, language and religion . . .
— In this context, the participating states will recognize and respect the freedom of the individual to profess, individually or together with others, religion or faith, in accordance with conscience . . .
— The participating states recognize the universal meaning of human rights and basic freedoms . . .
— In the field of human rights and basic freedoms, the participating states will implement the goals of the United Nations statutes and the Universal Declaration of Human rights (For the Good of Peace, Security and Cooperation, Vilnius, Mintis pub., 1975, pp. 22-23).
— In implementing their sovereign rights, including the right to promulgate their own laws and set administrative regulations, they will adjust them to their legal commitments under international law; they will, moreover, give proper consideration to the articles of the Final Act of the European Conference on Security and Cooperation and will implement them (Ibid, p. 26).
Catholics of Lithuania and other believers thought that, once this important document is signed at the highest level, religious discrimination would cease, that all decrees directed against believers would be repealed or declared null and void. Unfortunately, the opposite proved to be true. On July 28, 1976, the Supreme Soviet Presidium of the Lithuanian SSR issued a new decree whose purpose was to destroy the Catholic Church in Lithuania as rapidly as possible. And thus all the international agreements entered into by the USSR have given us nothing . . .
After reviewing the said decree—"Regulations for Religious Associations"—we priests, as the true leaders of parishes under canon law, the real representatives, the embodiment of the deepest sorrows, worries and affairs of the believers of the entire diocese, are compelled by our conscience to state that this law is unconstitutional, inhuman and contrary to international agreements by the USSR. We, therefore, cannot comply with it! We would moreover like to note that the Catholic Church, by its very nature, is not some kind of political organization but a purely religious community. Internally it independently manages its affairs according to canon law. Even representatives of the Soviet government recognize this when they affirm:
— Soviet state and government organs do not interfere in internal Church affairs, i.e. in her canonical and dogmatic activity (J.(uozas) Rugienis, "Soviet and Religious Cult Laws", Tarybų darbas (Soviet Work), 1972, No. 9, p. 17).
In actual practice, however, things are quite different. Just a few examples by way of illustration: Section 4 of the so-called agreement which has been forcibly imposed on the Church and has harassed priests and believers for a decade reads as follows:
"This agreement can be broken under fixed conditions, once it has been determined to close the house of worship (cult building) whose use was permitted by this agreement."
The paragraphs of the agreement and regulations are drafted in a vague manner, without legal preciseness, leaving Soviet officials and atheists the possibility of interpreting them arbitrarily to their advantage and the Church's destruction. The Regulations for Religious Associations have delivered us to the mercy of the atheists and executive committee representatives of varied rank.
We once again wish to point out that the Catholics of Lithuania built churches with their own sweat and funds over a period of 600 years! And we cannot even entertain the thought that our shrines, many of which are monuments of Soviet or Republican importance (while the churches closed during the Stalin-Khrushchev era are an open, bleeding wound in the hearts of believers) are closed down "at somebody's decision." And, on the contrary, we are convinced, on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Helsinki Final Act, that the faithful need new churches in Klaipėda, Elektrėnai, Akmenė and other new districts in major cities.
Article 3 of the Regulations for Religious Associations allows a person to become a member of a religious community only upon attaining eighteen years of age. According to Church teaching and canon law, a person becomes a full-fledged member of the Church at Baptism.
We the priests of the Kaunas Archdiocese are familiar with Document No. 5 of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers, give it our full support and ask the Supreme Soviet Presidium of the Lithuanian SSR to declare the July 28, 1976 decree "On the regulations for Religious Associations" to be null and void.
Kaunas, January 25, 1979
Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul
Signed by 102 priests of the Kaunas archdiocese: Gustavas Gudanavičius, Leonardas Jagminas, Vysk. Julijonas Steponavičius, Juozas Dobilaitis, Bronius Nemeikštis, Julijonas Kazlauskas, Vaclovas Polikaitis, Aleksandras Počiulpis, Jonas Alesius, Vladas Luz-gauskas, Jonas Bujokas, Lionginas Vaičiulionis, Jonas Babo-nas, Zigmas Grinevičius, Jonas Račaitis, Vladas Valavičius, Vaclovas Ramanauskas, Pranciškus Ščepavičius, Antanas Jokubauskas, Vytautas Radzevičius, Kęstutis Diknevičius, Feliksas Balionas, Antanas Lileika, Vaclovas Tamoševičius, Bronius Gimžauskas, Jonas Povilaitis, Prosperas Bubnys, Mykolas Buožius, Petras Mikutis, Bronius Gaižutis, Jonas Jakubonis, Stasys Kadys, Kazimieras Sirūnas, Jonas Aleksiūnas, Vincas Pranskietis, Liudvikas Ma-žonavičius, Antanas Ylius, Juozas Vaicekauskas, Jonas Survyla, Leonas Kalinauskas, Eugenijus Jokubauskas, Jurgis Užusienis, Pranciškus Matulaitis, Valentinas Beržinis, Romualdas Mizaras, Kleopas Jakaitis, Antanas Imbras, Jurgis Birbilas, Steponas Pilka, Mykolas Dobrovolskis, Antanas Kazlauskas, Liudvikas Semaška, Juozapas Matulevičius, Eduardas Šimaška, Petras Meilus, Antanas
Danyla, Petras Liubonas, Gerardas Dunda, Jonas Voveris, Jonas Albavičius, Albertas Perminas, Valerijonas Kekys, Klemensas Valavičius, Boleslavas Vaira, Vladas Petkevičius, Jonas Girdzevičius, Vytautas Pesliakas, Juozas Vaičeliūnas, Jonas Tamonis, Alfonsas Bulota, Juozas Indriūnas, Alfonsas Svarinskas, Juozapas Razmantas, Petras Našlėnas, Romualdas Macevičius, Petras Tavoraitis, Pranas Gimžauskas, Jonas Rakauskas, Pranciškus Bastys, Ričardas Mikutavičius, Jonas Fabijanskas, Antanas Slavinskas, Povilas Pranc-kunas, Algirdas Močius, Jonas Augustauskas, Eugenijus Bartulis, Aleksandras Markaitis, Jonas Kazlauskas, Pijus Žiugžda, Vytautas Gringanavičius, Antanas Urbanavičius, Vladas Simaška, Boleslavas Radavičius, Jonas Gudas, Viktoras Šauklys, Juozapas Armonas, Jonas Buliauskas, Kan. Juozapas Želvys, Jonas Maleckis, Petras Marcinkus, Vladas Požėla, Pranciškus Tuminas.
