Vyžuonos (Utena Rayon)
On the night of May 16-17, 1980, vandals robbed the church in Vyžuonos. The following items were stolen:
— a valuable central picture from the main altar
— a picture of the Sorrowful Virgin Mary from a side altar
— a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus from a side altar
— a large picture of St. Anthony from a wall
— a monstrance with Host from the tabernacle
— a ciborium with Hosts (one Host was found on the carpet near the altar steps, as if bent but not broken
— the main altar crucifix from above the tabernacle
— relics of the Holy Cross from a side altar
— and an amplifier with two microphones.
In 1980 the Western pres and radio reported a statement made on November 25, 1979, by the arrested Vytautas Skuodis, a lecturer at Vilnius State University, in which he considered himself "the sixth member of Lithuania's Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights."
In his December 16,1979, statement to the committee, Skuodis wrote, "Because I proclaimed membership in the committee without consulting with other committee members ... I ask that you consider my earlier statement invalid."
On April 1, 1980, a large number (610) of believers living in Klaipėda sent Leonid Brezhnev, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, a follow-up inquiry which stated, among other things, "We are forced to turn to you, Mr. Chairman, because the Executive Committee of the City of Klaipėda, the Lithuanian SSR Commissioner for Religious Affairs, and the Lithuanian SSR Council of Ministers do not reply to our requests (complaints) and claim it is not for them to deal with this matter. They are trying to convince us that this petition we are sending you will not receive a favorable reply, that we must no longer appeal to you, Mr. Chairman, and no longer raise this question."
Soviet officials attempted, using a variety of methods, to obstruct the signing of the petition. They confiscated signed copies of the statement, photographed people in the act of signing (in Varduva, Šilalė, Ylakiai, Paežerys, Šiluva), etc.
The petition from the residents of Klaipėda, bearing 148,149 signatures, was sent on November 19, 1979, but the Soviet government has not yet resolved the question of returning the Klaipėda church. Let us make a comparison: A schizophrenic wrote to the Lithuanian SSR Prosecutor and complained that the pastor of Viduklė, Father Svarinskas, "wants to kill him." The priest was immediately summoned to the Raseiniai Prosecutor's Office to explain. But when hundreds of thousands sign a statement regarding the Klaipėda church, the Soviet government is as silent as a corpse.
Believers living in Tauragė have sent the Lithuanian Radio and Television Committee a statement signed by 1,587 persons in which they defend Father Jonas Kauneckas, who was unjustly slandered on a television program on March 9, 1980. They wrote that they were present in March of this year at a retreat given by Father Kauneckas during which he "urged the youth not to travel along wrong paths but to rise out of the dirt, out of moral decline and cleanse themselves through penance and take life's true path. Is that politics? No! That is religion . . ..The program's producer, Stuina, himself called the zealous and good priest 'an apostle of hatred.' We protest and demand that the producer publicly apologize to the priest."
Truskava (Kedainiai Rayon)
Four hundred forty-one believe! s of the Truskava parish signed a statement to Religious Affairs Commissioner P. Anilionis in which they relate how the Truskava church was destroyed during the war and that they are not allowed to build a replacement. The former auxiliary parish building has been converted into a meagre facility into which the believers who come for services cannot all fit. This building also houses the Communist [Mrs.] Vapštienė; three teachers, [Mrs.] Matulevičienė, [Mrs.I Pleštienė and [Miss] Varnaitė; the local cleaning woman [Mrs.] Vaikutienė; and [Mrs.] Grigaliūnienė. It also houses an obstetrics clinic. While outsiders are living in a parish building, the pastor has no place to live. It was through a great effort that the parishioners found him a tiny room, which does not even have enough room for a bed. The believers demand that either all outsiders be moved from the parish building, or permission be granted to build a new church on the site of the burned one. In conclusion, the statement recalls that the local Kedainiai Rayonauthorities gave a negative response to the believers' request. The statement was written on April 25,1980.
In 1980 Father Petras Nykštas offered the Easter Resurrection Mass under the open sky on the site of the burned church. During his sermon the pastor informed the people that he will hold services outdoors as long as they have no suitable facilities.
[Mrs.] Zuzana Motekienė, daughter of Nikodemas, a resident of the village of Paistriečiai, the Pumpėnai parish, Pasvalys Rayon, was a religious woman and a faithful churchgoer. She had told her family and the pastor many times,"I keep telling my children that when I die they must give me a church burial."
The old woman died suddenly on November 26,1979, at the age of eighty-two. The pastor of Pumpėnai asked the dead woman's sister when she came to make the funeral arrangements, "Will her son Juozas (editor of the Pasvalys Rayon newspaper Darbas [ Work]) object to a church burial?" The sister replied that the decedent's last wishes must be carried out.
