On March 11,1980, representatives of the rayon's parish councils were summoned to the City of Šiauliai Executive Committee offices. Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis attempted to prove that full freedom of belief exists in Lithuania.
When the representative of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in the City of Šiauliai asked why so few catechisms were published, the commissioner explained that there was a shortage of paper.
The executive committee representative, [Mrs.] Gaurilčikienė, praised (that is unfortunate — Ed.) the current management of the Šiauliai churches and voiced her delight that Soviet regulations are not being violated here.
On March 18, 1981, Vice Chairman A. Juskevičius of Kėdainiai Rayon summoned the representatives of the rayon's parish councils. Some of the members refused to come. The Assistant Religious Affairs Commissioner explained that the Regulations for Religious Associations made parish council members and deputies of township Soviets responsible for the violation of these regulations. He ordered them to keep watch over the activities of priests, to monitor their sermons, and see to it that they did not violate Soviet laws by instructing children or allowing them to serve at mass, etc.
On March 20, 1981, the chairmen of the rayon's township Soviets, the secretaries of party organizations, and members of parish councils were summoned to the offices of the executive committee of Prienai Rayon. Assistant Religious Affairs Commissioner Juozenas explained the "humaneness" of Soviet laws regarding the Church and voiced his outrage that twenty parishes have yet to sign new contracts and that Father Zenonas Navickas, pastor of the Uzuguostis parish, and others do not submit financial information to the rayon authorities. The speaker elaborated that some twenty priests in Lithuania preach "extremist" sermons, and among their ranks are the assistant pastor of Prienai, Father Antanas Gražulis, and the pastor of Užuguostis, Father Zenonas Navickas. He threatened that houses of worship would be closed because of such sermons.
Assistant Commissioner Juozėnas did not answer the questions submitted by the representatives of the parish councils of Veiveriai, Pakuonis, and Prienai because, according to him, they were "irrelevant."
Financial Department Director Stakionis instructed the parish council members how to monitor the financial activities of priests and prevent pastors from "acting arbitrarily."
Polekėlė (Radviliškis Rayon)
Below is an abridged version of a statement from the Polekėlė Parish Council to Bishop Liudas Povilonis:
"At the beginning of March 1981 the Executive Committee of Radviliškis Rayon announced that at noon on March 10, 1980, a seminar would be held at the Raviliškis Rayon Executive Committee hall and that attendance by members of religious community executive organs and review commissions was mandatory. The subject of the seminar was to be 'Religious Community Executive Organs and Review Commissions: Their Rights and Obligations.'
"Because Chairman Stasys Rugys of the Polekėlė Parish was ill and other members were not excused from work, this council was represented by the council's secretary, Father Jonas Babonas, and Review Commission member J. Lenkauskas.
"After everyone had assembled in the hall, Rayon Executive Committee Vice Chairman Krikštanas appeared and stated that priests cannot attend and must leave the hall because the churches are run by the rayon authorities and the councils, and not by them.
"He made this statement because several priests were seated with the parish council members: the chairman of the Pociūnėliai Parish Executive Committee and pastor, Fr. Antanas Jokubauskas; the secretary of the Polekėlė Parish Executive Committee and Polekėlė Parish Administrator Fr. Jonas Babonas; and Fr. Juozas Vaičekauskas, the pastor of Grinkiškis and Pašušvys, representing the ailing chairman of the Pašušvys Parish Executive Committee.
"Following Krikštanas's statement, the parish council members protested, stating that priests are also people and Soviet citizens and, furthermore, they have either been elected or authorized by believers and have the right to participate. If the purpose of the meeting is to explain Soviet laws, than why are not all Soviet citizens allowed to attend?
"Krikštanas threatened that if the priests refused to leave the police would be called. The believers' representatives protested, 'If the priests leave, we will also leave. If they cannot attend, none of us will attend. You will not separate us from the priests.'
"In addition to the parish council members, the rayon's township chairmen and a group of unknown individuals were also present in the hall. Some of the township chairmen and others began to insult the priests and the believers.
"The arguing ended after about fifteen minutes. The seminar did not start at noon because they were waiting for the priests to leave, but they did not. After about twenty minutes Krikštanas came into the hall accompanied by police officials, who were told which persons were to be escorted from the hall. The priests then stood up and left and were joined by all the members of the parish councils. When he saw that everyone was leaving, Krikštanas attempted to stop some of the council members, but when everyone ignored him, he began to threaten and intimidate, stating, 'You'll be sorry if you leave. We'll dismiss you from the councils. But no one was intimidated and everyone left.
