In November, 1984, journalist Vytautas Miniotas gave a lecture in Palanga. Speaking about the international situation, he attacked Vatican Radio, saying that it libels the Soviet government by announcing that the latter did not allow the Holy Father to come to Lithuania during the jubilee of Saint Casimir. "But that's not true. I myself asked Bishop Povilionis whether he had invited the Holy Father. Bishop Povilionis replied that he had not," Miniotas told the gatherirrg.
Skardupiai (Kapsukas Rayon)
During the night of April 25-26, 1984, unidentified malefactors used a crowbar to break open the door and force their way into the church in Skardupiai. Here they broke open the tabernacle doors and took the ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament. The culprits have not been found.
On May 26, in the church in Skardupiai, services of reparation took place. The pastor, Father Boleslavas Čegelskas, gave a sermon suited to the occasion. After Mass, young and old went around the church on their knees. In May and June, the faithful of Skardupiai and their guests gathered in large numbers at the church where, together with the priests, they would participate in the Holy Mass for the intention of the reparation, and would receive Holy Communion.
Gižai (Vilkaviškis Rayon)
During the night of May 28, 1984, the parish church of Gižai was burglarized. The tabernacle was broken open, a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament was taken, as well as a censer. About 70 liters of fruit and berries put up for the winter were brought up from the church basement and destroyed on the spot.
Word was spread throughout the area that it had been the work of those serving in church. The names of some zealous acolytes were prominently mentioned and the Internal Affairs Section of Vilkaviškis stated that the pastor, Father Algirdas Pasilauskas, himself wanted to simulate the break-in, and implicate upright Soviet people.
"Men, the culprits must be found, look for them even if you have to dig them up out of the earth, but the crime must be solved. When criminals killed Father Leonas Šapoka the other year, the Vatican anniunced that it was the work of the KGB. It will be the same with the burglary of this church!" said KGB Chief Papečkys to his subordinates.
Inspector Abraitis of the Criminal Investigation Division found the culprits three days later. They were four members of the Gižai Communist Youth League: Renatas Žališkevičius, Algirdas Klimavičius, Gintaras Valaitis and Artūras Danielius, and also G. Pipynė. All except Žališkevičius are adults, and committed the crime while intoxicated.
On September 4-5, 1984, the trial of those who had burglarized the church in Gižai took place. The court consisted of Prosecutor Bogušauskas, Judge Mickevičienė, Attorneys Šipulskis and Kili-kevičius from Vilkaviškis and Bulota and Šilingas from Kapsukas. At the beginning of the trial it was already clear that what had begun in the courtroom was not a trial but low comedy. Prosecutor Bogušauskas asked the accused barely a few questions, and Judge Mickevičienė spoke for approximately an hour about the preserved fruits and jams in the church basement, scarcely even mentioning that the burglary had taken place. The Blessed Sacrament had been desecrated, church articles had been stolen, and the faithful had been insulted. The Pastor of Gižai, Father Algirdas Pasilauskas, seeing such a travesty of justice, did not return to the courtroom after recess.
During the trial, it became clear that during the night of May 28, the young men, who had been drinking, ran out of money for intoxicants and Pipynė suggested that they break into the church basement and "help themselves to the wine and cognacs kept in the basement by the pastor". Žališkevičius crawled down into the church basement, but not finding wine or cognac there, he went berserk. Some of the jars he broke on the spot, and others he took. The young men continued to party in the communal farm orchard. They cached the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament and the other church articles under the foundation of the toolshed.
"We'll break this little thing into several pieces, and we'll all have a piece of gold," they said to each other. A few days later, the articles stolen from the church ended up in a dam and where they put the Blessed Sacrament, the accused said they could not remember.
