Concern over New Bishops
Two Lithuanian bishops, Julijonas Steponavičius and Vincentas Sladkevičius, have been prevented from exercising their duties as Shepherds for over twenty years by the Soviet government. The illegal exile of the bishops is a large mote in the eye of Soviet prestige. Therefore, Moscow apparently wants to allow both bishops to resume their duties but also hopes to use the occasion to promote their own candidates as new bishops. This effort by the Soviet government arouses concern among Lithuania's priests and believers. The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania has received a letter with the request that it be forwarded to the Holy Father. The letter reads as follows:
"To: His Holiness Pope John Paul II
"Most Holy Father, the speech Your Holiness delivered to mark Solidarity's first anniversary reached the hearts and minds of many, and especially of those who have suffered a great deal and are still suffering.
"It is truly horrible that during World War II the Polish nation lost six million of its people; every fifth citizen died. Our small nation lost 600,000; every fourth person sacrificed his life for God, Church, and the homeland. Therefore, the Catholics of Lithuania have earned the right to ask: How long will Moscow be choosing the candidates for bishops; We want bishops who possess a living faith and great love, who are capable of leading the spiritual rebirth of the faithful. We do not need bishops who are government men.
"Holy Father, please put the fears of Lithuania to rest and name only noble-spirited bishops.
Priests and Faithful of Lithuania"
The Reaction against Activist Priests
Recently the reaction against activist priests has increased, with the goal of compromising them in the eyes of the priests and the faithful. The priests who collaborate with the KGB are most energetic in this campaign. They actively spread rumors that activist priests are destroying clergy unity, that by their actions they can endanger the Church, that they antagonize the godless (that it would be possible to gain somewhat more from the Soviet government through diplomacy), that activist priests are motivated by the desire to show off, that they are hotheads, etc. This is exactly the argument used by KGB cadre officials. They explain that were it not for the Chronicle, were it not for so-called extremist priests, the Lithuanian Catholic Church would have many more privileges. They say that they, the Chekists, wish the Church well, that it is only the extremists who prevent the fulfillment of that wish.
This discrediting of activist priests is perhaps preparing the way for future repressions.