To: The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR A Statement from: The Priests of the Vilkaviškis Diocese.
We, the undersigned priests, are voicing our opinion on the question of the "Regulations for Religious Associations" adopted by the Supreme Soviet Presidium of the Lithuanian SSR on July 28, 1976:
The "Regulations for Religious Associations":
a) discriminate against priests and believers and make them second-class citizens of the Soviet Union;
b) contradict the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements signed by the Soviet Union;
c) serve only atheists by helping them administer the Church's internal life by the crudest means possible.
No conscientious priest or believer will be able to observe these Regulations because they are contrary to Church law. The forcible implementation of the Regulations will result in unpleasant consequences as exemplified by the January 10th trial of Father Tamkevičius, pastor of Kybartai.
We priests endorse Document No. 5 of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers which sets forth the attitude of Lithuanian priests and believers toward the Regulations for Religious Associations.
We ask the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet to present our arguments to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and to obtain from it permission to repeal the said Regulations.
Signed by 92 priests of the Vilkaviškis Diocese: Deanery of Alytus: Leonardas Kavaliūnas, Kęstutis Bekasovas, Vincas Akelis, Juozas Berteška (Dean), Antanas Mieldažys, Vladas Bobinas, Vytautas Būdas, Jonas Baranauskas, Juozas Gumauskas, Juozas Radzevičius, Juozas Matulevičius, Vitas Urbonas. Deanery of Šakiai: Jonas Buga, Gintautas Skučas, Vytautas Užkuraitis, Stanislovas Mikalajūnas, Juozas Jakaitis, Jonas Bučinskas, Antanas Akevičius, Juozas Frai-nas, Juozas Adomaitis, Antanas Maskeliūnas, Antanas Aleksandravičius, Petras Sitka, Antanas Račkauskas, Juozas Žemaitis (Dean), Jonas Malinauskas, Salemonas Samuolis, Juozas Juškaitis. Deanery of Aleksotas: Vaclovas Stankenas, Povilas Jančiauskas, Petras Dumbliauskas, Juozas Užupis, Antanas Gražulis, Jonas Paliukaitis, Vincas Čėsna, Vaclovas Radzevičius, Antanas Pangonis, Vincas Dumčius, Petras Vagneris, Antanas Jančiauskas, Andrius Rimas, Juozas Pilipaitis, Pranas Liutvinas, Juozas Pečiukonis. Deanery of Kapsukas: Vaclovas Degutis (Dean), Lionginas Kunevičius, Jonas Kubilius, Kazimieras Burba, Andrius Gustaitis, Juozas Mieldažys, Leonas Leščinskas, Juozas Varvuolis, Juozas Šalčius, Antanas Bakys, Jonas Maskvytis, Kazimieras Kudirka, Kazimieras Juškevičius, Kazimieras Skučas, Albinas Deltuva, Jonas Rasinas, Juozas Matulaitis, Gvidonas Dovydaitis, Albinas Jaudegis, Mykolas Žemaitis, Pranciškus Šulskis, Deanery of Lazdijai: Pranas Adomaitis, Ignas Plioraitis, Boleslavas Jarušauskas, Juozas Kriščiūnas, Gintautas Steponaitis, Konstantinas Ambrasas, Stanislovas Račkauskas, Alfonsas Sadauskas, Jonas Grudzinskas, Jurgis Sventickas, Juozas Zdebskis, Antanas Vitkus, Krizantas Juknevičius, Deanery of Vilkaviškis: Boleslovas Rašukas, Antanas Lukošaitis, Juozas Kupstaitis, Vytautas Vaitauskas, Sigitas Tamkevičius, Vincas Jalinskas, Boleslovas Čegelskas, Juozas Preikšas (Dean), Algis Pasi-liauskas, Vladas Bilius, Kazimieras Montvila, Virgilijus Jaugelis, Algirdas Andrišiūnas.
To: The Präsidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR;
The Bishops and Diocesan Administrators of Lithuania; Religious Affairs Commissioner P.(etras) Anilionis. A Statement from: Priests of the Kaišiadorys Diocese.
