During the summer of 1982, when the Soviet government allowed Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius of Kaišiadorys to return to his duties, voices were heard in the West saying that the plight of the Church in Lithuania had improved. As a matter of fact, however, the vise of oppression was only tightened. The Council for Religious Affairs increased its campaign to have priests implement the Regulations for Religious Associations, and for failing to keep them, priests were warned, reprimanded, called "extremists", or even fined.
Priests as well as laity were bombarded with the idea that the real administrator of the parish was the "executive organ" which is confirmed (that is, completely controlled) by the Soviet government, while the priest is merely a hired minister of cult. Parish "Committees of Twenty" which had not entered a so-called agreement with Rayon Executive Committees were pressured to do so as soon as possible; that is, to agree at least formally to be administrators of the religious association through whom the Rayon Executive Committee might control the parish. In many parishes, the Soviet government demanded that Church property: liturgical vessels, pictures, etc., be for some reason assessed.
At the beginning of December, 1982, the official of the Council for Religious Affairs assigned to Catholic Matters came from Moscow to Lithuania. He visited the seminary, the bishops and even some of the deans, trying to convince them that it would be better for the priests if Church affairs were run not by priests, but by parish "executive organs".
In order that the will among Lithuanian priests to resist the Regulations for Religious Associations might be dissipated, Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, Pastor of Viduklė, and a member of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights, was arrested. The most important reasons for the arrest were the following:
The courageous stance of priests in Lithuania is arousing the greatest concern on the part of the Soviet government. The arrest of one of the boldest priests was supposed to instill fear in the rest and to force them to heed the Regulations for Religious Associations.
Functionaries of the Council for Religious Affairs blame the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights more than anything for "religious extremism"; that is, for obeying Canon Law instead of the Regulations for Religious Associations. The KGB considered Father Alfonsas Svarinskas as the soul of this Committee, so his arrest was bound to contribute to the paralyzing of the Committee's work.
The Soviet government in Lithuania has always reacted paranoic-ally to any events which disturbed it; e.g., processions to Šiluva, youth groups, etc. The arrest of Father Svarinskas shows clearly that the Soviet government feels very weak, and sees a mortal enemy in the Catholic Church in Lithuania and in every active clergyman.
With the approach of the Jubilee of Saint Casimir and the 600th Anniversary of the introduction of Christianity into Lithuania, a spiritual revival can be felt in the nation. The Soviet government, wishing to paralyze this revival, put all means of propaganda to work and when these did not help, they called on the KGB to help stifle the most zealous priests in Lithuania. Nevertheless, the enemies of the Church always make a serious mistake: Guillotines, scaffolds and labor camps always rouse the Church to new life.