"On behalf of the Executive Committee and the Review Commission of the Polekėlė parish, we ask Your Excellency, who holds such a holy and responsible position, to use your power and influence to protect priests and believers against discrimination and the Church against interference by atheistic authorities in its internal affairs.
March 27, 1981
(signed) Polekėlė Parish Council Chairman Stanislovas Rugys,
Secretary, Rev. Jonas Babonas,
Review Commission member Justinas Lenkauskas"
On May 25, 1981, Assistant Religious Affairs Commissioner Juozėnas spoke at the Kaunas Theological Seminary to seminarians completing their final year and their instructors. He stated that an "extremist" group has been formed among priests which the government has the capability to handle but is as yet reluctant to do so because Soviet laws are very humane. Assistant Commissioner Juozėnas urged the future priests not to join this group. The speaker maintained that the seminarian Aloyzas Volskis had formed a similar group at the seminary. Religious Affairs Commissioner Anilionis has been so unnerved by the "extremists" that he must think they will come at him in the night with clubs.
Juozenas stressed several times that as soon as they receive their assignments, the new priests must pick up their certificates from the rayon registry in time. (According to Soviet law, a priest cannot work without a certificate from the registry. Currently priests often ignore this certificate, and it gathers dust in an executive committee safe for years — Ed.).
The assistant commissioner mentioned some of the priests his agency detests. He stated that the Prienai assistant pastor, Father Antanas Gražulis, very much enjoys the foreign radio broadcasts mentioning him; that during Father Kazlauskas's first mass ceremonies, Fr. Vytautas Skiparis preached such an "anti-Soviet" sermon that the faithful thought he would not be going home but would probably be arrested; that the sermons of the Kybartai pastor, Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, were boring; and that the people of Viduklė do not like Father Alfonsas Svarinskas but are afraid to say anything lest "fanatics" later poison their cows or burn down their houses.
Similar "seminars" at which parish representatives were incited against priests and reminded that they were obliged to observe the Soviet Regulations for Religious Associations were conducted throughout Lithuania.
Such "seminars" were compulsory for executive committee chairmen and for review commissions monitoring the observance of laws concerning religious cults.
In May, such "seminars" were conducted for the deans of all the dioceses, for they, according to the Soviet government, must provide all priests with an example of how to observe Soviet laws.
The basic thrust of the "seminars" was similar in all dioceses. We report below what the Religious Affairs Commissioner said to the deans at the Kaunas Executive Committee offices.
On May 14, 1981, all the deans of the Archdiocese of Kaunas and the Diocese of Vilkaviškis were summoned to the City of Kaunas Executive Committee offices. They were addressed by Religious Affairs Commissioner Anilionis. He stated that the request by bishops and diocesan administrators to increase the seminary quota could be satisfied but that Soviet authorities would consider this request only when the Church no longer sanctioned illegal priests. And such priests exist: in Kaunas — Paliokas, Našlėnas, Poderis; in Kybartai — Matulionis; in Alytus — Brilius. None of them has completed the theological seminary or has a registry certificate. The speaker attempted to convince them that when such priests are barred from churches it will be possible to increase the number of seminarians at the theological seminary.
Commissioner Anilionis lamented that one of every four ordained priests was an "extremist," as, for example, Fathers Skiparis, Krikščiukaitis, Beniušis, Krumpliauskas, Gražulis, and others. "No one will permit the seminary to train anti-Soviet persons," the commissioner heatedly exclaimed.
According to Anilionis, the expulsion of the seminarian Aloyzas Volskis from the seminary was merely a precautionary measure, and he voiced his outrage that signatures were being gathered in Lithuania regarding his expulsion.
The commissioner maintained that matters regarding religious extremism have not improved over the past year. For instance, Bishop V. Sladkevičius speaks only about events occurring in Poland during his sermons, hoping that similar things would happen here (that is not true! — Ed.); in Tauragė Father S. Tamkevičius agitated against the Soviet school system and urged believers to take the offensive, not the defensive; the words of Father J. Kauneckas, Father Užkuraitis, and others are extremist.
Commissioner Anilionis was upset that assistant pastors held a meeting in Plunge on April 22 and the "extremists" turned them against governmental organs; that priests caught up in the "extremist" mood do not submit information to chanceries and government organs about the religious situation in Lithuania; that "extremists" openly violate Soviet laws by instructing children and attracting minors to participate in processions, etc.; that in many places — Ukmergė, Radviliškis, Pakruojis, Kapčiamiestis, Šlavantai, and elsewhere — contracts have not yet been signed with government organs; that priests are organizing some kind of movement to commemorate the Eucharistic Year; the priests barge uninvited into seminars held for believers; and about other such "extremist" activities. According to the commissioner, all this amounts to swimming against the current.
