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This issue is dedicated as an expression of solidarity with His Excellency, the exiled bishop, JULIJONAS STEPONAVIČIUS,
Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius.
In this issue:
Lithuania October 7, 1984
Holy Father, Catholic Lithuania sincerely thanks Your Holiness for your paternal concern for the Church in the land of Lithuania, which you once more expressed so stirringly by joining through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in the commemoration of the Jubilee of our nation's patron, Saint Casimir.
We painfully regret, Holy Father, that you were not allowed to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in our capital, Vilnius, at the Tomb of Saint Casimir. The priests and the faithful of Lithuania are not giving up hope of seeing you in their country. Your attention to the Church in our country and your graciousness to our nation encourages us, in spite of all trials, difficulties and threats, to a greater loyalty to the Church of Christ.
In the name of Catholic Lithuania, we express to you, Holy Father, our sincerest thanks, our filial love, and complete obedience.
This Jubilee Year of Saint Casimir has been for the Catholic Church of Lithuania a year of difficult struggle with atheistic oppression and deceit.
After the arrest of Fathers Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius, the atheists began to put into effect the program for persecution of the Church set forth in a speech last year by Communist Party First Secretary, Petras Griškevičius.
Having paralyzed the public activities of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights, the atheists set about extinguishing the other potential sources of organized opposition to atheistic oppression, namely, the Priests' Councils. In his speech, Griškevičius demanded that they be declared anti-Soviet organizations, but now, convinced that according to the new Code of Canon Law they must be formed, he has decided to do everything possible so that Priests' Councils, and especially Colleges of Consultors in the Dioceses, be so constituted as to help the atheists to destroy the Catholic Church in Lithuania and to enervate the spiritual revival of the nation. With the assistance of the office of the Council for Religious Affairs, the atheists' interference has been most obvious in the organization of the Diocese of Panevėžys, which consultors have the right to elect their new administrator, if necessary.
The priests of the Archdiocese of Vilnius sent His Excellency, Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius, in honor of the twenty-ninth anniversary of his episcopacy, the following greetings:
"We congratulate Your Excellency on the twenty-ninth anniversary of your consecration, and we thank the Almighty and the Apostolic See for this precious gift to you and to our archdiocese. We are grateful to you, Your Excellency, for your self-sacrificing concern for the welfare of the Church in our country: and we wish you, with God's blessing, many years to work on its behalf."
August - September, 1984
Children greet Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius at St. Michael's Church during the celebration of his twenty-fifth anniversary as bishop. Although he is bishop of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, he has been in exile since his consecration, preventing him from exercizing his episcopal duties.
To the Bishops of France and the Christian Solidarity International organization for defending the imprisoned priests Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius:
The priests and faithful of Lithuania, after learning from Vatican Radio about the support of their brethren in the Faith, in defense of our country's most zealous priest-prisoners, express their most sincere gratitude for your solidarity and your understanding of our troubles. This is not only of concrete assistance to the priests who have been sentenced, but also of great moral support for the entire Church struggling in Lithuania.
The bishops of Lithuania also wished to sign a protest over the trial of the priests, but the Commissioner for Religious Affairs began making telephone threats to the bishops, and the document was never drafted.
The Commissioner for Religious Affairs, Petras Anilionis, would not allow the following verse to be included in the 1984 Catholic Calendar-Directory since the poem was written, it seems, by the correspondence-course priest, Jonas Matulionis:
I extend my hands to your holy tomb,
Brooding there in the silence of Antakalnis,
Where the fullness of beauty never wanes
And the universe is immersed in heaven's prayer.
In the warmth of life, with a rich word.
I step along the paths of noble thought. . .
Along the path of your redemptive youth—
I find the sacred truth of goodness.
From our Vilnius, City of the Gates of Dawn.
You soared in silent prayer to heaven's canopy.
You bore to the Highest the bloom of youth
And found there the crown of glory.
We scatter petals of prayer beneath your feet
And honor you in the throng of saints . ..
I extend my hands before your holy tomb.
With petitions — in the silence of prayer.
Sermon of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas delivered at Šiluva:
(Probably in 1980 — Trans. Note)
"Glory to You, Lord, for the eternal path from earth's dust to the stars in the firmament, glory to you for the sun which rises each morning, and for the greatness of our little hearts . . ."
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I think that these words of the poet, Bernardas Brazdžionis, best expressed our feelings upon arriving at Šiluva. During these eight days, all Lithuania is streaming to Šiluva. The fame of Šiluva has reached beyond the borders of Lithuania. Faithful from Kazakh, Latvia, Estonia and Byelorussia are coming to Our Lady of Šiluva, and not in vain. No one is driving them to Šiluva by force, and if people come, it means that they feel a spiritual benefit, and receive many graces. Visiting Šiluva today are many priests and a bishop, whom we will soon meet, and a throng of the faithful.