One after another the defense witnesses praised the offenders and described the offense itself as the most routine juvenile misbehavior. "The young men had some drinks and decided to have some fun," the attorneys said. Meanwhile this "funmaking" on the part of the young men cost the faithful of the parish of Gižai about 1000 rubles. Instead of the offenders, the court blamed the pastor of Gižai, Father Algirdas Pasilauskas, and the church committee for not installing bars over the basement window, and because the pastor kept food products in the church basement when the church has no custodian. Žališkevičius, Klimavičius, Valaitis, Danielius and Pipynė were given two-year suspended sentences. In court, the young men did not act like wrong-doers. Leaving the courtroom, Pipynė stated, "Now I'm going to slaughter all the Gižai churchmice."
To this date, neither the pastor, Father Pasilauskas, nor the parish committee have received a copy of the court's decision.
On July 15, 1984, solemn services of reparation took place in the church of Gižai. The sermon was delivered by a visiting priest, Father Petras Našlėnas. After the services, clergy, altar servers and all the faithful who had participated in the services went around the church on their knees.
Šimonys (Kupiškis Rayon)
On August 4-5, 1984, the pastor of Šimonys, Father Laimingas Feliksas Blynas, was summoned to the rayon offices to see Executive Committee Vice Chairman Gudonis. Waiting for the priest in the office was also Chairman Karuža of the Šimonys District.
Vice Chairman Gudonis read the priest a written reprimand accusing him of a misdemeanor by allowing Father Jonas Kastytis Matulionis to hold Mass in the church of Šimonys and to preach on August 15, during the great religious festival (of the Assumption — Trans. Note) in Šimonys.
Father Blynas explained that he had never expelled people from church and never would, much less a priest who had come to the festival as a parishioner and at the same time as a priest.
Since Vice Chairman Gudonis refused to give him a copy of the written warning, Father Blynas refused to sign it.
Spitrėnai (Utena Rayon)
On August 12, 1984, in the parish of Spitrėnai, the Feast of Saint Dominic was being celebrated, together with the First Mass of Father Sigitas Stepšys. Father Stepšys had graduated from the clandestine seminary while working as custodian for the church in Spitrėnai. Many of the faithful participated in the Sacrifice of the Mass, about 500 people went to confession and received Holy Communion, and Father Stepšys gave the faithful his first priestly blessing.
August 22, the pastor of Spitrėnai, Father Vytautas Kapočius, was summoned before the Utena Rayon Executive Committee. At the Executive Committee offices, a commission consisting of Executive Committee Chairman J. Balsas, Prosecutor Levulis and Secretary Ribokas awaited the priest. Chairman Balsas faulted the priest for allowing some priest named S. Stepšys, whose name is not on the list of priests, to hold Mass in church without rayon permission, thus violating the Regulations for Religious Associations. The rayon officials scolded the priest for not informing the church committee about the festivities in advance.
"That's not true," protested Father Kapočius, "A week in advance I announced it, from the pulpit and all the faithful knew that there would be a religious festival during which the newly-ordained Father Stepšys would offer Holy Mass."
A stern reprimand was read to Father Kapočius.
On September 5, 1984, the parish organist, Gintas Gurskis, was summoned before the Šakiai Executive Committee. Executive Committee Chairman Zaremba, Vice Chairwoman Mrs. Kasparevi-čienė and a teacher from the local middle school scolded the organist for the youth choir which sings in church, the teacher hysterically shouting at the organist. The government officials drew up a written warning on the spot, which organist Gurskis did not sign.
On August 17, 1984, Vice Chairwoman Kasparavičinė summoned to the Executive Committee offices the pastor and dean, Msgr. J. Žemaitis, Chairman Hieronymus Martinaitis of the church committee and the organist, Gintas Gurskis. Only the pastor showed up. Vice Chairwoman Kasparevičienė again berated Father
Žemaitis for the children and the youth at the altar. The Vice Chairwoman was especially annoyed with the children's and youth choir singing in church. This time, Mrs. Kasparevičienė threatened to report everything to "higher authorities".
Father Žemaitis calmly asked her to stop threatening without reason (usually priests are warned that for their "transgressions" against the government, they will be transferred to smaller parishes — Ed. Note), because most priests are not frightened. They are afraid only of cooperating with the atheistic government. They are afraid of being tagged as collaborators, since this is the worst mark against a priest. Since priests in the cities and large parishes are overworked, a transfer to a smaller parish would merely be an opportunity to rest a bit.
