In May, 1982, a conference on peace was held in Moscow foi representatives of the world's religions. The Religious Affairs Com missar sent Bishop Liudvikas Povilonis, Vicar General Msgr Liudvikas Mazonavicius and Dr. Viktoras Butkus, rector of the seminary, to this conference. Lithuania's believers and priests disap prove of the clergy attending such conferences because Moscow organized "conferences for the defense of peace" are a shan. beginning to end. Clergy, forced to attend should at least not speal n behalf of the laithful and priests, but only in their own name.
Those who attend Soviet meetings "for the defense of peace" should remember the words of Pope John Paul II:"To have peace, it is essential to respect human freedoms and rights!" Believing people would be indebted to their shepherds, if at conferences "for the defense of peace", they would publicize the lack of rights and the wrongs experienced by the Catholic Church in Lithuania.
When German bishops came to Lithuania in 1981, they stated: "None of us attend the Berlin peace conference, while you serve propaganda which proclaims freedom while oppressing you."
Lithuania's Catholics are completely baffled at Western clergymen who permit Moscow to lead them by the nose. One can under stand that clergymen travel to the public display of "defense of peace" when forced to do so, but how can one justify their free participation if they neither defend the rights of believers nor serve true peace.
On the evening of March 11, 1982, services for the intention of temperance were held in St. Michael's Church in Vilnius. Manx-priests from the provinces attended and the church overflowed with the faithful. Holy Mass was concelebrated by a group of priests and meaningful homilies were preached by the Pastor of Valkininkai, Father Algimantas Keina, and the Pastor of Šeduva, Msgr. Bronislovas Antanaitis.
Soon afterward, the Pastor of St. Michael's Church, Father Juozas Tunaitis, was summoned to the Executive Committee of Vilnius and was compeled to explain in writing why such a "program" was held in his church without permission.
When Father Jonas Kastytis Matulionis began his public ministry as a priest at the Kybartai church, the security police began to recruit people to follow him to learn where he lives, and how often he is gone from his apartment in Vilnius, while Rayon of Vilkaviškis officials wrote warnings.
In the spring of 1982, the Prosecutor of the City of Vilnius received an anonymous complaint (probably the work of the security police!) that citizen Jonas Matulionis, res. in Vilnius, at Gorkio 17-6, is unemployed, is a parasite-vagrant, does not reside permanently at his apartment, returns there only occasionally, causes disturbances, etc. The prosecutor forwarded the libelous, anonymous complaint to the City of Vilnius Militia which began to summon Father Jonas Matulionis for explanations. In response to all the summonses, Father Jonas Matulionis went to the militia twice.
On March 25, 1982, Interrogator Žerebeckis informed Father Matulionis that, on the basis of the anonymous complaint that he does not live in his apartment in Vilnius, his apartment could be confiscated. When asked to produce the anonymous complaint, Interrogator Žarebeckis (sic) refused. The interrogator was interested in where Father Matulionis worked, where he now works, what seminary he attended, where the correspondence seminary is located, when he was ordained, etc. When Father Matulionis explained that the anonymous complaint is slanderous, that he lived and still lives in Vilnius and assists Kybartai Pastor Father Sigitas Tamkevičius only on weekends, Interrogator Žerebeckis (Žare-beckas?) promised that the priest would be visiting their office more than once.
On February 28, 1982, Father Matulionis sent a petition to First Secretary Petras Griškevičius of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Lithuania demanding that responsible Rayon of
Vilkaviškis and City of Vilnius employees be enjoined from persecuting and slandering his person and issue a priest's certificate. (See Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, No. 52).
On May 6, 1982, Father Matulionis was summoned by Religious Affairs Commissar Anilionis in reference to the letter he wrote to the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Lithuania.
Father Matulionis went to the office of the Religious Affairs Commissar on the appointed day. He was interviewed by Assistant Religious Affairs Commissar Juozėnas. At the start of the talk, Juozėnas stated that no written reply to the statement would be forthcoming and everything would be explained verbally. The Assistant Religious Affairs Commissar declared that he does not recognize the correspondence seminary, does not recognize the petition and signatures of the Kybartai parish believers as well, and therefore will not issue him a priest's certificate; he recalled that Father Matulionis had been tried in the past and the petition addressed to Griškevičius had been printed in the Chronicle.
When Father Matulionis explained that he has the deposition of Kybartai Pastor Father Sigitas Tamkevičius attesting that he is truly a priest, Juozėnas became annoyed:
"We do not recognize credentials from Tamkevičius or Svarinskas!"