To the feet of Mary we have brought the troubles, complaints and malaise of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. We have come here not to surrender, not to weep, but on the contrary, to ask that Our Lady of Šiluva bless our work and having strengthened our spirits, to return to the great struggle for the Church of God and religious rights in our country. I trust that all — priests and faithful— will pray with Saint Bernard, "O most holy Virgin Mary, never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection would be left unaided."
Žagarė (Joniškis Rayon)
On August 24,1984 Commissioner Petras Anilionis of the Council for Religious Affairs came to Žagarė to visit His Excellency. Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius. He introduced himself, saying. "I have come as a representative of the government to warn you."
The commisioner presented Bishop Steponavičius with the following accusations:
1.The bishop signed, with 500 priests, a petition regarding the Regulations for Religious Associations.
2.He signed a petition from priests of the Archdiocese of Kaunas regarding the arrested priests, Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and Father Sigitas Tamkevičius.
3.The bishop travels around to religious festivals, jubilees and funerals.
4.He prayed for state criminals, e.g., recently in Utena, he prayed for the criminal, Canon Petras Rauda, on the tenth anniversary of his death. Canon Rauda was never rehabilitated! In his sermon, the bishop said, "The years he spent in labor camp were marked by sacrifice and love for the Church." In his sermon, he also mentioned that in our country today, one-third of the marriages end in divorce. This is considered an anti-Soviet statement.
Šlavantai (Lazdijai Rayon)
On July 5, 1984, the home of Father Juozas Zdebskis, pastor of Šlavantai, was raided. In the record, the reason for the raid was given: "To find and seize stolen articles purchased from Citizen Kol-ka." The search was carried out while Father Zdebskis was out. Without waiting for the priest to return, the raiders broke down the garage door and began their search. The raid was carried out by Vil-
Father Juozas Zdebskis
nius KGB, under cover of local militia and security police. The official search which was carried out by six persons was directed by the District Inspector Chief of Militia Jarmala. Official witnesses of the search were Martynas Petrauskas, son of Juozas, a resident of the Village of Krosna, and Mrs. Janina Blaževičienė, daughter of Jurgis, residing at Lenino 3-3, in Lazdijai.
Father Alfonsas Svarinskas writes:
I greet you warmly. I thank you cordially, and through you, all my dear parishioners, friends and acquaintances. I wish you God's blessing, peace of heart, and spiritual joy on the occasion of our na-tions's great jubilee. May the Lord keep you all! You are my pride and joy in Christ!
I wrote you a letter last Sunday. I will write again today, kiss the letter, make the Sign of the Cross over it and send it. May it fly to our beloved, unforgettable homeland, the Land of Amber ... I thank everyone sincerely for their letters. It is difficult for you to imagine how much joy and hope these snippets of information bring. . . .My letters addressed to you in April have come back bearing a notation from the post office dated May 25; "Returned Upon Expiration of Holding Time". Inquire at the post office why that happened .. . since otherwise, we all suffer: You don't receive the letter, and I waste my quota. After all, they only allow me two letters a month! Of course, I was unable to write anything much: I wanted to wish you a good retreat, to thank-you-for your beautiful hymn-singing and to wish you the blessings of the Risen Christ. ..
Kiaukliai (Širvintai Rayon)
On January 17 and April 19, 1984, the Principal of Kiaukliai Primary School, Mrs. J. Grigaitienė, Žibaliai District Chairman Karaliūnas, and several KGB agents who had come in, interrogated pupils: Elvira Polkaitė, her brother Juozas Polka, Rūta and Julita Gu-donis and Rūta Markauskaitė. The pupils were pressured to write statements explaining why they visited the rectory, what kind of films the pastor, Father Rokas Puzonas, showed them, who visits the pastor, from where, what the pastor gives them for coming to church and serving Mass, whether they go to church spontaneously or under duress from their parents, etc. When they refused to write the statements, the students were threatened that they would be taken to the Čiobiškis Juvenile Colony. The frightened children returned to their homes, teary-eyed and badly shaken. The mother of the terrorized children, Mrs. Ona Polkienė, went to Vice Chairman Tvirbotas of the Širvintai Rayon Executive Committee, to find out on what grounds her children and other religiously believing children are being threatened in the Kiaukliai Primary School. Tvirbotas said that no one has the right to terrorize children just because they go to church.
In Ukraine, persecutions of Catholic-Uniates are growing in number and intensity. The apartments of believers are being raided, children and adults are being terrorized, and churches are being closed.
Region of Lvov
On September 29, 1982, KGB agents took care of a twenty-eight year old girl, Marija Schwed. At about 9:00 P.M. after Mass, she was preparing to leave Lvov to visit her mother. On the way to the railroad station on Turgenev Street, Miss Schwed was set upon by KGB wearing the insignia of auxiliary police, pulled into the gateway of Cumber 10, and beaten. People who gathered to the spot summoned an ambulance which took the injured woman to City Hospital 8 on Zhelonaya Street, and there people ridiculed Marija: "The priest offered you to God." Marija Schwed died without regaining consciousness. Witnesses were warned not to tell the truth.