On August 19, 1984, services were being celebrated in the church of Utena in honor of the 500-year Jubilee of Saint Casimir. Invited to the festivities was the exiled Bishop, Julijonas Steponavičius. The bishop celebrated high Mass, during which he delivered a thoughful sermon. After this Mass, the believing youth of Utena presented a tableau in honor of Saint Casimir, complementing it with hymns.
For the services marking the jubilee, three artistic crosses were erected in the churchyard of Utena and blessed by Bishop Steponavičius after the services.
On August 27, the pastor and dean of Utena, Father Jonas Pranavičius, was visited by Rayon Executive Committee Chairman J. Balsas and Vice Chairman Povilas Simonavičius. The government officials inspected the newly-erected crosses, and finally read a stern warning about the new construction. On August 30, Father Pranevičius was visited by Militiaman Pakalnis. The latter was interested in finding out where Father Pranevičius obtained the oak for the crosses, who had carved them and how much the priest had paid the carpenter for his work. The same Pakalnis interrogated Kazimieras Šėža, who had made the crosses. The carpenter had to explain where he had obtained the wood for the crosses, where they had been made and how the pastor had paid for them.
Later, at the Rayon Executive Committee, Šėža was told that he was involved in the production of products forbidden by the LSSR Council of Ministers, and after warning him not to carve work'of a religious nature, they fined him 30 rubles.
On September 22, 1984, the Utena Rayon newspaper, On the Path of Lenin, printed M. Morkūnas' satire entitled, "Not to Complain", in which the author in the name of the faithful, because the priests of Utena erected three crosses in the churchyard. In his opinion, the crosses add nothing to the churchyard. Morkūnas, in his article, expresses the apprehension that soon, on account of the crosses, there will be no room for the faithful in the Utena churchyard.
"... I don't know about you, but I am more than ashamed of such structures," writes Morkūnas. Morkūnas, like Chairman Balsas of the Utena Rayon Executive Committee, considers it a primary offense that the crosses were erected without rayon government permission, when everyone knows well from experience that such permissions are never granted. In his article the author tries to convince his readers that the real bosses in church should be the church committees, which he is convinced are often compelled to "carry out all directions unconditionally" and — it is implied — "to see nothing and hear nothing" i.e., "not to complain".
". . . We would prefer that people coming to church feel that they are the ones in charge, not anyone else (namely, the priest — Ed. Note). We would have liked to remind some priests that it is just as necessary to respect and keep the laws of earthly governments," Morkūnas ends his article.
On August 31, 1984, Juozas Vilimas, organist at the church in Utena, was summoned to the Utena Rayon Executive Committee. Executive Committee Vice Chairman P. Simonavičius asked organist Vilimas which children or young people sang in church during services the evening of August 29. The organist explained that he does not take names in church and so was unable to answer the question.
Also summoned to the Rayon Executive Committee was the Chairman of the Utena Church Committee, Algirdas Mameniškis. Rayon officials were interested in knowing who had prganized the youth ensemble at the church, and who participates in it.
Kiaukliai (Širvintai Rayon)
On August 27, 1984, Širvintai Rayon Executive Committee Vice Chairman D. Tvirbotas showed up at the rectory in Kiaukliai.
He declared that he wanted to have a friendly chat with the pastor of the parish, Father Rokas Puzonas. At first, the Vice Chairman inquired how Father Puzonas was getting on with his work in Kiaukliai, whether they were nearing completion on the construction of a new parish work shed, and whether he had any problems or complaints. The pastor replied that everything was going well.
"No, not everything is going well," Vice Chairman Tvirbotas corrected him. "First of all, word has reached central authorities in Vilnius that in the church in Kiaukliai, photographs of the convicted priests Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius are on public display. Now that is anti-Soviet agitation. It is not fitting to have in church photographs of those whom the state has sentenced, no matter whether you priests acknowledge them as guilty or not," said the Vice Chairman.