We priests of the Kaišiadorys Diocese endorse the December
25, 1978 document of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers regarding the Regulations for Religious Associations promulgated in 1976 and state that, with these Regulations, discrimination against believing Catholics in Soviet Lithuania will gain the force of law. Information and evidence obtained from our daily experience confirm this. Very recently, for instance, Vice-Chairwoman Gančerienė of the Molėtai RayonExecutive Committee summoned rayon priests and demanded, on the strength of the Regulations, that children be forbidden to assist at services, forbade priests to examine groups of children preparing for First Communion, and moreover demanded that priests not invite other priests to recollections without permission from the rayon.
a) They reflect neither the will nor the interests of the Lithuanian nation, 70 percent of whose inhabitants are believing Catholics;
b) They completely ignore the centuries-old cultural heritage of the Lithuanian nation;
c) These Regulations directly contradict the canon law of the Church, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, and the commitment of the Helsinki Final Act.
These Regulations place Lithuania's believers and Catholic Church in a position which is clearly contrary to what Church canon laws require from the faithful and priests. If the Soviet government allows the Catholic Church to exist and often reiterates that it does not interfere in canonical Church activity, then why do the Regulations, by their very nature, place believers in an adversary position?
We therefore wish to state the following: In instances when state administrative organs demand that we act contrary to the juridical regulations of the Catholic Church, we will follow Church canons and not the Regulations for Religious Associations which are contrary to the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR and discriminate against the rights of believers.
We take this occasion to ask once more that the long-term exile of Bishop V. Sladkevičius of the Kaišiadorys Diocese be lifted and that he be returned to administer the Kaišiadorys Diocese.
February 11, 1979
Signed by 42 priests: Jonas Pilka, Petras Laskauskas, Bro-nislavas Bulika, Zenonas Navickas, Juozapas Matulaitis, Marijonas
Petkevičius, Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius, Bronislavas Novelskis, Juozapas Stasiūnas, Pranciškus Venckus, Edvardas Kraujelis, Jonas Jonys, Ignas Milašius, Stasys Lindė, Stanislovas Kiškis, Juozapas Masalskis, Petras Kražauskas, Petras Budrauskas, Česlovas Zažeckas, Jonas Voveris, Zigmantas Stančiauskas, Jonas Dany-la, Jonas Mintauckis, Alfonsas Šatas, Mykolas Balnys, Vilius Cuku-ras, Jonas Kaušyla, Petras Žiugžda, Jonas Tomkus, Antanas Arminas, Vytautas Sudavičius, Jonas Zubrus, Juozapas Anusevičius, Petras Valatka, Jonas Ažubalis, Bronislavas Klimas, Aleksandras Alko-vikas, Juozapas Gylys, Albinas Šilkinis, Stanislovas Stankevičius, Antanas Jurgilas, Jonas Žvinys.
To: The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR A Statement from: The priests of the Panevėžys Diocese.
The most renowned states of the world, among them the Soviet Union, signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), as well as the Helsinki agreements which uphold human rights. Concurrently they pledged not to pass laws and decrees contrary to human rights and repeal existing decrees and regulations which limit human rights.
The Soviet Constitution proclaims the freedom to profess religion. If the Constitution did not contain an article (50) restricting religious propaganda, thereby violating the freedom of belief of a majority of Lithuanian inhabitants (75%), and granting unlimited freedom of propaganda to the godless, who are in the minority, then this article could be considered democratic.
The following shameful documents prove that the atheist government places believers in a debased, powerless position: the Regulations for Religious Associations (1976) and the Agreement on the Rental of Church Buildings, which the government has drawn up and submitted to the faithful for their signature. The first version of this agreement was drafted under Stalin (1948) and the second, harsher, version, has been forcibly imposed on the faithful for the past ten years.
We are aware that the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers has addressed the Soviet Government (Dec. 25, 1978) regarding these documents, which restrict the rights of believers, and that the faithful of several Lithuanian dioceses intend to appeal on the matter. We waited and hoped that state officials would satisfy the demands of the oppressed and would repeal the said documents, which are inherently null and void, in view of the Soviet authorities having signed the Human Rights Conventions.
As long as these unjust documents are not revoked, we feel the duty to appeal and also support the rightful demands of other dioceses
We do so on the basis of article 47 of the Lithuanian SSR
"Every citizen of the Lithuanian SSR has the right to submit suggestions to state organs and community organizations on improving their activity and criticize the defects of their work."
But we find it incomprehensible why Religious Affairs Commissioner Anilionis, using the diocesan chancery to attain his goal, took steps to block the rightful request of the faithful of the Panevėžys Diocese?
Therefore, we the undersigned priests of the Panevėžys Diocese, representing 400,000 faithful from our diocese, ask Soviet authorities to note that the above-named documents discriminate against believers and strive to destroy the Catholic Church in Lithuania.
1. Regarding the Regulations for Religious Associations:
On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1978, the Soviet government presented Lithuania's faithful with the Regulations for Religious Associations which wronged and degraded the faithful anew and threatened to destroy the Lithuanian Catholic Church by administrative means. These regulations became a written document proving religious persecution in Lithuania. So long as these regulations are in effect, Soviet authorities will find it impossible to prove in international forums, where the question of the freedom of belief will be debated, that freedom of belief exists in the Soviet Union. We fully endorse Statement No. 5 of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers, regarding the Regulations for Religious Associations.