"Aren't they priests?" asked Father Matulionis, "the majority of Lithuania's priests can vouch that I am a priest. If you do not need a certificate, so much the better. End this campaign against me, order rayon employees to stop slandering me," demanded Father Matulionis.
"Rayon employees fulfill their duties well and we won't tell them anything. We will not issue you any certificate and do not recognize your priesthood," Juozėnas reiterated at the end of the interview.
On May 10, 1982, Father Matulionis was again summoned to see Interrogator Krikštoponis. This time, Father Matulionis showed the deposition from Kybartai Pastor Father Sigitas Tamkevičius attesting that he is really a priest and assists the Kybartai pastor. Interrogator Krikštoponis kept a copy of the deposition, copied from Father Matulionis' work papers the last places where he had been employed, and noted from his record what sentence he had been imposed (three years suspended sentence). The interrogator asked whether Father Matulionis had been summoned to the security police.
When Father Matulionis inquired what they intended to do with him next, Krikštoponis replied that a severe warning could be issued in one month and a trial held in four months. To the question liether a priest could be tried for fulfilling his duties, the interrogator did not respond.
Žalpiai (Rayon of Kelmė)
On November 30, 1981, the Administrative Commission of the Rayon of Kelmė Executive Committee imposed a 50-ruble fine on the Pastor of the Žalpiai parish, Father Juozapas Razmantas, because on the eve of All Souls' Day, he prayed for the dead in the cemetery with his parishioners.
On February 2, 1982, Father Juozapas Razmantas appealed the unjust fine to the prosecutor of the Rayon of Kelmė.
On February 15, 1982, Prosecutor P. Simanas responded that the fine had been imposed justly: the Pastor of the Žalpiai Parish, Father Juozapas Razmantas, and the faithful had gone to the cemetery on the eve of All Souls' Day and prayed there, thereby violating art. 50 of the Regulations for Religious Associations confirmed by the Supreme Soviet Presidium of the Lithuanian SSR on July 28, 1976.
On February 11, 1982, (Mrs.) Irena Sakalauskienė, Executor of the People's Court of the Rayon of Kelmė, failed to find anything else of value and confiscated Father Razmantas' radio.
Nijolė Sadūnaitė and her brother Jonas Sadūnas are prevented from maintaining contact with their relatives and friends living abroad. Letters and gifts addressed to Nijolė Sadūnaitė and Jonas Sadūnas continue to be confiscated, even those from close relatives, such as an uncle who lives in Chicago. Between December 10 and 14, 1981, (Miss) Sadūnaitė and Sadūnas sent twenty-six registered letters to eighteen foreign countries, extending Christmas and New Year's greetings to their relatives and friends. Only five letters reached their addressees.
Adakavas (Rayon of Tauragė)
In the fall of 1981, believing parents of Adakavas wrote a complaint to First Secretary Griškevičius of the Communist party of
Lithuania. In the complaint it was indicated that (Mrs.) Aldona Žą sytienė, Principal of the Adakavas Grammar School, vilifies in all sorts of ways children who go to church.
When the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, No. 50 printed this news item, all the chekists of Tauragė swung into action. On March 16, 1982, two chekists came to Adakavas and began to intei rogate the parents who had signed the complaint: Jonas Griškus, (Mrs.) Jadvyga Giedraitienė and (Mrs.) Marijona Lauraitienė.
"How did the Chronicle find out you wrote a complaint? Who wrote it? To whom other than Griškevičius did you send it? You can write not only to Griškevičius but to Moscow also, just as long as it doesn't get into the Chronicle of the Catholic Chun li in Lithuania."
When asked to identify themselves, the chekists would not give their names but explained they were from the Tauragė Security Police.
The parents who signed were threatened with imprisonment for making false complaints. When the parents replied that the complaint was accurate, that (Mrs.) Žąsytienė actually does terrorize their children, the chekists shouted:
"Be silent! This does not concern you!"
The chekist left only that evening, after intimidating the parent, "We'll meet again!"
On March 18, 1982, Rokiškis organist Vytautas Grigaliūnas was summoned to the Executive Committee of the Rayon of Rokiškis "Teaching children to sing hymns is forbidden. Secret Soviet laws forbid it," Executive Committee Vice Chairman Firas assailed the organist.
Immediately following his talk with Grigaliūnas, Firas telephoned the pastor, Dean Povilas Ciuckis and ordered him to forbid children to sing in church; otherwise he would be severely punished.
Panoteriai (Rayon of Jonava)
On February 2, 1982, some fifty people, among them the Panoteriai Parish Committee except for the Pastor, Father Vytautas Pes-liakas, were summoned to the Panoteriai Town Cultural Center.
