Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis summoned all the Ordinaries of Lithuania to his office on July 13, 1979.
First, Anilionis suggested that tribute be paid the memory of Bishop J. Labukas by standing up. Everyone stood up.
The Commissioner congratulated Bishop L. Povilonis and announced that he was granted permission to assume his post beginning July 9th. The Commissioner further stated that extremist priests have stepped up their activity; new attacks are expected. The extremists are few in number, and the majority of priests is loyal. Some priests are undecided: they do not know whom to follow.
The extremists even teach the Ordinaries. The Ordinaries must be more active so as to maintain the bishop's authority built up over many years.
The extremists formally refuse to observe Soviet laws.
Extremist priests have banded into two groups: the Helsinki Group and the Group of Five (The Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers — Trans. note). The late Father Garuckas has been replaced by Father Br. Laurinavičius.
The Group of Five was formed during the second half of 1978 and its activity is growing daily. They do not represent anyone, no one has elected them, but they still act. What is their role among the clergy?
They write documents, lie and do not state any facts. They want the bishops and administrators to listen to them.
Certain activists are even blackmailing certain bishops and administrators. Good upright persons might suffer because of them. The Ordinaries must not allow themselves to be slandered and trampled. Certain administrators are challenging them, while others are waiting to see what the government will do. And this results in disunity. The priests do not know whom to follow. The situation is very abnormal.
The extremists have chosen various forms of action and refuse to obey the directives of the government.
Document No. 5 of the Five received the support of the following:
— 60% of the priests of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys;
— 63% of the priests of the Diocese of Kaunas;
— 78% of the priests of the Diocese of Vilkaviškis;
— three statements from the priests of the Diocese of Vilnius (64% of priests regarding the bishop's reinstatement);
— 84% of the Diocese of Panevėžys (the letter rather vague, unfounded);
— 76% of the priests of the Diocese of Telšiai.
As signatures were being collected, priests were ridiculed and threatened. The content of all the statements is similar—the desire "to defend the oppressed"—but unfounded in facts. Upon close examination, it is difficult to find the oppressed. It is mere slander. They write about violations of the Helsinki agreements. They quote the articles they find useful. They are concerned with protecting churches, while they themselves ravage churches.
No one is making priests and believers second-class citizens as stated in the documents.
They use threats to attract the youth to church, for example Father Tamkevičius. Later, innocent people will also suffer.
The priests of the Archdiocese of Vilnius declared the Regulations null and void. What ignorance! Did the laws vanish because of it?
The priests used the July 2, 1962 Convention "On Discrimination in the Field of Education" for their own ends. We have no private schools here. That is why they are forbidden to teach. State schools have their own regulations. In this case there can only be a question of the law's interpretation.
The priests of the Diocese of Panevėžys raise a question about doing away with the agreements. Bishop Krikščiūnas (Transl. Note: Bishop Romualdas Krikščiūnas, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Panevėžys) has sent the document to priests for their signature. Is it right to raise the question when 95% have already signed? Only 36 associations have not yet signed. This amounts to seeking a quarrel.
Only 16 communities have not yet signed in the Archdiocese of Kaunas; only 2 in the Diocese of Vilkaviškis, 4 in Kaišiadorys, 14 in Panevėžys and only a handful in the Dioceses of Telšiai and Vilnius.
Signing the agreement is a routine matter, but we can wait. Certain pastors go as far as to disband the committees which want to sign the agreements. Certain priests are manifesting a strong desire to lead. They claim that "committees of twenty" are formed comprising atheists and active church members. If this is true in certain cases, it must be corrected.
The pastor of Kirdeikiai, Father P. Kražauskas has formed his own committee. The situation is no longer normal. People do not attend church. (At this point, Msgr. Andrikonis interjected: "Father Kražauskas has been relieved of his duties.")
The Commissioner continued: "Twenty-one candidates have been allowed to enter the Seminary. Some students at the Seminary are diversifying. The mood prevailing at the state schools is improving. (Apparently Anilionis did not like the questions the seminarians raised during his lecture. — Ed. note) If seminarians diversify, some will drop out. If someone's brother priest diversifies, then how will it be possible to talk things over with a candidate?