2. Regarding the Agreement on the Rental of Church Buildings:
The harsh, Stalin-dictated agreement on the rental of church
buildings was signed simultaneously (1948) throughout Lithuania. The second version of the agreement, containing more elements of religious restriction, submitted for signature for the past ten years using force, deceit and illegal means, seeks to enslave and destroy the Lithuanian Catholic Church. Such a contract will be evidence in the international forum that the Catholic Church is persecuted in Lithuania.
The whole world knows that Lithuanian churches were built with the work and contributions of the faithful over the past 600 years. Existing church art treasures and other inventory were acquired by the same means. Through nationalization, the church building fell into the hands of the godless. The faithful were given only one alternative: Rent the church building. This is where the arbitrariness of atheist officials become evident. They printed the agreement—a dictate. With this agreement, they appropriated the entire church inventory, including consecrated articles and art objects. Intimidated, threatened and hoping to somehow exist as a community, the faithful signed the "agreement." That is not an agreement; it is force.
What rent must the faithful pay on churches they themselves built?
The faithful are enjoined to pay real estate taxes to the state, insurance payments, perform repairs which sometimes amount to more than several years' rent, give away all art treasures, including sacred articles, give away the entire church inventory, even articles to be purchased or donated in the future, regardless of the donor's intention.
For example, in 1976 Pope Paul VI gave new missals to the Catholic Church in Lithuania and not to the godless. Under the new agreement, why must they revert to non-believers? The agreement reguires lay persons—members of the church committee—to report on the revenues the priest receives for religious services. But it also requires to report on who used the religious services. But that is forcible intrusion into the matters of conscience of an individual. This has happened in other Soviet Republics where similar "agreements" have already been implemented. On the other hand, the government makes no commitment—not even to allow material for church repairs to be purchased. The agreement also sets forth circumstances under which churches may be closed, not by law, but under the agreement. The government signs the agreement not with the church committee, but with individuals. An individual is not a juridical entity. Is that a contract? The mere existence of such a document proves that the Catholic Church in the Soviet Union is completely bereft of rights.
We therefore ask:
1. That the rights of juridical entity be recognized to the
Lithuanian Catholic Church and her subdivisions.
2. That Catholic Church parishes not be prevented from having
their own parish committees, set up and acting according to the canons and regulations of the Roman Catholic Church, confirmed by Church authorities.
3. That illegal documents be repealed, namely, the Regulations
for Religious Associations and the rental contract being imposed
on the Church by changing it into a bilateral free agreement.
For committees of twenty, executive and other organs are formed by the government at its order.
We wish to state that so long as there are no Church Committees, priests will participate in committees of twenty and executive organs on the basis of the principle of equal rights.
4. That the genocide of priests, being implemented through
the only Kaunas Theological Seminary in Lithuania, be stopped.
In 1946, Soviet authorities restricted the number of seminarians: Out of over 400 seminary students, only 150 remained, in 1949 only 75 and even later only 25. In 1969 and 1971, the seminary trained only three priests per year. During the past ten years only twelve priests were ordained for the Panevėžys Diocese. This year our diocese will receive only two priests and next year only one. But, in 1949, twelve priests were ordained for the Panevėžys Diocese. Over the past three years (1976, 1977, 1978) seventeen priests have died in the diocese. The faithful are well aware that the shortage of priests is not the result of a lack of candidates, but due to the fact that the government forbids certain young men to enter the seminary.
Godless officials threaten to impose monetary fines on the faithful and imprison them for preparing children for First Communion. They claim that group instruction of children for First Communion amounts to establishing a school, unabashed at earning the reputation of persecuting such a school. No one in the world considers instruction for First Communion to be a school. By preventing the instruction of children for First Communion, atheists violate the freedom of religion and thereby commit a crime against the Constitution and the Human Rights Conventions which have been signed, because they render the practice of religion impossible and the freedom of conscience loses its meaning. Priests do not accept this lack of rights and will continue to prepare all comers for the sacraments.