Jonava Rayon Executive Committee Vice Chairwoman (Mrs.) Neimantienė addressed the assembled people. After a brief introduction, she began to explain the Regulations for Religious Associations promulgated on July 28, 1976: Who owns community property... how community money should be managed . . ., the priest does not have the right to teach children the truths of the faith . . ., complaints about the priest's "offenses" are to be addressed to her or the district. . . Finally, she stated that the Panoteriai Church Committee does not have enough members, and that they must be elected right there and then, and also that a new contract be signed and a list of church inventory be drawn up.
Forms for a new contract, a list of committee members and the Regulations for Religious Associations lay on the head table.
A murmur rose through the hall. The people were incensed at the speech of Rayon executive Committee Vice Chairwoman (Mrs.) Neimantienė. They explained, argued, replied: "We give money, these are our donations, we're the ones who purchased the articles! . . What do you want from the Church? When people attended church there was order, but now the drunks have destroyed all order, people are afraid to cross the street!...What committee members do we lack: a sacristan, an organist or who else?! A real farce!" etc.
"Who gave you the right to remove me from the list of committee members?" asked Father Vytautas Pesliakas.
"Your presence on the committee is undesirable," replied Vice Chairwoman '(Mrs.) Neimantienė, "you cannot be a member of the committee."
"Why can't I be a member of the committee? Has my Lithuanian citizenship been revoked? Or perhaps my documents are not Soviet?" the pastor inquired further.
Father Pesliakas stated that the Regulations for Religious Associations are unconstitutional, that nearly all Lithuanian priests and two bishops have spoken out against these regulations.
With reference to the question of the church inventory, the priest pointed out that the pastor alone is responsible for the church's material porperty; when he assumes the parish, he makes a vow to God accepting this responsibility . . . He pointed out that all district churches have been burglarized, while the Jonava church was robbed twice in 1979 and 1981: the thieves were apprehended both times, but have yet to be prosecuted.
Father Pesliakas pointed out the rayon government's crude lies and blatant interference in internal church affairs. Several years ago in the Panoteriai parish, it was announced at the request of the faithful that services would be held during daytime hours for two days during the All Souls' Octave. The rayon district chairman came to protest: "I must inform you that the rayon does not permit daytime services!" When the priest asked why this meeting was called in such a deceptive manner (the invitations indicated that it was a meeting of local residents), (Mrs.) Neimantienė attempted to explain that a "meeting of believers or a meeting of local residents is one and the same thing."
"Then, according to you, there are as many believers as there are residents in the Soviet Union," Father Pesliakas defined.
"A contract must be signed," the vice chairwoman told the priest.
"They are unilateral and of no use to believers, besides there is the 1948 contract," the priest disagreed.
"The individuals who signed that contract have probably all died," stated (Mrs.) Neimantienė, "it is therefore no longer valid, a new one is necessary."
"If so, Stalin too is long dead and his deeds condemned; but does anyone demand that communal farmers write new agreements turning over their land, tools and animals to the collective farms? And yet they became collective farm workers in his time," the pastor insisted.
In his speech, Father Pesliakas indicated with what duplicity these contracts were produced in Deltuva, Pabaiskas and Vepriai. The people of Deltuva were asked by district officials: "Did you contribute to the church's repair and do you intend to contribute again when it is repaired?" Upon receiving a positive reply, they told the people to sign . . .
"Do you want church taxes to be reduced?" the Pabaiskas believers were asked, "if you do, sign here."
In Vepriai, drunks who came to the store to buy "ink" were asked to sign. Later it was learned that this is how a new contract was obtained.
Church committee members are nothing new, Father Pesliakas explained. They have existed for hundreds of years, but must only act to assist the pastor. They cannot act on their own, without the pastor or against him, else they incur church excommunication. Therefore, if the faithful were to elect me committee chairman, I would be both pastor and committee chairman and Leonid Brezhnev is a perfect example that one individual can hold several positions.
The people were outraged at this meeting and dispersed without awaiting its end.
Rayon Executive Committee Vice Chairwoman (Mrs.) Neimantienė promised Panoteriai parish Pastor Father Vytautas Pesliakas that he would be summoned to the rayon for a separate talk.
Kapčiamiestis (Rayon of Lazdijai)
On February 15, 1982, the Pastor of Kapčiamiestis, Father Ignas
Plioraitis, was summoned to see Rayon of Lazdijai Executive Committee Vice Chairman L. Vanagas, who chided that the parish committee refuses to sign a contract with the government, the parish's "Committee of twenty" is not at full strength, a church inventory has not been listed or appraised. Vanagas accused the pastor of interfering and read some articles under which he could be prosecuted for blocking the conclusion of contracts.