The Pasvalys Rayon Party Committee cast its veto; the son — the editor — was told, "If you don't obey us, go where you please." It was in this way that the deeply religious woman was given an atheistic funeral.
On April 27, 1980, the first anniversary of the desecration of this Samogitian shrine was commemorated. Father Vladislovas Abromavičius conducted an atonement service and gave a homily. Some four hundred of young people alone, attended the services.
The youth of the Diocese of Telšiai have been saying the rosary since last fall. At the end of every month, the rosary is ceremoniously passed on to another deanery at the Žemaičių Kalvarija shrine and a Rosary procession is held. After bringing the rosary home, the young people recite it daily in their parish churches. At the request of the diocesan administrator, a prayer for the pope is said after the rosary. Recently, the KGB has begun to persecute the youths who go to Žemaičių Kalvarija with the rosary. The licenses of arriving cars are recorded.
An Open Letter
from V. Puplauskas
to the Producers and Audience of the
Atheistic Television Program "Argumentai"
"On March 9 of this year, Lithuania's Republican Television broadcast a so-called scientific atheism program 'Argumentai' (Arguments). But can deceit be called science and trick photography an argument?
"I will present the events as they occurred, and you can decide for yourselves.
"As director of the City of Telšiai Joint Boiler and Heating Authority, I was telephoned by Vice Chairman K. Jankus of the Telšiai Rayon Executive Committee and informed that a television program was being prepared about changes in Telšiai. 'You have done a great deal to improve apartment heating and the hot water supply in Telšiai. Tell us how you managed to achieve this and your future plans.'
"I wrote a report addressing these purely technical questions regarding my work and left it for Jankus. After reading the text, Jankus made no comments or suggestions. Later, I was summoned by the rayon executive committee. In addition to Jankus, A. Stuina and three other television employees were present. I began to discuss boilers, but the correspondents, through their questions, began to slant the discussion to the city of Telšiai and its residents. Seeing that I would be unable to share my concerns at work with the television audience, I stopped anwering questions which I did not understand. Imagine my surprise and anger at Jankus and Stuina when I saw myself on the atheistic propaganda program.
"How did you dare, Mr. Stuina, to insinuate deceptively to the viewers that others did not consent to participate in the atheistic program? Did I consent? Did you tell me why you were filming me? That was the first time I had ever seen you and had no way of knowing what your profession was and how you earn your living. Who allowed you to insert my replies among other statements, to put me on after the coarse and deceitful attack against Father Jonas Kauneckas, whom everyone respects? The people who deceitfully attacked Father Kauneckas were doing so out of vengeance, because their pride had been hurt. They are nonbelievers who are against the teaching of religion; therefore, they consider all the things that we find noble and sacred, foreign and incomprehensible. They cannot understand the efforts of the Lithuanian Catholic Church to save the nation, especially the youth, from drunkeness, crime, and depravity. Therefore, I feel that to show me, a professed Catholic, after the statements of individuals who hold atheistic views, was a very great insult and destroyed my esteem in the eyes of the faithful.
"In order that you, Mr. Jankus and Mr. Stuina, better understand the moral injury you caused, 1 will explain, using the following example:
"Imagine that a group of people have decided to degrade and ridicule your mothers. They film slanderous statements against your beloved mother by false witnesses. Later, without any knowledge on your part, they invite you, ask leading questions about your family and, finally, show you on Republican television as agreeing with and supporting the degradation against your mothers. How would you feel then in front of the entire republic having shown yourself to be so disrespectful of your mothers? You, by using deceit, trickery and lies, showed me to be such a person. Is the only way in which you can manage to spread so-called scientific atheistic propaganda by means of tricks and lies, by degrading another individual and ignoring a person's dignity and honor? You must be aware that spiritual traumas greatly harm a person's health and lessen productivity.
"Therefore, I ask that you make my letter public and correct the wrong that you have done. Explain to the television audience that a mistake was made, that I did not know the reason I was being filmed or where the replies to the questions asked would be used.
Engineer V. Puplauskas"
Viduklė (Raseiniai Rayon)
On May 4, 1980, the Viduklė Parish Council wrote a statement to the Lithuanian SSR Council of Ministers in which they stated:
"In the fall of 1976, talk began to circulate in the town that the Raseiniai Rayonauthorities were planning to take away our auxiliary building (where church employees are housed). In 1949 we lost our rectory, all maintenance buildings, and the parish hall. Therefore, we did not believe these rumors and thought that those terrible years of confiscation have irreversibly been left in the past, never to return. Logically, it was totally incomprehensible that after forty years of Soviet rule, the rayon authorities once again would need an old auxiliary building.