We ask you to consider the rightful demands of the faithful. March 1979
Signed by 118 priests of the Panevėžys Diocese: Petras Adomonis, Bronius Antanaitis, Vincentas Arlauskas, Balys Barkauskas, Jonas Bagdonas, Juozas Bagdonas, Antanas Balaišis, Bronius Ba-laiša, Vytautas Balašauskas, Jonas Balčiūnas, Juozas Balčiūnas, Jurgis Balickaitis, Kostas Balsys, Petras Baltuška, Algis Baniulis, Kazimieras Baronas, Gediminas Blynas, Laimingas Blynas, Adolfas Breivė, Petras Budriūnas, Jonas Buliauskas, Povilas Čiuškis, Juozas Dubnikas, Kazimieras Dulksnys, Steponas Galvydis, Juozas Garška, Juozas Giedraitis, Kazimieras Girnius, Mykolas Gylys, Antanas Gobis, Alfonsas Grašys, Antanas Gružauskas, Klemensas Gutauskas, Gaudentas Ikamas, Vincentas Inkratas, Alfonsas Jančys, Povilas Jankevičius, Juozas Janulis, Bronius, Jareckas, Jonas Jatulis, Jonas Juodelis, Jonas Jurgaitis, Antanas Juška, Alfonsas Kadžius, Antanas Kairys, Vytautas Kapočius, Aleksandras Kaškevi-čius, Lionginas Keršulis, Petras Kiela, Anicetas Kisielius, Vladas Kremenskas, Stanislovas Krikštanaitis, Stanislovas Krumpliauskas, Petras Kuzmickas, Jonas Lapinskas, Antanas Liesis. Juozas Lukšas, Leonas Lukšas, Petras Markevičius, Vytautas Marozas, Pranciškus Masilionis, Leonas Mažeika, Antanas Mikulėnas, Algirdas Miškinis, Povilas Miškinis, Antanas Mitrikas, Jonas Morkvėnas,Kazimieras Mozūras, Jonas Nagulevičius, Algis Narušis, Lionginas Neniškis, Petras Nykstąs, Povilas Paškevičius, Steponas Pelešynas, Albinas Pipiras, Jonas Pranevičius, Augustinas Pranskietis, Leopoldas Pratkelis, Izidorius Puriuškis, Antanas Rameikis, Pranciškus Raščius, Petras Rau-duvė, Jonas Rimša, Pranciškus Sabaliauskas, Petras Senulis, Leonardas Skardinskas, Vincentas Stankevičius, Mykolas Stonys, Bronius Strazdas, Alfonsas Strelčiūnas, Aloyzas Sungaila, Povilas Svirskis, Ignas Šiaučiūnas, Bronius Šlapelis, Povilas Šliauteris, Gediminas Šukys, Juozas Šumskis, Albertas Talačka, Leonardas Tamošauskas, Stanislovas Tamulionis, Pranciškus Tamulionis, Pet-tas Tarutis, Petras Tijušauskas, Vytautas Tvarijonas, Jonas Uogintas, Sigitas Uždavinys, Eduardas Vaišnoras, Antanas Valavičiūnas, Antanas Valantinas, Juozas Varnas, Povilas Varžinskas, Antanas Vaškevičius, Titas Vinkšnelis, Antanas Zakrys, Antanas Zulo-nas, Bronius Žilinskas, Serafinas Žvinys, Benediktas Urbonas.
To: The Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party-Copies to: The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR;
The Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR; The Commissioner for Religious Affairs; The Bishops and Diocesan Administrators of Lithuania;
The Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers. A Statement from: The Priests of the Telšiai Diocese and the Klaipėda Prelature.
We the priests of the Telšiai diocese appeal to you and other state agencies not only on our own behalf, but we voice here the will and concern of the hundreds of thousands of Catholics whom we serve in their spiritual matters. We belong to the nearly 2000-year-old Church instituted by Christ. Its benefits to all mankind and also to our Republic's culture are gigantic and indisputable. The University of Vilnius, the first high schools, colleges and primary schools were founded by the Church. The originators of Lithuanian literature were also representatives of this Church. It is with good reason that today the entire civilized world acknowledges and values the Christian Church. It is no coincidence either that, upon the election of Pope John II, the officials of the world's nations, including socialist nations, congratulated him, in recognition of the Catholic Church's vital role and importance in the present-day life of mankind.
But the direct and primary purpose of the Catholic Church is to sanctify and save people. Therefore the Church's direct course of action is based on her founder's—Christ's—divine mission (see Mathew 28:19; John 20:21). This mission is expressed through the rightful jurisdiction of bishops and priests, received from the Vicar of Christ—the Pope. In their work, bishops and priests must strictly adhere to dogmatic and canonical rules and duties. Otherwise, they will not fulfill the mission assigned them by the Church.
The Soviet government has made a commitment not to interfere in the dogmatic, canonical and religious activity of the Church. A decision of the Central Committee of the Soviet Union Communist Party, dated November 10, 1954 reads as follows:
"To direct Soviet Union Communist Party district committees,
national committees, Central Committees of Communist Parties in Soviet Republics and all party organizations resolutely to root out errors in atheist propaganda and in the future assure that the feelings of believers and church servants are not offended, as well as to prevent administrative interference in church activity. It is essential to remember that insults against the church, clergy and believing citizens cannot be reconsiled with the scientific-atheist propaganda line implemented by the party and state and is contrary to the Constitution of the USSR which accords Soviet citizens freedom of conscience."
The new USSR Constitution reads as follows: "USSR citizens are guaranteed freedom of conscience; namely, to profess any religion or not profess any, practice religious cults or conduct atheist propaganda. Inciting discord and hatred in connection with religious beliefs is forbidden. The Church in the USSR is separate from the state and the school from the church" (USSR Constitution, art. 52).
Article 50 of the Lithuanian SSR Constitution reiterates this. In light of the above decision of the Central Committee of the Soviet Union Communist Party, these articles of the Constitution can unhesitatingly be interpreted as granting the Church the right freely to administer its affairs and act according to its principles in its internal life and activity — according to canon law, the keeping with dogmatic and liturgical requirements. It seems this is affirmed by proper government representatives in charge of matters arising between the state and the Church (see J.(uozas) Rugienis, "Tarybos ir religinių kultų įstatymai" (Soviet and Religious Cult Laws), Tarybų darbas (Soviet Work, 1972, No. 9, p. 17 and K.(azimieras) Tumėnas, Įstatymai ir religinės bendruomenės Laws and Religious Communities", Tarybų darbas, 1975, No. 4, p. 26).