Father Puzonas explained that it was no crime, and that it was appropriate to keep photographs in houses of worship since priests and faithful are praying steadily for the sentenced priests and no one, so far, is forbidding anyone to pray.
Vice Chairman Tvirbotas corrected him, saying that people can pray for the priests silently in private as much as they want; it is important that the photographs not be displayed publicly, and that the pastor not urge the faithful to pray for the convicts. Vice Chairman Tvirbotas told Father Puzonas that if he did not take down the photographs quietly without fanfare, they (government officials) would take them down, creating a furor. Moreover, Vice Chairman Tvirbotas warned Father Puzonas about teaching children. He warned that in the future he might be punished for transgressing against the Regulations for Religious Associations. Finally, Tvirbotas expressed a wish to go to church and have a look at the pictures. After looking at them, he said that it was essential that they be removed, otherwise there would be trouble. The pastor did not promise. The conversation lasted a half hour
Pociūnėliai (Radviliškis Rayon)
On September 12, 1984, the pastor of Pociūnėliai, Father Antanas Jokubauskas, received from the Kaunas Archdiocesan Chancery a copy of the following communication:
To: His Excellency Bishop Liudvikas Povilonis
Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Kaunas and the Diocese of Vilkaviškis
Bishop Antanas Vaičius of Telšiai preaching in St. Peter and Paul's Church in Vilnius during the closing ceremonies of the Year of St. Casimir. 1984 marked the 500th anniversary since the death of Lithuania's only patron saint. Pope John Paul II was denied permission to attend the obesrvance on August 26, 1984.
Copies to: The Reverend Algimantas Gutauskas
Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, Comrade Anilionis
Commissioner for Religious Affairs of the LSSR A Petition
In the Church of SS Peter and Paul in Vilnius, from August 19 -26, 1984, in connection with the 500th Anniversary of the Death of Saint Casimir, a religious festival to venerate his relics took place, in which the faithful, priests and seminarians participated in great numbers. The services proceeded smoothly as planned. However, at 9:00 PM on August 27, 1984, after Mass, before the choir could begin the closing hymn, a person unknown to us, clad in a surplice, mounted the pulpit and began to preach. Since he interrupted the order of worship uninvited and without asking permission of our pastor, arbitrarily, disregarding the pastor's warning, he carried out a religious function (he delivered a sermon), we were obliged to cut off the microphones and to extinguish the lights. However, since the preacher paid no attention, we sent some men clad in surplices to ask the "preacher" to descend from the pulpit.
The preacher, it seems, had come with other individuals who stood guard as he spoke from the pulpit. Those individuals, several men and women, would not allow our ushers near the pulpit. They began pushing them, tore their surplices, and acted like hooligans. The individual was forced to leave the pulpit without finishing his sermon. By his behavior, he caused a disturbance in church. The solemnity of the services was disrupted, and therefore we could not suitably end the evening devotions that day.
As it later became clear, the aforesaid individual was a subject of Your Excellency, Father Antanas Jokubauskas, who at the direction of the Administrator of the Vilnius Archdiocese last fall, was suspended from performing any liturgical services in the churches of our archdiocese. We appeal to Your Excellency to discipline Father Jokubauskas for causing a disturbance in our church. He owes us an apology and restitution for the torn surplices. If Father Jokubauskas does not agree to do so, we will bring suit in civil court.
With the deepest respect,
(Signed) J. Zygmuntas
SS Peter and Paul, Vilnius
The copy conforms with the original. Kaunas, September 10, 1984 No. 894
(signed) Rev. A. Bitvinskis, Chancellor
(For another account of this incident, see Chronicle No. 64 — Trans. Note)
On September 20, 1984, Radviliškis Rayon Executive Committee Vice Chairman Krikštanas summoned Father Antanas Jokubauskas, the Pastor of Pociūnėliai, by telephone, to come to rayon headquarters to acquaint himself with a written warning from Petras Anilionis, Commissioner for Religious Affairs.
Father Jokubauskas refused to go to rayon headquarters, and suggested that the Commissioner's warning be sent to him by mail; but Vice Chairman Krikštanas would not agree to the priest's suggestion.
