On May 21,1980, the Religious Affairs Council sent the following telegram to the Kaunas Chancery:
"On May 29,1980, a talk will be held at the Kaunas City Executive Committee facilities for the deans and assistant deans of the Archdiocese of Kaunas and the Diocese of Vilkaviškis. It will begin at noon. Please see to it that all deans and assistant deans attend."
On May 29 the assembled deans and assistant deans were addressed by Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis. The main point of his speech was that religious extremism" is preventing priests from obeying Soviet laws and the Regulations for Religious Associations.
At first the commissioner attempted to explain the reason for the occurrence of religious extremism. In his opinion there are two major reasons:
1. The "extremist" priests are seeking notoriety (they want their names mentioned on Vatican Radio and their photographs published in foreign newspapers).
2. The extremist path is taken in an effort to incite discontent with the Soviet government. In Anilionis' words, the "Five" (the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights — Ed.) proclaim they are above all governments and claim to fight for religion, when in fact, their activities harm religion. During the course of his talk, a series of offenses allegedly committed by "extremist" priests were listed. Anilionis expressed his concern that twenty-seven parish councils have yet to conclude the "required" contracts with the executive committees of the local Soviets of people's deputies. He is convinced that it is not the faithful but the pastors who prevent these contracts from being completed. By way of example he mentioned that the contracts with the parishes of Ukmergė, Deltuva, Pabaiskas, and Vepriai had already been signed but the pastors collected signatures to revoke these contracts. Citing a number of examples, the commissioner maintained that the "extremist" priests force the faithful into coni\ict with Soviet authorities. He charged Father Masilionis and Father Jokubauskas with stating in their sermons that ancient slavery has been replaced by communism, for collective farm workers are even forced to work on Sunday. Father Puzaras was guilty of stating publicly in Akmenė that there is no reason to boast of multistoried buildings when people are stabbing one another in them. The priest had recommended that a sign reading "Divorce Palace" be hung over the civil marriage office. In Anilionis's opinion, the situation is not yet so terrible; Lithuania does not lead in the number of divorces; therefore, one should not exaggerate. In order to make a greater impact on his audience, the commissioner referred to the words of Pope John Paul II that relations between the Church and the state must evolve on the basis of mutual respect, and that churchmen should not become involved in politics (Anilionis considers it politics when the suffocating Church asks for air — Ed.). The commissioner asserted that among the so-called extremists are people with dark pasts who merely hide behind a cloak of religion. He was angered that Father Kauneckas held meetings for young people in Klaipėda and Kapsukas. What is even worse, according to Anilionis, is that the hostility of "extremist" churchmen borders on anarchy; priests refuse to submit information on religious services rendered and even boast of this in the Chronicle! He stated that "extremists" are forcing their way into parish executive organs and have begun to organize priests councils, while, according to Anilionis, the bishop himself heard at the Vatican that councils are unnecessary in Lithuania.
Commissioner Anilionis touched briefly on the subject of the catechization of children, stating that the law which forbids it has not yet been changed. According to Anilionis, priests who have taken the "extremist" route are doing the Church great harm; they slander priests whom the people love (KGB collaborators — Ed.), and they are concerned with politics, not the Church.
Anilionis found great fault with the Helsinki Watch Group member Father Bronius Laurinavičius; he was angered that issue no. 42 of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania supports the prisoners-of-conscience Anastazas Janulis, Povilas Buzas, and others. In his opinion, Buzas did not fight for the freedom of religion but against the government.
Aware of the backing of the powerful KGB, the Religious Affairs Commissioner boldly stated that no one fears the "extremists," and the Church gets no benefit from them. If the Church quarrels with the government, it will be bad for both sides. Thus, it would be right for both the Church and the state to wage a united battle against the "extremists." The commissioner demanded that the deans would not violate Soviet laws, urged them not to fear the "extremists," and bemoaned the fact that one out of five young priests is an "extremist," e.g., Father Antanas Gražulis organizes meetings for the youth. In his opinion it is the "extremists," especially the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights, who are responsible for the absence of a religious magazine. Anilinois suggested that young priests should be sent to study in Rome and even advised that candidates be nominated — as if the Church could choose them without the KGB.
After Commissioner Anilionis had finally finished, certain deans spoke. Father Danyla, the dean of Ukmergė, explained that new contracts between parishes and the executive committees of Soviets of people's deputies were being forced. Father Buožius, dean of Jurbarkas, demanded that believing children not be discriminated against in schools. Father Vaičelionis, the pastor of Radviliškis, complained that there is a great shortage of prayer books and proposed that they should be published yearly.
Anilionis did everything he could to convince the deans that everything would be fine if only the "extremists" would not interfere with the Soviet authorities.
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On May 19,1980, all the deans of the Diocese of Telšiai were summoned for a talk with the Religious Affairs Commissioner at the Telšiai Executive Committee offices. Some told the chancery that they were unwilling to come since they had come from other rayons. They suggested that the commissioner come to the Telšiai Chancery for the talk and, furthermore, that in the future the commissioner announce the subject of the talk in advance, giving the deans an opportunity for preparation.
The Religious Affairs Commissioner did not agree to this suggestion, and the deans voted to go to the rayon executive committee offices. The commissioner did not state anything new. As he had done the previous year, he explained the law, criticized the priests' sermons, and singled out Fathers Jonas Kauneckas, Petras Kražauskas, and others, calling them "extremists." He emphasized that the instruction of children would not be tolerated and that even instructional sermons cannot be given; in addition, children are forbidden to serve at masses.
Following the commissioner's talk, the deans were given the opportunity to respond. Father Petras Palšis, the dean of Skuodas, stated that priests will fight to the death for the sake of the children and that extremist-atheists are responsible for so-called religious extremism because they, by violating Soviet laws, draw an appropriate reaction from the priests. Other deans, Father Kazimieras Gaščiūnas and Father Jonas Gedvila among them, also informed the commissioner that the instruction of the children would continue. The militant mood of the deans could be sensed, as could their determination to fight for the faith. The commissioner was so upset that his hands shook.
This year the deans of the Diocese of Telšiai did not inform a single priest of the commissioner's demands, and everyone believes that no one should take any notice of them. If that is the way Commissioner Anilionis makes his living, let him talk.
In concluding, Commissioner Anilionis issued a written warning to the Rev. Dr. Petras Puzaras for imposing donations on the faithful. Dr. Puzaras rejected this accusation as being false. The Dean of Tauragė, Fr. Gedvila, was issued a written warning for inviting Father Kauneckas, who equated Lenin with Hitler, to conduct a parish retreat. In fact, Father Kauneckas had not even mentioned Lenin in his sermons.
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Religious Affairs Commissioner Anilionis held talks with the deans of all the dioceses during May. His purpose was the same everywhere: to discredit the so-called extremist priests.