In 1905 Lenin wrote in his article Socializmas ir religija ("Socialism and Religion"): "The state must not concern itself with religion; religious societies must not have ties with the state government."
It would appear that the Church has the freedom to carry out at least its basic mission. But in actual life, things are quite different.
On July 28, 1976 the Regulations for Religious Associations were confirmed and adopted. They brutally interfere in internal Church affairs, completely disregard canon law and dogmatic or even liturgical doctrine and actually abolish the freedom of the Church to fulfill its direct religious obligations; they deprive citizens of the opportunity to enjoy the constitutionally granted freedom
A. Canon 87 of the Church explicitly asserts that an individual becomes full-fledged member of the Church from the very moment of baptism, and not from the age of eigtheen as indicated in the Regulations. The Church and believing parents are directed by canon law to take care of children in matters of religion and provide them with religious services according to the requirements of canon law, dogma and liturgy (see Canons 1330-1331; 1336).
Therefore, Article 3 of the Regulations for Religious Associations brutally violates Church canons and interferes in its purely religious activity. It also violates the freedom of conscience, for up to the age of eighteen an individual would be forcibly excluded from religious life and would be denied the right to enjoy the freedom of conscience granted him by the country's Constitution. Therefore, Article 3 of the Regulations for Religious Associations is unconstitutional, totally contrary to the policy of the Central Committee of the Soviet Union Communist Party and as such cannot have the force of law.
B. Recently, under the Regulations, local government organs, bypassing chanceries, pastors and parish administrators, interfere in the composition of parish committees and unilaterally impose so-called "contracts." Here, neither the faithful, parish pastors nor the Chancery are allowed to make any corrections or suggestions in the contract—the contract is such as the civil government, likes it. This is not only a violation of canons in principle, but is contrary to the Civil Code of the Lithuanian SSR.
In view of the pressure and intimidation used by local administrative organs against church committee members, the forcible signing of contracts is null and void from the standpoint of both Canon Law of the Church and Soviet laws:
In view of the pressure and intimidation used by local administrative organs against church committee members, the forcible signing of contracts is null and void from the standpoint of both Canon Law of the Church and Soviet laws:
1. It is void from the standpoint of Church canon law: Canon 461-467; 1519-1528. These canons direct Ordinaries and pastors or priests who act as pastors to direct the administration of the parish.
Here they are completely eliminated or circumvented.
2. It is void from the standpoint of over-all Soviet law:
a. Under the Civil Code of the Lithuanian SSR, a contract must be a bilateral free juridical act. In this instance, it is imposed already drawn up, is unilateral and not free.
b. According to the LSSR Civil Code (Art. 168) the substance of a contract is composed of agreement on all points in question. This is completely lacking here.
c. Soviet law does not consider the Church committee to be a juridical entity. It therefore cannot be a contracting party with a juridical person—the rayon or city executive committee (LSSR Civil Code, art. 23-24), because it has no rights. Under the imposed contract, the church committee is given many duties, obligations, incurs large expense, but has no legal status.
3. By violating the vital Leninist and constitutional principle that "the church is separate from the state" our Republic's administrative organs wish to completely subordinate the activity of the church committee and actually interfere in countless areas of internal Church activities. For instance, they control when religious festivals are held, who will preach, which priests will attend, etc.
Under the Regulations for Religious Associations, priests and believers are subject to restrictions: A priest cannot administer the sacraments in another parish; believers cannot invite a priest from another parish when they wish; without special permission, a priest cannot assist in a neighboring parish (see Art. 19 of the Regulations). Contrary to canon law, priests are forbidden to regularly visit their parishioners (see art. 45 of the Regulations). In some places, priests are forbidden to bury the dead in keeping with liturgical requirements. On the basis of the said Regulations, certain places forbid children to actively participate in services, and if they do participate, it is not only the children who are punished, their parents also suffer discrimination.
1. It is common knowledge that an absolute majority of inhabitants in our Republic are believing Catholics. Their basic rights as believers are completely ignored and thereby the principles of freedom of conscience and democracy proclaimed by the USSR and Lithuanian SSR Constitutions are violated. Although the equality of all citizens before the law is proclaimed and equal rights and freedoms guaranteed all citizens (Art. 37, 43, 50, 47, 56 of the
Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR), but in actual practice:
a. No citizen who publicly practices his faith can assume a management position in state agencies or places of employment;
b. No citizen who publicly practices his faith can be elected a representative to defend believers, no clergyman can be elected a
deputy to any council;
c. No believing citizen is permitted to defend the faith in the press, on radio or television;
d. School-children who practice their faith are prevented from seeking higher learning and are rudely insulted and debased.
Thus, there is a privileged class—atheists—in the Republic and those who have no rights—believers who publicly practice their faith.
2. The policy of the Lithuanian SSR administration is clearly contrary to Art. 50 of the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR which proclaims: "To incite discord and hatred in connection with religious beliefs is forbidden." But this is permitted and encouraged by Soviet authorities:
a. Atheist articles (especially in the rayon press), frequently replete with brutal scorn and bereft of scholarly value, which call believers ignorant, backward, etc.
b. Weekly atheist radio and television programs full of insulting and offensive statements against the Church, her representatives, and even the Pope;
c. Schools hold atheist programs which brutally ridicule believers, priests and the sacraments.
