Why did the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania appear?
Exactly ten years ago, i.e., on March 19, 1972, the first issue of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania made its appearance. It was a very modest publication, whose purpose was to inform the homeland and the world about discrimination against Lithuania's believers and their efforts to gain a minimum of religioius freedom. Why did it appear in 1972?
Stalinist repressions against the Catholic Church created an atmosphere of passivity among the clergy for a long time. The Church's hierarchy was convinced that "you cannot blow against the wind," and obediently carried out all the demands of the Soviet government, while the party leadership planned a swift liquidation of the Church. In the 70's for the least "offense" against secret Soviet government instructions, priests were forbidden to perform their duties; the theological seminary was restricted to such a point that barely five applicants could be admitted per year. The Commissar for Religious Affairs felt he was the "Tsar and God" capable of terrorizing priests and Ordinaries.
At the same time, among priests in Lithuania, more and more the idea grew that you cannot sit with your hands folded until the Soviet government smothers everyone. What was to be done? The answer was provided by the Moscow dissidents who fearlessly seceded with their ideas, statements, books and publications. That was the first peal of the bell of rebirth which awakened many from the lethargy of fear and which shouted: "Enough darkness and sleep! You must fight, you must publicize the crimes of the Soviet government against the Church and other believers: let the whole world see the tyranny; perhaps it will be uncomfortable to commit villainy in the light. In 1968 priests began to protest against the restrictions placed on the Kaunas Theological Seminary. The Soviet authorities reacted to the priests' petitions only with repressions: KGB interrogations, removal from pastoral work and even trials. One after another, priests who performed their pastoral duties by instructing children were punished: Father Antanas Šeškevičius, Father Juozas Zdebskis and Father Prosperas Bubnys. These trials were the last and most important impetus to begin publishing an underground publication as soon as possible.
The Beginning of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania
Discussions were begun in 1971 about what kind of publication it should be, how it should be prepared, how duplicated, etc. The first version of the publication would have made it similar to Dievas ir Tėvynė (God and Country) which appeared later. It had the name Vivos voco (I Call the Living). Its purpose was to have been to awaken the awarenesss of Catholics, to rouse them from somnolence, to encourage them to fight for the rights of God, the Church and believers. Finally, the conclusion was reached that facts speak the loudest. This determined the name: Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania.
There was material for the first issue. The question was raised how to continue gathering facts of persecution without the KGB destroying the publication at its very inception. At the beginning the problems were myriad but when the Chronicle began to spread throughout Lithuania and believers learned about it from the radio, more and more material reached the editors. The Chronicle was typed, duplicated by mimeograph and disseminated through the most trusted individuals, and from them more and more information flowed to the editors.
The Case Against the Chronicle
As soon as the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania began to spread through Lithuania, it also fell into the hands of the KGB. On July 5, 1972, Case No. 345 was started against it, which is still in progress. Many other cases dealing with the duplication and dissemination of the Chronicle stemmed from case No. 345. In order to liquidate the Chronicle, the KGB conducted many searches. In ten years, the following persons were punished for duplicating and disseminating the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania:
1. Petras Plumpa-Pluiras: arrested in 1973, sentenced to 8 years imprisonment (strict regime).
2. Juozas Gražys: arrested in 1974, sentenced to 3 years (ordinary regime).
3. Virgilijus Jaugelis: arrested 1974, sentenced to 2 years (ordinary regime)
4. Jonas Stašaitis: arrested 1973, sentenced to 1 year (ordinary regime)
5. Povilas Petronis: arrested 1973, sentenced to 4 years (strict regime)
6. Nijolė Sadūnaitė: arrested 1974, sentenced to 6 years (3 years strict regime, 3 years exile).
7.Sergei Kovalev: arrested 1974, sentenced to 10 years (7 years strict regime and 3 years exile)
8.Vladas Lapienis: arrested in 1976, sentenced to 5 years (3 yrs. strict regime and 2 yrs exile)
9.Jonas Kąstytis Matulionis: arrested in 1976, spent 9 months in KGB isolation and given a 2 year suspended sentence.
10.Ona Pranckunaitė: arrested in 1977, sentenced to 2 yrs (ordinary regime)
11.Ona Vitkauskaitė: arrested in 1980, sentenced to 1.5 yrs (ordinary regime)
12. Genė Navickaitė: arrested in 1980, sentenced to 2 yrs. (ordinary regime)
13.Povilas Buzas: arrested 1980, sentenced to 1.5 yrs. (ordinary regime)
14.Anastazas Janulis: arrested 1980, sentenced to 3 yrs. (strict regime).