"Yet in 1977, in springtime, we believe, Vice Chairman Z. Butkus of the Raseiniai RayonExecutive Committee and Viduklė Township Chairman A. Zigmantas came to our pastor, Father A. Svarinskas, and demanded that a worker's family be allowed to move into the building. The pastor rejected the demand because the facilities were vitally needed by the parish. Again, there was no end to the talk:
" 'They want to bring in outsiders for security reasons . . .'
" 'It's only harrassment . . .'
" 'No, these are methods the atheists of Raseiniai use in their'ideological battle.' In fact, if the rayon authorities were so sensitive to the workers' needs, they would, as Communists, be content with more modest apartments and would not construct two sets of saunas in buildings: Swedish ones for the masters and ordinary ones for the people.'
"The auxiliary building was built prior to World War II; the roof leaks, the floor is rotted, and the walls are cracked. It was in desperate need of very basic repairs. On June 1, 1977, the parish council petitioned Rayon Chief Architect Daunoras for a repair permit. The architect ordered us to find an engineer to create plans for the project and only then to file for a permit. Our attempts to locate an engineer in Raseiniai who would risk helping the church and the pastor by drawing up the plans without fear of reprisal from Rayon atheists were in vain! . . .
"We patched the roof and the pastor's quarters a little, but the main part of the building is still awaiting a repair permit.
"At the beginning of January 1980 the Viduklė Parish Council received a letter dated December 19, 1979, from the Raseiniai Rayon Soviet of People's Deputies Executive Committee, which stated: 'Since the Viduklė Religious Community is repairing the building illegally without the required documents and has disregarded the state inspector's warning, the Raseiniai rnyon Executive Committee is cancelling the contract of July 23,1974, which transferred the building for the free use of the Viduklė Religious Community, and warns the Viduklė Religious Community (Chairman I. Paulauskas) to vacate the building within three months.
(signed) Executive Committee Chairman A. Skeiveris,
Secretary O. Juozaitis.'
"The ruling is not consistent with the truth:
We requested a permit but were denied . . ..
We received no warning . . ..
"In the spring, Religious Affairs Commissioner P. Anilionis came to the Viduklė State Poultry Farm and the farm's director, E. Zaikauskas, came by automobile to pick up the parish council members who were at home: B. Urbutis and [Mrs.] V. Kazlauskienė. Anilionis spoke with each separately and stated: 'Control the pastor; otherwise, well close the church.'
"On April 23 rayon authorities sent the chief architect to measure the building. Once again rumors started that there were plans to house a family in the parish building. It appears rayon officials were reasoning, 'If up to now the pastor has been able to tolerate the noise late Saturday and Sunday nights from the cultural center next door, then he will certainly be unable to bear this and will leave of his own accord . . ..'
"The faithful consider all these incidents to be one continuous provocation and a series of discriminatory actions. Therefore, everyone has but one question: When will it all end?
"We ask that the discriminatory decision of the rayon authorities be reviewed and reversed and the offenders be assured that these methods will not defeat religion. On the contrary, the Raseiniai atheists have set all people of good will against them.
"We would also like to take this opportunity to state that we, Catholics of Raseiniai, will defend the church, Father Svarinskas, and the auxiliary building with all possible means."
The statement was signed by 1,287 Viduklė parishioners.
* * *
On April 27, 1980, sixty-three believers of the Viduklė parish sent the editors of the Raseiniai Rayon newspaper Naujasis Rytas (New morning) a letter protesting the persecution of their pastor, Father A. Svarinskas. The letter maintains that the articles directed against the priest in the press hid the true purpose of the atheists: the desire to eliminate a priest loved by the people. The believers who signed the letter were protesting the slander spread by the rayon newspaper against Father Svarinskas. The letter stated: "With the consent and backing of the government, but being unable to defend their ideology in a truthful and decent way, atheists are determined to have this ideology triumph by means of blackmail and violence against the Church and the faithful."
On June 1, 1980, a woman came to the Blinstrubiškiai Home for the Blind with the letter, allegedly to verify whether the signatures on the letter were genuine. She questioned [Miss] G. Nevardauskaitė. The visitor first explained that the rayon newspaper would not print the letter.
"But it is proper for the editorial staff to print slanderous atheistic articles?" asked Nevardauskaitė. There was no response. The "editorial employee" then asked who had been the instigator of the letter. She reproached Father Svarinskas for saying in a sermon that March 8 is Drunken Woman's Day (in fact on that day not only men but women as well become insanely drunk — Ed.). The "woman from the editorial staff" also spoke with [Miss] B. Jasinskaitė, but did not wish to meet with any other persons who had signed the letter.