Commissioner Anilionis warned Father Jokubauskas about his sermon delivered August 23 in the Church of SS Peter and Paul in Vilnius, during the closing days of the Jubilee Year of Saint Casimir (See Chronicle No. 64), and for a sermon delivered August 10, during the Feast of Our Lady of Šiluva, in which Father Jokubauskas explained to the faithful the significance of the cult of Mary today, and mentioned the priest-prisoners Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius, and their joint sacrifice for religion and truth.
Valkininkai (Varėna Ray o n)
On August 18, 1983, the pastor of Valkininkai, Father Algimantas Keina, was summoned before Varėna Rayon Executive Committee Vice Chairman Stasys Lakelis. The Vice Chairman acquainted Father Keina with a warning from Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis. In this warning, Father Keina was accused of:
(a) Transgressing against Art. 19 of the religious regulations by performing religious services (holding Mass) in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Dawn Gate (Aušros Vartų). (In latter years, in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Dawn Gate in Vilnius, services in connection with the transfer of the rosary used to take place monthly, during which Father Keina used to have Mass, deliver a sermon and pray the rosary with the faithful — Ed. Note);
(b) Delivering sermons of a non-religious nature during these services;
(c) Disinforming believers.
Father Keina asked Vice Chairman Lankelis to indicate specifically what sermons of a non-jeligious nature he had delivered and how and where he disinforms believers. The Vice Chairman stated that he had only been authorized to acquaint him with the text of the warning.
On June 23 of the same year, Father Keina was again summoned to the rayon and acquainted with a warning similar in content:
(a) By carrying out religious services in the Chapel of the Dawn Gate (Aušros Vartai) having Mass), he transgressed against Art. 19 of the religious regulations;
(b) He gives sermons non-religious in content;
(c) The church committee of the Church of Saint Theresa and of this chapel has forbidden Father Keina from saying Mass in the chapel, but he is disregarding the aforesaid interdict.
"That's a lie! The committee neither warned me nor forbade it," protested Father Keina, and asked to be shown when he had delivered sermons of an unreligious nature. There followed the well-known reply by Vice Chairman Lankelis that his task was merely to acquaint him with the warning.
Before this warning, on May 29, Father Keina commented to the faithful gathered for Mass at the Dawn Gate in Vilnius, on Christ's words, "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect," emphasizing the human being's internal beauty, significance and value in life.
On September 9, it was the same story — the trip to see Vice Chairman Lankelis and the same warning, except that in place of "He gives sermons of a non-religious nature", — "during his sermons, he sings the praises of the sentenced priests, Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevicius". He is accused of disobeying the church committee and saying Mass in the Chapel of the Dawn Gate.
Somewhat earlier, Religious Affairs Commissioner Petras Anilionis, summoning the committee of the Dawn Gate, demanded that they not allow Father Kiena to offer Mass in the Chapel, or to deliver sermons. The chairman of the committee staunchly refused, reminding the officials that all priests in Lithuania are allowed to say Mass and do say Mass in the Chapel of the Dawn Gate, and that Father Keina has not offended either against the faithful, or against the committee. The officials demanded that the chairman sign a statement refusing to allow Father Keina to offer Mass in the chapel. The chairman refused to sign.
When Father Keina requested that he be allowed to copy the text of the warning, the Vice Chairman suggested that he "learn the warning by rote".
On December 19, 1983, Father Keina was summoned to the offices of the Prosecutor of the LSSR, where Prosecutor Bakučionis acquainted him with a new warning. In it, Father Keina is accused of joining the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights, which functioned without mandate and without permission of the civil government; that he contributed to the creation and dissemination of this committee's writings, signing sixteen of the committee's documents.
In the warning, it is emphasized that the documents of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights constitute libel against the Soviet Government's treatment of believers. Father Keina is accused of contributing to the sending of the documents from the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights to the Chronicle and abroad. It is said that Father Keina in his sermons turns believers against the Soviet system and its organs of justice.
