Monsignor C. Krivaitis, the ecclesiastical administrator of the Vilnius Diocese, administered the sacrament of confirmation at the church in Ratnyčia on July 8, 1973. Although the administering of sacraments is strictly an internal Church matter, it is a matter of great interest to the authorities. Government officials decide where and how many times each year the sacrament of confirmation can be administered and concern themselves with how the ceremonies are organized. For instance, just prior to this ceremony the Rev. A. Andriuškevičius, pastor of the church in Ratnyčia, was summoned to the chairman's office of the Varėna Rayon Soviet of Working People's Deputies Executive Committee for a "chat." Here he was ordered to see to it that the diocesan administrator would be greeted only in the churchyard. The chairman of the rayon executive committee expressed his desire that the least number of people would accompany the administrator.
Early in the morning on July 8, believers began to head for Ratnyčia on foot and in vehicles. Among the early arrivals were governmental "assistants." Along all the roads to Ratnyčia, auto-inspection posts were set up, where cars were stopped, their drivers' documents were inspected, and not infreqently the travelers were asked why and where they were going.
Collective farms and other establishments were forbidden to provide horses or other means of transportation for this purpose, and if anyone tried to make use of such means, the auto inspectors did not allow them to pass. The chief auto inspector himself, who was on guard at the Druskininkai Bridge, personally took over the reins to turn back a horse and wagon containing several children.
Exacting inspectors kept constant check on all private vehicles. Some drivers were stopped six times on their way to Ratnyčia.
The buses running to Ratnyčia, Druskininkai, and Baltašiškė could not accommodate all those who wanted to attend the rites.
There were as many governmental "assistants" in the vicinity of the churchyard, within the churchyard, and even in the church. Their duties here were different: to record the automobile license numbers, to observe the people, to listen to the priests' sermons, and to apprehend those who were selling rosaries, prayer books, crosses, and holy cards. They tried to perform this last task early in the morning when the sellers had just laid out their wares, and while there were not too many believers present. Their victims
related how this had been done. Several civilians would come up in a group (sometimes up to seven at once) and pretend to be choosing rosaries or prayer books, handling and examining them, asking prices. Then suddenly some of them would seize the seller and the rest grab the goods, and they would all dash out of the churchyard. They would try to accomplish all this quietly so as not to cause a commotion, and so that the believers would not rescue those who had been apprehended. If a seller began to explain or to cry in a loud voice, he was ordered to keep quiet. The devotional merchandise would sometimes be desecrated right on the spot—torn up and kicked around.
In his sermon that very day Father L. Kunevičius publicly condemned such dastardly acts. The preacher said that believers have already been forcibly impoverished because they are not allowed a religious press—newspapers, magazines, or books; they cannot make use of the radio or other means of civilization to better know their faith and strengthen it. As though this were not enough, they are not even permitted to acquire rosaries, prayer books, or crucifixes.
Despite all these handicaps, approximately 7,000 persons gathered at Ratnyčia, and 2,700 children and youths were confirmed.
There were long lines at all the confessionals in the church. Especially great numbers of believers came from Byelorussia, since there are very few priests there.
The authorities were displeased with the ceremonial rites of confirmation. The pastor of the parish in Ratnyčia was summoned to the Varėna Rayon office, where Visockis, vice-chairman of the executive committee, reproached him for the sermon delivered by the Rev. L. Kunevičius, pastor of the parish in Gerdašiai. The administrator of the sacrament of confirmation himself was also upbraided by Commissioner Tumėnas for the poorly chosen preachers at Ratnyčia.
Also "raked over the coals" was the dean of Gardinas for sending his believers into another Republic. He was ordered to report how many confirmation certificates had been issued in his deanery.
At the present time there is much talk about ending the "cold war," about decreasing tensions, and about useful mutual cooperation even with capitalistic countries. Believers, alas, wait in vain for the day when the Soviet government will renounce its use of cold-war methods against the believing public, the day when this oppressive discrimination will be abolished.