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 Apostolic See has condemned the efforts of atheists to divide the Church in Nicaragua. The atheists have been trying to do the same thing in Lithuania for a long time: They keep trying in every way to place in key positions of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, priests who have betrayed the Church. It is almost exclusively such clergy that officials allow to inform the Vatican.
Today, priests who have sold out to the government are still in the minority, so the KGB is making great efforts to see that in the future such priests would constitute the majority. So this year the recruiting of collaborators with the KGB among the young men entering the Kaunas seminary has intensified. The KGB, as usual, has been threatening almost every applicant that unless he promises in writing to be an agent of the KGB, he will never set foot in the seminary. They have pressured the young men, saying that many of the other candidates have already signed. We feel sorry for those young men who without consulting good priests, "help" their vocation by turning off on the slippery and difficult road of treachery.
It is very sad that this year, even some of the seminary administration were included in this work of crippling candidates to the priesthood. Someone from the seminary administration tried to accuse one young man, whom KGB pressure could not break, of trumped-up offenses against the Church leadership, and later the KGB agents themselves admitted to the young man that it was not the seminary but they who have prevented him from entering.
The work of recruiting agents among applicants to the seminary is made more difficult for the KGB by the existence of the clandestine extension seminary: so this year, attempts are being made to force priests who finished the latter to apply "voluntarily" for admission to the first year of the Kaunas seminary. In this way, an attempt is being made to kill two birds with one stone: To paralyze the activities of clandestinely trained priests, whom the government is unable to regulate (by isolating them from the believing public for at least five years); and to intimidate those candidates for the seminary who refuse to succumb to KGB pressure and choose the extension course route. Some of the clergy are trying to see as bona fide the efforts of the atheists to "legalize" the correspondence-course priests. However, the suggested method of legalization is devious. The mere "voluntary" submission of applications does not guarantee that the atheists will allow all to be accepted by the seminary. The KGB will again interfere, trying to recruit, pressure and threaten. Once again, they will surely not tolerate the "stubborn ones". As long as the approval of candidates into the seminary is in the hands of government atheists, the Church in Lithuania, in order to assist vocations, must make use of the option provided in Canon 235 II d for preparing young men for the priesthood outside the seminary.
Moreover, since all efforts to improve the faculty of the seminary are thwarted by government atheists, and efforts are even being made to appoint as seminary professors priests who are shocking in their "ultra-strange" views. The extension-course seminary may in the future become the only way of preparing for the Catholic Church of Lithuania good priests who have not sold out to the atheists.
The struggle against atheistic deceit is very difficult. The most enlightened leaders of our clergy, Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius, are in prison; many decent priests, terrorized by the atheistic government, do not dare to protest the machinations of the atheists.
We pray the Most High not to abandon the Church in our homeland and to call new heroes to defend the rights of Christ and the Church. We firmly believe that even the heavy cross of our times, oppressing the Catholic Church of Lithuania, is a promise of the Resurrection.