In the same warning, Father Keina is accused of breaking the laws for religious cults and ethical standards for ministers of cult. It was mentioned that he had been warned all of ten times about the aforesaid transgressions, and had been given an administrative penalty. The priest demanded that Prosecutor Bakučionis indicate specifically when and where he had been punished or warned ten times. Father Keina himself knows of two fines of 50 rubles for children serving at Mass and three warnings for holding Mass in the Chapel of the Dawn Gate in Vilnius. To the aforesaid question, the prosecutor replied, "I don't know. They gave me these figures.'' Father Keina was interested in knowing by what actions he had transgressed against "the rules of ethics for a minister of cult".
"You urged believers to pray for the sentenced priests," said Prosecutor Bakučionis.
Josvainai (Kėdainiai Rayon)
On October 8, 1984, the pastor of Josvainai, Father Leonas Kalinauskas, was summoned to District Headquarters and acquainted with Religious Affairs Chairman Petras Anilionis' repeated warning. In the warning, it is stated that the pastor of Josvainai, L. Kalinauskas, has transgressed against Art. 19 of the Regulations for Religious Associations, because on September 26 of this year, he carried out religious functions and delivered a sermon in the Church of Viduklė. The sermon had been of a non-religious nature. Thus, Father Kalinauskas has used the church for purposes other than satisfying the religious needs of believers. For breaking this law, severe measures will be taken.
Since the Regulations for Religious Associations are unconstitutional and contrary to Catholic Canon Law, Father Kalinauskas, together with 520 priests and two bishops of Lithuania, has signed a statement to the government of the LSSR refusing to obey the regulations restricting religious freedom which the Constitution guarantees its citizens.
Pabaiskas (Ukmerge Rayon)
On November 1, 1984, the faithful of the Pabaiskas parish, together with the pastor, Father Petras Tavoraitis, went in solemn procession to the cemetery to pray for the deceased. This did not please the government atheists of the rayon. The chief of Ukmergė Rayon KGB came to the district and questioned people: "How did the people organize the All Souls' procession? Who carried the cross and banners? What did the people sing on the way to the cemetery? Was there a sermon in the cemetery?"
On November 14, the pastor, Father Tavoraitis, was summoned before Ukmerge Rayon Executive Committee Vice Chairman Perednis. In the office with the Vice Chairman was the Rayon Prosecutor and a civilian. The officials blamed and berated Father Tavoraitis for transgressing against the Regulations for Religious Associations, and mentioned that the priest had not come into the rayon for "consultation" when all the priests of the rayon had been summoned and it was too bad that the pastor never took part in the elections. When Father Tavoraitis mentioned that it was no crime not to vote, the prosecutor agreed, but Vice Chairman Perednis went on to explain that priests should be conscientious Soviet citizens, and that this was best shown by participating in the elections.
On October 20, 1984, Driver Jonas Ribokas of the Alytus Combine "Medvilnė" went to Šiauliai on personal matters. Since there was room in the bus, the driver agreed to pick up the choir members of the church in Alytus II, on their way to the Hill of Crosses. The choristers had with them a small cross. The last two kilometers to the Hill of Crosses the pilgrims covered on foot, praying the rosary aloud. On the Hill of Crosses, the choristers were closely watched by government officials, and later the pilgrims returning by bus were accompanied all the way to the Šeduva crossroads, where they were stopped, the list of choristers was taken away, and the driver was accused of transporting the cross.
On November 2, 1984, Vladas Motiejūnas, Chief of the "Medvilnė" Combine, was summoned to the Alytus KGB to be questioned why he gave Driver Ribokas the bus.
On November 18, the KGB ordered Driver Ribokas to be demoted for three months.
The pastor of the parish boasted to some priests that he had refused to go to the Hill of Crosses because the choir members were bringing a cross with them.