Serious attention must be directed to the fact that a large-scale terror campaign, full of hatred and reaching frightful proportions, is being conducted agains practicing children.
All this is a clear indicator of an unconstitutional attitude, irreconcilable with the abovenamed decision of the Central Committee of the Soviet Union Communist Party and full of hatred toward believers, which of course produces a reaction, troubles people's lives, upsets believers and forces them to defend themselves. If believing citizens continue to be treated this way in the future, they will be driven against their will into the underground by local Soviet authorities. They should therefore take full responsibility for this and not accuse citizens who are defending their rights, as stated in the Constitution.
In conclusion, we ask and suggest on our own behalf and that of believers;
1. That the Regulations for Religious Associations promulgated on July 28, 1976 and contrary to Church canons and the Constitution be revoked and repealed.
2. For the purpose of drawing up new contracts between rayon (city) executive committees and church committees, it is first necessary to coordinate the interest of both sides, determine the legal status of the church committee and its relationship with the parish pastor. From the Church's standpoint, this could be accomplished by proper representatives from the Chancery.
3. The constitutionally guaranteed freedom of conscience is incomprehensible and unimaginable without at least minimal freedom of publication and information. We should be allowed to print at least enough catechisms, religious textbooks and prayerbooks.
4. State intolerance of believers must be restricted, atheist programs and other activities offensive to believers must be banned for they rudely debase what believers hold to be holy; the firghtful terrorization and debasement of believing children who actively participate in worship must be forbidden.
5. We priests consider it our full right to ignore regulations which contradict the Constitution, church law and our direct obligations. Moreover, we will no longer inform the civil government about church-sponsored recollections or about preachers who come to them and will no longer provide councils with purely sacramental or religious statistical information on the number of baptisms, marriages, funerals and other religious services rendered because this is purely a matter of internal church life, with no juridical meaning in civil law.
Up to now, collective statements by priests or believers have yet to receive a reply from the appropriate state agencies. We therefore cite art. 47 of the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR: "Officials are obliged to consider the suggestions and statements of citizens within the prescribed time period, reply to them and take appropriate action." If this statement as well is buried in some drawer, as happened in the past, it will be just one more indication, this time official, that the Constitution deems us believers to be completely bereft of all rights.
Signed by 110 priests of the Telšiai Diocese and the Klaipėda Prelature: Vincentas Vėlavičius, Antanas Šeškevičius, Kazimieras Casčiūnas, Bronislavas Burneikis, Jonas Kauneckas, Klemensas Puidokas, Jonas Bučinskas, Jonas Pakalniškis, Petras Serapinas, Antanas Kiela, Jonas Lukošius, Juozapas Meidus, Jonas Ilskis, Petras Puzanas, Romualdas Žulpa, Antanas Struikis, Pranciškus Venskus, Liudvikas Dambrauskas, Domininkas Giedra, Antanas Jurgaitis, Klemensas Arlauskas, Konstantinas Petrikas, Vincentas Senkus, Liudvikas Šarkauskas, Stanislovas Vaitilis, Adomas Alminas, Adomas Milerius, Jonas Paliukas, Anicetas Kerpauskas, Konstantinas Velioniškis, Jonas Kusas, Vaclovas Stirbys, Alfonsas Lukoševičius, Valentinas Šikšnys, Leonas Šapokas, Kazimieras Žukas, Juozapas Pačinskas, Tomas Švambrys, Juozapas Rutale, Antanas Ivanauskas, Kazimieras Rimkus, Antanas Ričkus, Pranciškus Šatkus, Albertas Novodželskis, Vytautas Kadys, Petras Jasas, Petras Stukas, Antanas Zdanavičius, Juozapas Janauskas, Antanas Petronaitis, Tadas Poška, Petras Bemetąs, Vincentas Gauronskis, Izidorius Juškys, Juozapas Buikus, Pranas Daugnora, Henrikas Sirtautas, Stasys Ežerinskas, Stasys Ilinčius, Antanas Beniušis, Juozas Mantvydas, Jonas Rudzinskas, Petras Merliūnas, Aloyzas Baškys, Juozapas Maželis, Alfonsas Škinūnas, Vladislovas Šlevas, Izidorius Juškys, Bronislavas Latakas, Julius Budrikis, Julijonas Miškinis, Brunonas Bagužas, Vladislavas Abramavičius, Vladislovas Radveinis, Ferdinandas Žilys, Jonas Gedvilą, Juozapas Šukys, Juozapas Grabauskas, Domininkas Biveinis, Aleksandras Jakutis, Vincentas Vitkus, Liudas Serapinas, Juozas Gedgaudas, Jonas Petrauskis, Kazimieras viršila, Pranas Puzė, Bronius Racevičius, Alfonsas Klimavičius, Juozas Olšauskas, Algirdas Pakamanis, Jonas Vičiulis, Juozas Gun-ta, Kazys Macelis, Alfonsas Pridotkas, Juozas Liutkevičius, Juozas Bukauskas, Juozas Gasiunas, Vytautas Mikutavičius, Vincentas Klebonas, Petras Mitkus, Antanas Puodžiūnas, Henrikas Šulcas, Jonas Jasimavičius, Česlovas Degutis, Bernardas Talaišis, Petras Lygnu-garis, Antanas Augustis, Julijonas Tamašauskas, Bronius Braz-džius, Antanas Jakaitis.
