On February 28, at the offices of ELTA in Vilnius, (Trans, note — ELTA, from LTA, acronymic for "Lietuvos Telegramų Agentūra — the Lithuanian Telegraph Agency. The name was taken over, along with the agency, at the time of the Soviet occupation. Not to he confused with ELTA Information Agency, sponsored by the Lithuanian National Foundation, in the free world.) a closed lecture for members of the press was given by the Assistant Commissioner for Religious Affairs, E. Juozėnas. Listeners were told not to take notes. Following are the speakers' main ideas.
The speaker presented statistical data about the general status of the Catholic Church, and of other religious groups, and remarked that this is a tangible force in our republic.
Directives for Catholics come from the Vatican. The situation is not normal, since religious extremists are active, anti-social sermons are being preached, and Soviet activists are vilified. Priests urge people to disobey the law. There are about fifty extremist priests, the most active of whom is Alfonsas Svarinskas. Signatures are being collected among the public to petitions, e.g., "Let us struggle against the murder of priests!"
Underground publications are prepared directed to Vatican Radio and the Voice of America.
Extremist priests have organized an active nucleus of about three hundred women, some of them with higher education.
Sometimes, situations are orchestrated to encourage conflict. Crosses are erected to be taken down. The public is incited — not to go to work on Sundays, for example; schoolchildren are urged not to go to school on Ash Wednesday.
The social doctrine offered by the pope is not constructive, but his journeys and speeches arouse the interest of the masses. On more than one occasion, he has said that he prays for Lithuania.
Priests have great possibilities for propaganda, e.g., at Šiluva, over twenty thousand people gather, and are addressed by Father Jonas Kauneckas, and other extremist priests.
Extremism is aided greatly by gaps in atheistic work.
Many schoolchildren attend church. Teachers, by their tactless behavior, evoke conflicts with parents; the child cries, the mother runs to the priest, and he, to the Chronicle. We must work with the parents.
The forms of our atheistic work are not perfect. The Vatican has done a better job of formulating its religious propaganda.
Our atheistic propaganda lacks concreteness.
In 1976, the law regarding cults was amended. Educators must have copies. Last year, the opportunity of speaking with a group of religious activists presented itself. It appears that they know the law like the palm of their hand. The actions of the extremists must be systematically unmasked!
In the activities of the pope, there are many contradictions. He says that the mission of the Church is non-political. However, what were his statements on the question of Poland like? He called for the release of internees! Last year, the Vatican issued a decree saying that church activists may not participate in the atheist peace movement.
Priests in their sermons pick on teachers. And we? The priests' ears are everywhere! They want to know what preparations are being made to combat the extremists. Our ears do not hear many of their sermons.
Much damage is caused by unscientific atheistic propaganda.
The Ministry of Education had hammered it into the teachers' heads that if the child is a believer, he canot have an exemplary conduct mark. This served the purposes of the priests. Now this practice is obsolete. We should avoid too many insulting caricatures in the atheistic nooks.
We had plenty of opportunity to talk with believers in Viduklė. They felt that the pastor was heading for a fall.
The pastor, Alfonsas Svarinskas, had a group of activists who can do whatever the priest says.
The situation of the bishops of Lithuania is not easy. The extremists have made all sorts of complaints, and the bishops go to the Vatican to defend themselves. Krikščiūnas has already been, and now the others are to go. The extremists write libelous letters, putting moral pressure on all to oppose the Soviet order.
"The Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights" appeared in 1978. Why do we tolerate it? We do not tolerate it. Svarinskas is gone. Others will get it over the knuckles. We are in no hurry. There should be no doubt for anyone that our prisoners are anti-Soviet.
A committee has been organized to prepare for the Anniversary of Saint Casimir. We do not expect any provocations.
However, the extremists plan a vigil in front of the Museum of Atheism. They plan to organize a prayer campaign, a rally and processions. They are raising questions about returning churches to the believers.