Žalioji (Vilkaviškis Rayon)
On the way from Vilkaviškis to Kudirkos Naumiestis, a cemetery can be seen by the wayside. In it is a tiny chapel before which is an altar rail. In the cemetery is a stone altar, and beyond it, benches on either side and farther on the left, two confessionals. This is the outdoor church of Žalioji. Services take place here every Sunday, and on holy days. Processions are organized. Everything is just like it is in any church. November 1, 1984, marked six years since, at the direction of the Vilkaviškis Rayon Executive Committee Vice Chairman Juozas Urbanas a mill was set up in the Catholic church of Žalioji, and the people were obliged to bring their grain for milling. The Rūmokai Model Farm does not allow the people use of the government mill. The church of Žalioji which has been converted into a mill is in disrepair— there is a hole in the roof, and the ceiling has rotted from water seepage. The faithful, seeing the regrettable condition of the former church, decided to address a petition through Liudvikas Povilonis, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Kaunas and the Diocese of Vilkaviškis, to Commissioner for Religious Affairs Petras Anilionis, demanding the return of the church confiscated by the atheists and certification of their religious association which had been abolished against the wishes of the faithful, without any transgressing of the law on their part.
To: His Excellency Bishop Liudvikas Povilonis
Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Kaunas and the Diocese of Vilkaviškis
Copy to:Commissioner Petras Anilionis
of the Council for Religious Affairs
From: The Faithful of Žalioji
We the faithful of the Catholic parish of Žalioji, on the basis of the Regulations for Religious Associations, have, in the absence of a church for more or less six years, been praying in a cemetery.
Even the unbelievers wonder at our patience. More than one of them marvels and says, "Surely the law does not forbid having a church? The people put up with so much. After all, religion is not repressed. We cannot understand why the farm needs a mill in that church. Surely the farm has the funds to build itself a mill. Is it right to ridicule believers in this way?"
People sympathize with us, but the Council for Religious Affairs has rejected all our requests. What must we do? We have decided to turn to you once again with the request that our confiscated church be returned to us, together with a house for the priest to live in, and that our religious association be certified.
August 17, 1984
The petition was signed by 237 faithful of the parish of Žalioji.
To: Dr. Konstantin Chernenko
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR Dr. Koroyedov
Chairman of the Committee for Religious Affairs of the
Council of Ministers of the USSR The Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys From: The Church Committee and Faithful of the Parish of Ryliškiai, Rayon of Alytus, LSSR
Dr. Chairman, we come to you with a serious request to allow us at least to obtain a temporary house of prayer in plac of the church which burned down. Our large wooden church, a everyone states with good reason, was burned down December 4 1953, by Party organizer Poltarackas, Principal Bernatonis of the Ryliškiai Middle School and his assistant Baublys, Milius, who provided the gasoline for the arson, and activist Naudžiūnas. The government did not investigate this matter.
After the fire we asked Religious Affairs Commissioner Pušinis to let us hold services in the Village of Klepočiai, at the home of V. Pakala. He immediately gave permission. Since it was a smal building, we asked the Commissioner to allow us to erect a smal church. He gave permission and alloted material. We raised the money, and purchased 93 beams, 17 boards and other materials We wanted to construct it in 1959, but the local government would not give us the land, and hauled the building materials away for themselves.
Nor was that all. Chairman Prusevičius of the "Nemunas' Communal Farm sent two hooligans to our temporary little church at the home of V. Pakala and in broad daylight, over the objections of the owner, they took the Blessed Sacrament with the vessels from the tabernacle to the Chairman of the Alytus Rayon who gave everything to the church of Nemunaitis. The local government no longer allowed us to congregate in the little temporary church. Some of the faithful drove to Alytus to pray, and others elsewhere, while the majority could not go anywhere else. And so, they used to gather in private homes here and there. This went on until November, 1983. At that time, Alytus Rayon Vice Chairman Makštutis came, together with Chairwoman Angelė Prieskie-nienė to the home of the invalid Vytautas Pakala in Ryliškiai, where our services used to take place. For this they fined the resident 50 rubles, deducting 5 rubles a month from his disability pension. His sister Bronė became frightened and even disoriented, and she has not fully recovered to this day. From that time, no one any longer received us into their home to pray, because they were afraid of the government.