He then warned the pastor that children are not to serve at Holy Mass, participate in processions or the like because that amounts to instructing children, which is forbidden. The government permits teaching religion only in the seminary.
Furthermore, he demanded that the rayon authorities be provided with information on when and what kind of religious festivals would be held and which priests would be invited. He ordered the pastor to submit data on the parish's financial and religious state at the end of the year. He warned that rosaries, crosses, etc. are not to be sold in the churchyard. Such items may be sold only in the sacristy.
Further, Vanagas explained that the Kapčiamiestis Parish is kept open only out of compassion because contracts have not been signed and a committee of twenty has not been formed. The parish committee can be removed and the church closed at a moment's notice.
The talk, during which Vanagas had more to say, lasted one hour.
On February 16, 1982, Vanagas came to the Kapčiamiestis District Headquarters where parish committee members were repeatedly summoned. For one and a half hours, Vanagas lectured them as he had the pastor. Following that talk, the rayon government demanded for some days in succession of the Kapčiamiestis District Leaders:
"Have you already reached an agreement with the parish committee on what day church property can be inventoried and appraised? Inform us without delay!"
But the rayon government has yet to obtain a reply.
Žalioji (Rayon of Vilkaviškis)
On October 6, 1981, Chairman Albinas Pečiulis of the Juodupėnai
Easter Mass being celebrated by Fr. Antanas Lukošaitis in the Žalioji Cemetery. The church was converted to a mill.
District Council cut down a roadside cross erected in the Žalioji Forest. Adomas Gudynas, Chairman of the Klausučiai District Council, and several other individuals stood by while the cross was removed.
Near the vertical section of the multilated cross, the people built the cross fragments into a pyramid and adorned it with an artistic metal sunburst. Decorated with the flowers of the faithful the cross stood thus until spring.
Prior to the visit of Religious Affairs Commissar Anilionis at the end of March 1982. the cross was dismantled.
Žalioji (Rayon of Vilkaviškis)
In February, 1982, the faithful of the Žalioji Parish wrote a petition to the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR, demanding the return of their church which has been converted into an unused mill. For five years, the faithful of Žalioji and their priests have been praying in the cemetery. The petition was signed by 150 believers.
Several days before the arrival of Religious Affairs Commissar Anilionis in Vilkaviškis (Anilionis visited the rayon on April 24, 1982), the apartment of Bronius Mickevičius was invaded by Vice Chairman Juozas Urbonas of the Vilkaviškis Rayon Executive Committee and Chairman Adomas Gudynas of the Klausučiai District Council.
The officials spared no measures in harassing the family in an attempt to learn who had drafted the petition. When Bronius Mickevičius admitted that he had, Urbonas opened a file and showed the reply sent by Commissar Anilionis and added that the Žalioji church would not be returned and furthermore, praying in the cemetery is forbidden.
Kabeliai (Rayon of Varėna)
On August 26, 1981, Antanas Lukšys, a 46-year-old fisheries employee watchman at a dam—drowned in Kabeliai. He drowned at night while fishing at the orders of his superiors. He fished at night to prevent anyone seeing how fish swim on the "masters" table. The decedant was a Party member but a believer, received Church sacraments and was therefore buried with religious rites. This is where his posthumous story begins.
In Kabeliai, a beautiful tradition has already been established: solemn leave-taking for the deceased. Representatives of the farm administration would participate, the funeral procession would pause for a moment of silence at the farm office, sometimes there would be an orchestra and at the graveside a heartfelt word or two would be spoken. This used to be done regardless of whether the deceased had been a Party member or not.
The funeral of Lukšys was more modest. For some reason, the farm administration did not attend although the decedant had given all his productive years to the farm — he had been a mechanic, a skilled worker and had become a watchman only later when his health began to fail.
The co-workers of the deceased soon erected a beautiful metal cross on the bank of the dam where his life's song had ended.
On November 1, 1981, a civil ceremony was held to honor the dead. Farm workers who died (that year and before) were named, but Lukšys was not mentioned. Could they have forgotten him?
A few days later, the widow of the deceased, the mother of four children, received a written order from the Marcinkoniai District Chairman to remove the cross, as arbitrarily erected without authorization on dam property, otherwise it would be torn down. (Mrs.) Lukšienė did not obey the order.
On the evening of March 12, 1982, the cross disappeared . . . The "brave souls" who executed this "heroic" deed under the cover of darkness were: Farm Director Algis Antulis, District Chairman Juozas Mortūnas, Party Secretary Vladas Mickevičius and Shop Director Sigitas Vasiliauskas.