We received requests to admit seminarians from other Republics, but you Ordinaries think only of yourselves; you say that spies will be sent over. No more than one hundred will be allowed at the Seminary."
Bishop Povilonis (Bishop Liudas Povilonis, Apostolic Administrator of the Dioceses of Kaunas and Telšiai) suggested that at least thirty candidates be admitted to the first-year class.
Father Vaičius requested that candidates to the seminary be admitted without first fulfilling their military obligation, because even during the war seminarians were exempt from military service. Anilionis nearly concurred with this view, but claimed it is difficult to convince the military.
Bishop Povilonis suggested that the academic year be shortened. (Priests must be trained properly! There can thus be no talk of shortening the school year. — Ed. note).
"Priests ask that they not be forbidden to prepare children for First Communion," Anilionis continued, "But nothing can be done. Article 163 of the Criminal Code will be very strictly enforced."
To the complaint from the priests of the Diocese of Telšiai that the government prevents pastors from administering their parishes, the Commissioner replied: "Everything is possible, if a good relationship exists between the church committee and the rayoncommittee."
"There are complaints that priests cannot go to recollections, but everything is possible, if we behave normally. Let's take the recollections at Žemaičių Kalvarija as an example. Father Svarinskas came, took over from the pastor and ran things himself. Father Svarinskas is reported to have said that anyone who has not served in a labor camp is a bad priest, while Father Tamkevičius asserted: "We will fight to the blood and through blood will attain complete victory. It is better to die than to compromise!"
"They did not respect the holy places," lectured Anilionis, "but merely conducted anti-Soviet meetings."
Extremists are not guided by the Bible. If any of them had suffered for the Church then perhaps they could call themselves martyrs. But now?
Father Našlėnas comes to Krinčinas and Father Babrauskas, the pastor, allows him to speak. During the Sts. Peter and Paul devotions Father Našlėnas reviled Soviet youth for an entire hour. Did he speak as dictated by the decisions of Vatican II?
Telšiai complains that devotions are being controlled. They are controlled only insofar as to maintain order.
They are also unhappy that believers cannot hold positions of leadership.
Why are priests defending others? Let believers defend themselves. In bourgeois Lithuania members of poor families were not admitted into the police. Why did priests not defend them then? This is not a matter of faith.
The priests of Telšiai complained that believers are prevented from enrolling in schools of higher education and are subjected to various forms of ridicule, but several of those named were visited; they spread out their hands and know nothing about it. In writing, one must name facts.
Anilionis angrily remarked about the underground: "The underground is for the enemy. Those who work have no time to think about the underground.
It has been noted that certain priests associate with persons sentenced to 25 years for murder.
Certain priests seek confrontation; the pastor of Sudervė for example hung a cross on the outside of his door. But that building also contains other offices. How would it look if we all began to hang crosses, stars or Jewish Stars of David on walls? Priests are now doing what young troublemakers once used to do: they untied their shoelaces to have an excuse to fight when someone stepped on them. Father Babrauskas is making repairs without consulting anyone. Why does the seminary consult. Is Father Babrauskas more clever than the seminary?"
Bishop Krikščiūnas spoke from his seat:
"What is allowed a Jesuit, is forbidden others."
"You have requested a religious calendar," continued Anilionis, "but you delay preparing it so that others can complain. Aliulis claims he did not have sufficient time to prepare it. Confrontations are sought everywhere.
"Everyone, regardless of the position he holds, will be obliged to observe the Regulations. If anyone fails to observe them, he will be punished according to the law."
The Commissioner voiced his displeasure at the remarks the deans had made: "The Revs. Pukėnas, Buožius and Gaščiūnas made the most vehement comments. Buožius even quoted the Czarist verse "Neither printed nor written word . . ." But Pukėnas and Buožius understood their error and apologized." (A lie. The priests did not apologize. — Ed. note). "Rev. Pūzaras stated: "That Commissioner should have been given a good going over." why is all this necessary? Kuzmickas from Pakruojis is always hostile and scowling. Still others did not want a lecture on the international situation. This merely shows a lack of culture. But criticism is essentially a good thing. We should therefore get together more often.