Collaborators in the Publication
If ten years ago the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania had a mere handful of collaborators, today it has many both in Lithuania and beyond her borders. Some of them gather facts, write articles, others send them through known channels to the Chronicle editors. The prepared publication is typed, duplicated and disseminated.
The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania has many first-rate gallant collaborators abroad. Some of them translate the publication into English, French, Italian and other languages; others print the material in various newspapers and magazines, others still, send it to various agencies and organizations. The Chronicle does not know most of their names, but feels their moral closeness. If not for hundreds of idealists in the homeland and in the West, the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania would either not exist or would be weak and ineffectual. Therefore, the editors of the Chronicle, on behalf of all oppressed Lithuanian Catholics, sincerely thank everyone, here and abroad! Our thanks also to those who constantly pray for the Chronicle!
Who Are the Enemies?
The greatest enemy of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania is the system which aims to enslave even man's spirit. The leaders of this system plan to spiritual genocide of believers, and its primary executors are KGB staffers. The word "Chronicle" on their lips has practically become a curse.
Among secondary foes of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania we find all collaborators recruited by the KGB, including even priests; for they had to fear only the KGB before, but now the public condemnation of the world as well.
All — teachers, chairmen and vice chairmen — who have sold their birthright — the homeland, Church and their conscience — for a bowl of porridge have become foes of the Chronicle. They all wish for artificial peace, they want the Chronicle to stop disturbing their consciences and for their black deeds to remain in the dark recesses of history.
What Is Amazing
The survival of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania for an antire decade in a system which is replete with spies, armed with the best surveillance techniques, traitors and wheedlers is nearly a miracle. At first, if successful, the editors planned under the best of circumstances to publish some dozen issues and then go to prison. As a response we would like to quote here the words of Father Karolis Garuckas S.J. spoken at a very difficult time for the Chronicle editors: "God blessed the beginning, he will bless the end as well."
The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania amazes people with its accuracy. In ten years it has collected a multitude of information. It would have been natural if many errors, which the editors were always prepared to correct, had found their way into the publication. It is truly amazing that even the KGB which manages to dig everything out, did not succeed in compromising the publication on the basis of facts, and during trials had to resort to falsifications or demogogical assertions that the Chronicle spreads slander and fabrications. The accuracy of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania is based on the deep faith of its collaborators, and their diligence and understanding that lies and tyranny can only be combatted with the weapon of truth.
In ten years, the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania has heard a good number of reproaches. There were people who wished to use the Chronicle for their purposes and divert it from its main task of defending God's honor, the rights of the Church and the freedom of conscience. There were those, mostly among priests, who demanded that the Chronicle write only about the fanatical actions of militant atheists—teachers, party members and similar individuals—against believers, and remain silent about the fact that certain clergymen harm the Church and believers no less, and perhaps even more, by their collaboration with the KGB. In its pages, the Chronicle wrote only about those priest-collaborators whose scandalous behavior had long been known to broad sections of believers, who terrorized young people and believers or who attempted at this price to climb the ladder of the church's hierarchy.
Could the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania have seen the mote in one eye and not the speck in the other?
"The Chronicle lacks charity!" "The Chronicle disrupts unity among priests!": KGB-recruited collaborators shouted and still shout. In the name of charity toward this or that KGB collaborator, can the Chronicle renounce love for the Church and millions of believers who were and still are hurt and persecuted?
There are plenty. Many, even good believers, are afraid to submit information about their persecution, because the KGB charges everyone who is mentioned in the Chronicle with working for it. Uncommitted believers are rather inclined to remain silent, forgetting that silence is indirect collaboration with the KGB, for it helps villainy to grow. If not for this fear among believers, the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania could report more thoroughly the current situation of Lithuanian believers. We are pleased that in ten years this fear has dissipated for many.
The benefit of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania
If believers had not felt the positive influence of the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania on the current life of Lithuania's believers, it would not have become so popular and influential. Of course, it did not perform miracles, but in many instances, force has become more cautious and has stepped back one pace. Therefore, we can state without fear of exaggeration that the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania along with other factors has helped achieve the fact that currently Lithuania's believers are more aware, good priests are more united, and collaborators no longer walk around with heads held high, as was true during the first few decades of the postwar period.
What Plans for the Future?
With God's blessing and the support of alert people and priests, the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania will go on, remaining in essence the same as during its first decade.
With gratitude to all, the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania primarily asks for prayer, courage and Christian awareness.