Certain deans and assistant deans spoke up after Commissioner Anilionis finished. Father Buožius, pastor of the Jurbarkas parish, defended Church matters most courageously, noting that the commissioner failed to mention that the government rejects many candidates for the seminary, that priests cannot submit information to the government which will be used for atheistic propaganda purposes, because having sworn to manage their parishes properly, priests will not contradict Church canons and will never agree to hand their rights over to the parish councils.
At the conclusion of the seminar, Commissioner Anilionis invited all who wished to speak to him privately, to come see him. Only the dean of Garliava, Father Uleckas, did so.
The Panevėžys Chancery summoned all the deans of the Diocese of Panevėžys to the City of Panevėžys Executive Committee offices by sending the following letter:
"April 30, 1981
"To: The Right Reverend Dean
"The Lithuanian SSR Commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs attached to the USSR Council of Ministers invites the deans of the Diocese of Panevėžys to come to the offices of the Panevėžys Rayon Executive Committee (same place as last year) at noon on May 8.
"The following subjects are planned for discussion:
"1. The matter of increasing the number of seminarians.
"2. What was discussed during a meeting of the members of the parish councils.
"3. The possibility of enrolling church workers in a professional union so that they would get a pension.
"4. Certain explanations of State-Church relations and their interpretation by appropriate agencies.
"5. The implementation of the requests made by deans during previous meetings and the resultant problems.
"6. The deans' new suggestions, remarks, etc.
"I ask you to attend this useful meeting.
"On April 29, 1981, a meeting was held in Vilnius between the Ordinaries of Lithuania and Commissioner Anilionis which proved useful to both sides.
(signed) Bishop Dr. R. Krikščiūnas
Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Panevėžys"
(There is no dialogue during these meetings, but only the imposition of the will of the Soviet government and, therefore, they are useful only to the Soviet government. — ed.)
"To: The Honorable Administrator of the Diocese of
Telšiai and the Prelature of Klaipėda
"We, the deans of the Diocese of Telšiai and the Prelature of Klaipėda, wish to state the following to you:
"1. During the past two years, discussions held in Telšiai with Lithuanian SSR Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis have demonstrated that the commissioner pressures the deans, forbidding them to fulfill the direct and basic church duties imposed on them by church laws (canons), the decisions of the Second Vatican Council, and special papal decrees. For example, they are threatened with administrative penalties and even prison terms for instructing children, for drawing young people into active church life, and for preaching instructional sermons to children.
"2. During February to April of this year, the commissioner conducted so-called seminars for parish council members at the republic's rayon centers. At these seminars, he attempted to disrupt the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church by ordering council members to remove pastors from the direct administration of the church and church matters and prevent them from carrying out a great number of important pastoral duties: directing the entire churchly liturgical-sacramental life (organizing processions, choirs, gathering people to keep vigil at the altar, not only adults but young people and children as well, inviting priests for devotions, etc.), instructing children, and even preaching instructional sermons. That is blatant interference in purely canonical, sacramental-liturgical, and pastoral work of the Church with the intent to destroy it. Believers, priests, and we deans who wish to remain faithful to the Church cannot agree to this. Wishing to live in union with Christ's Church and fulfill its basic mission, we must observe its basic laws (canons) or, otherwise, we betray the Church.
"Therefore, in view of the above facts, we deans are forced to voice our protest against the above-mentioned activities of the commissioner, and we declare that, in the future, we will no longer be able to attend the meetings he holds for deans at which he acts not as mediator between the state and the Church but as a militant atheist intent on destroying the Catholic Church.
April 16, 1981
Rev. J. Gedvilas, Rev. P. Palšis, Rev. A. Lukoševičius, Rev. Dr. P. Puzaras, Canon F. Valaitis, Canon K. Gaščiūnas, Rev. A. Milerius, Rev. A. Striukis, Canon J.
Grubliauskas, Canon J. Valaitis, Rev. T. Poška" The following deans did not sign the statement: Msgr. B. Barauskas, Fr. B. Talaišis, and Fr. S. Ilinčius.
Sometime later two deans, Canon J. Grubliauskas, and Canon F. Valaitis, withdrew their signatures.
On May 12 only five deans attended a seminar held at the offices of the Telšiai Rayon Executive Committee. Commissioner Anilionis assured them he would meet separately with the ones who did not attend the meeting.