"Others say that there was an attempt to buy the deans with coffee. What should the deans be served then?"
The bishops held a meeting in Panevėžys on May 5, 1979. The extremists scorned everything in their document. You don't want a newspaper: fine. They say that only profiles of bishops attending peace conferences will be printed.
A trip for liturgical scholars is being planned to Rome in the fall. It is possible that a bishop will accompany them.
It is quite impossible to secure the return of the Klaipėda church. The old church can be expanded for an additional 100-120 people. For this is how many people now stand outside during services.
A prayerbook will be published in the spring. But it must be small in format, similar toVisada su Dievu (Always With God).
The extremists have written off all the Ordinaries.
They claim that weak priests are given the large parishes. Father Kauneckas was even offered two parishes (In order to draw him away from working in the Catholic Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers — Ed. note). Svarinskas claims the atheists are refusing to name an assistant pastor for Viduklė in order to speed his demise.
What is the need for sermon material, if the extremists will nonetheless refuse to preach them?
At this time, it is important to publish a Missal.
Secrets are baing leaked from chancery offices: From Telšiai a letter about the Klaipėda church; from Kaunas a telegram about calling the deans together. Bishop Povilonis did not yet hold office then. We therefore do not blame him.
We can give city parishes only to loyal priests with whom we can discuss things as they are. Sooner or later priests will have to keep the laws. One thoughtless step can endanger the whole Church."
Anilionis appealed to the Ordinaries, urging them: 'Do not be passive! You cannot allow them to ruin everything. If anyone would make a suitable bishop they turn him into a red. Show that there are chanceries and that there are leaders."
Bishop R. Krikščiūnas: 'Give me the names of the priests who signed from the Diocese of Panevėžys, for I want to know who signed. They sent me a text of the letter without any signatures."
Anilionis gave him a photocopy of the text with signatures and added: "No need to return it."
The Deputy for Catholic Affairs, Juozėnas, also spoke vehemently against the extremists. He claims to have worked in Italy for eight years and to be well acquainted with the life of the Church. In his opinion: "Priests lack discipline! In Italy priests are forbidden to engage in any kind of politics.
Why does Svarinskas hold services wherever he pleases? How can the actions of individual hotheads be justified? Our government is not weak because it does not seize them, though all the activities of the Five come under the articles of the Criminal Code, but the process of democratization is taking place here. Educate them! Provocations in Kalvarija amount to discord, anti-Soviet actions not only against the bishops and administrators, but also against the majority of priests. Perhaps they want to become Cardinals? They will not overthrow the Soviet government. Perhaps they like labor camps. If they do not desist, something will have to be done. One must live and act peaceably. The activities of the Five are destructive."
The Commissioner questioned the administrator of Vilnius about priests from Poland who come and work in parishes. The administrator explained that they do not ask the chancery and act in the name of Cardinal Stefan Wyszinski.
"Svarinskas is raising the question of commemorating the 20th anniversary of Bishop Ramanauskas" death," the Commissioner was incensed.
Someone mentions that Father Svarinskas was ordained by Bishop Ramanauskas.
"Who knows who ordained him!" remarked the Commissioner. "He told some people that it was Bishop Ramanauskas and others that it was Cardinal Slipij."
"The Ordinaries must not attend these commemorative meetings," explained Anilionis.
"They will decide to also commemorate the anniversary of Bishop Matulionis," added Bishop Krikščiūnas.
The Commissioner announced that Rev. S. Lidys will photograph outside and inside churches, especially when First Communion or Confirmation are administered.
"I think," the Commissioner stated, "that the Church is also interested in having such photographs for its archives."
Anilionis stated that the bishops may travel wherever they wish.
"Why was I forbidden to go to Kybartai?" asked Bishop Povilonis. But he was not given a reply.
The Commissioner demanded that he be informed when and where administrators and chancellors take their vacations.
Juozėnas is in charge of trips abroad.
In concluding, Anilionis threatened:
"Remember that even you can be replaced by others!"