Beginning December, 1983, we began to congregate in the Cemetery of Bugonys. In this way we prayed on Sundays and holidays throughout the winter, and we are still doing so. . . Instead of an altar, we set up a table on which the priest holds Mass. When there is no priest, we place the priest's 'hasuble and cross on the altar, recite the Mass prayers and sing hymns.
But on March 5, 1984, Alytus Rayon Vice Chairman Makštutis and District Chairwoman A. Prieškienienė brought workers, and from the cemetery piled the four benches, ten chairs, altar table and confessional in which the priest used to hear confessions into a truck and, cutting down the supports on which rested the little canopy of cardboard protecting the priest from the rain, lifted it into the truck and took it away.
Nevertheless, with aching hearts we used to gather for prayer, and again we put up an altar table and canopy. However, on June 6, 1984, a truck sent by Makštutis from Alytus again hauled everything away. On June 17, three militiamen came to take our priest away, but we would not surrender him. Makštutis also showed up and forbade us to pray in the cemetery. He repeated the same thing June 24, in a visit to Church Committee Chairman K. Karvauskas. We know that the law allows us to pray in the cemetery, so we keep on doing it, because we have no way of fulfilling our church obligations elsewhere, and without them, we as Catholics cannot live. The constitution guarantees freedom of conscience.
In 1982, seven persons went to Commissioner Petras Anilionis and asked him to let us obtain a house of prayer and to allow a priest to come, but he unlike Pušinis would not allow it. On May 24, 1984, six persons went to see the commissioner for the same purpose, and on the 30th, two persons, but with no results. We also twice submitted a request to Alytus Rayon Vice Chairman Makštutis, but without results. In the beginning of June, we again wrote a petition to the commissioner, and on July 17, we received a reply in writing that it was not within his competence to answer this request; it would be answered by the Executive Committee of the Alytus Rayon Council of Workers' Deputies. But the latter has not replied to date.
We were the first to create the communal farms, and we put into them all of our strength, and now our children work on them. So why treat us so inhumanly? Are we without rights?
The commissioner had even given us permission to erect a house of prayer, but what did the representatives of the local government do? They ejected us from the house of prayer and after burning down our church they took away the material purchased for the construction of a little church, they forbade us to pray even in a private home, and they are even driving us from the cemetery! No one is defending our rights. We have been abandoned to the arbitrariness of others. Is the Soviet Constitutor no longer valid? It guarantees freedom of conscience, but we are experiencing only the worst kind of bondage. Is there another such country in the world where believers would be so treated': Where in the cold of winter do believers hear Mass in a cemetery kneeling in the snow? It reminds one of the early Christians in the catacombs, when going to Mass meant going to one's death. Are those rulers who are treating us in this way not destroying Communism itself?
Our parish was certified by the government long ago, it has a complete committee, and so it has the full right to have its own church. Is it our fault that foolish government officials burned ours down? Commissioner Pušinis acted very intelligently allowing us to erect a new church, alloting materials and in this way making restitution for the inhumanity of others. But what are the present commissioner and Makštutis doing?
So we turn to you in the belief that you will understand us and defend our rights. We now request that you at least allow us to rent a temporary house of prayer so that it would not be necessary to endure the cemetery. Next to the burned-down church is the rectory and another small home which we built. The government would act quite properly if it were to give us one of them as a temporary house of prayer until we erect a little church, permission for which was given by Commissioner Pušinis and which no one has officially revoked. We also ask you to make the local officials return the building materials taken away from us for which we have papers.
In Russia these days, many religious groups have registered. They are allowed to erect or purchase a house of prayer or to invite a priest; e.g., Karaganda, Aktyubinsk, Pavlodar, Omsk, and elsewhere. (See Chronicle 61 — Trans. Note) Do we have a different government and a different Constitution? We ask you to allow us also to erect a permanent house of prayer on the site where the other one stood (its steps have survived), or in the Cemetery of Bugonys.
We urgently request you to decide this matter yourselves and not turn us over again to local terrorism.
Ryliškiai, October 14, 1984 Our address: Alytus Rayon
Ryliškiai, Karolius Karvauskas