To: The Secretary General of the Central Committee of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Copies to: The First Secretary of the Central Committee of the
Communist Party of the Lithuanian SSR;
Commissioner for Religious Affairs of the Lithuanian, SSR;
The Bishops and Diocesan Administrators of Lithuania. A Statement from: The priests of the Vilnius Archdiocese.
In asking that Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius be restored to the position of Apostolic Administrator of the Vilnius Archdiocese, we priests of the Vilnius Archdiocese wrote a petition, signed by 61 priests to the Council of Ministers of the USSR in 1970; in September, 1975, we sent a statement to the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR signed by 66 priests; and on February 15, 1976, a group of priests sent a statement to the Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Soviet Union Communist Party on behalf of all the priests of the Vilnius Archdiocese. And we repeatedly appeal to you, Mr. Secretary General, regarding the same matter, because the current situation of the Vilnius Archdiocese, with one administrator replacing another, is abnormal from the standpoint of Church canons, the laws of the Lithuanian SSR and believers.
The diocese does not have a bishop: For reasons he himself does not know, he was exiled by order of Soviet authorities far outside the diocese's boundaries, to Žagarė (Archdiocese of Kaunas). Catholic Church canons hold the true leader of the diocese to be the bishop, not an administrator; an administrator can fill this position only on a temporary basis.
According to the Criminal Code of the Lithuanian SSR, internal exile (Art. 27), external exile (Art. 28), deprivation of the rights to hold a certain position or perform certain work (Art. 30), dismissal from a position (Art. 31) can only be decided by the court. Bishop Steponavičius was not tried!
Internal exile, both as the main and an additional form of punishment can be imposed by the court for two to five years (Art. 27), external exile for one to five years (Art. 28), deprivation of the right to hold a certain position or perform certain work also for one to five years (Art. 30). The Bishop has already been in exile for over eighteen years!
Believers view this as discrimination against them: They are outside the law; a clergyman can be unjustly repressed, he is deprived of the opportunity to defend himself, and the believing community cannot defend him either.
In view of the above, we the undersigned priests, ask in our own name and that of all people who love truth and justice, that you, Mr. Secretary General, allow Bishop Steponavičius to return from Žagarė to the position of Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius.
Lithuania SSR February 2, 1979
Signed by 64 priests of the Archdiocese of Vilnius: K. Garuckas, B. Laurinavičius, V. Černiauskas, A. Keina, J. Lauriūnas, M. Petravičius, J. Vaitonis, A. Andriuškevičius, K. Gajauskas, N. Pakalka, N. Jaubra, D. Baužys, K. Molis, J. Budrevičius, P. Bekiš, K. Vasiliauskas, J. Tunaitis, L Paberžis, A. Valatka, P. Vaičekonis, S. Puidokas, J. Morkūnas, B. Sakavičius, S. Kakarieka, S. Markevičius, S. Tunaitis, V. Aiulis, V. Rūkas, J. Grigaitis, S. Lydys, M. Stonys, K. Pukėnas, A. Dziekan, A. Trusevic, J. Obrembski, A. Čeponis, P. Jankus, S. Malakovski, L. Savickas, S. Valiukėnas, J. Slėnys, P, Tarvydas, A. Gutauskas, J. Juodagalvis, K. Kindurys, B. Bronickis, R. Blažys, K. Gailius, K. Valeikis, A. Simonaitis, K. Žemėnas, A. Kanišauskas, D. Valiukonis, D. Valančiauskas, R. Černiauskas, D. Puidokas, A. Ulickas, J. Baltušis, J. Kardelis, M. Savickas, A. Merkys, V. Jaskelevičius, A. Petronis, J. Kukta.
When the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers sent Document No. 5 to the Supreme Soviet Presidium of the USSR, arguing that the Regulations for Religious Associations discriminate against the Catholic Church and must be repealed, P. (etras) Anilionis, the Commissioner for Religious Affairs, stated there are only five or ten priests in all Lithuania who oppose the regulations passed by the Supreme Soviet Presidium and all other priests are satisfied with them. What will he say now, after 75% of Lithuanian priests have stated that the Regulations of the Supreme Soviet Presidium are inhuman, unconstitutional and no one will be able to observe them?
By sending Soviet authorities the statements printed above, the priests of Lithuania have not only demonstrated their solidarity with the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers, but have also proven that Soviet totalitarianism during 1940-1979 has not succeeded in breaking their spirit and loyalty to the Church.
The question arises, who are those 25% of the priests who did not sign the letters of protest against the Regulations for Religious Associations?" Actually, in all the dioceses only a mere 8-9% of priests refused to sign the statement; the rest, especially those living in the countryside, were not visited due to difficult winter road conditions. The reasons which prevented a small handful of priests from signing the protests are as follows:
a. extreme old age and fear of having any dealings with
b. collaboration with the KGB;
c. placing personal career above Church matters.
The priests of Lithuania are waiting for Lithuania's bishops and shepherds now in office to also speak out against the Regulations for Religious Associations. Shepherds should be the first to react at such vital moments in the life of the Church.