To our venerable brother, Julijonas Steponavičius, Titular Bishop of Antarada
In 1980, commemorating the 25th anniversary of your consecration as a bishop, we sent you, venerable brother, a letter full of friendship and love, in which we recalled the course of your episcopacy, described your activities and saluted you joyfully, as it were, with a hymn. Your pastoral zeal, your courage and steadfastness in adversity were such that honoring you can be compared with the virtues of the Apostles whose honor you share. Together with us, on that occasion, you were honored not only by your flock, for whom you are constantly concerned, but also by the entire Church, which mourns with those who mourn, and rejoices with those who rejoice.
And now, venerable brother, another event approaches special to you and to all who know and love you: the fiftieth anniversary of your priesthood, which is the beginning and root of the episcopacy which you possess. This is truly a blessed day, for on that day God chose you from among many people as a priest after His own heart, distinguished you from others like the sacred Host, that you might offer yourself together with His Son. That day, he appointed you his most faithful servant, and you attained such honor as one who makes good use of the powers conferred by Christ's priesthood.
From that day, you, venerable brother, in the name of the Church sowed the seed of God's word, which always bears good fruit for heaven; you have forgiven sin, cleansing hearts burdened with faults; you have offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; you have saved souls from evil and protected from eternal damnation souls setting out into eternity and standing in peril of their salvation, strengthening them with Divine grace.
You have always been concerned for the faithful, like a father for his children, striving selflessly to enhance God's glory, intent that Church law be observed, trying to help the poor, carefully teaching the faithful, strengthening their faith and protecting them from dangers which threaten.
When, in 1955, your priesthood was enriched by ordination to the episcopacy, the fullness of the priesthood helped those virtues to increase in your soul, as though your priesthood were enveloped in flames of grace. Your soul, which the Holy Sprit consecrated as a shrine for itself, became a stronghold for the defense of the Christian faith which no winds, no storms, no misfortunes can demolish. In this way, venerable brother, for the faithful you became a banner to assemble under, and for unbelievers, a sign of contradiction.
Perhaps such was the plan of Divine Providence, that you should help your own more by walking the road of suffering than by being extolled and honored by everyone. Thus it has always been in the life of holy people,
Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius greeted by Lithuanian young people during the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his ordination to the episcopacy in 1980. Attempts were made to discourage the faithful from attending the services at St. Michael's Church in Vilnius. Exiled without trial by Soviet authorities in 1961, Bishop Steponavičius has been prevented from exercising his duties in the Archdiocese of Vilnius.
since the welfare of nations is often tied in with the virtues of their leaders and shepherds.
So stand firm, venerable brother, ardently loving God, devoutly valuing your Faith, faithfully witnessing to it and boldly confessing it. These are truly your honor and that of the Church.
As for me, by love, prayer and any other possible means, I shall be in the venerable Lithuanian City of Vilnius especially with the approach of the 600th anniversary of the introduction of Christianity. May the light kindled that year not grow dim, but shine ever more brightly, like a beautiful moon risen in a clear sky.
I pray the Most Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, the Patroness and the boast of Lithuania, that she would grant you strength, the nation assistance and would always protect your native land. If this comes about, then all will be able to live in peace.
Ending this letter, I congratulate you on this joyful day, and cordially thank you for your conscientiousness, and I ask God for all manner of grace and blessings for you and yours conferring the apostolic blessing upon you and all the bishops, priests, religious men and women, and all the faithful of Lithuania, who are unusually dear to me. The Vatican May 20, 1986
In the eighth year of Our Pontificate John Paul II
To: His Excellency, the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, Bishop-in-Exile, Jul i jonas Steponavičius
Dear Shepherd of the Archdiocese of Vilnius,
On the occasion of the fifty-year jubilee of your priesthood, we congratulate Your Excellency, thanking the Lord for your strength of spirit and heroic loyalty to the Church of Christ.
Vi I n i us
June 21, 1986
Signed by 85 priests of the Archdiocese of ViInius ,
Venerable Bishop of the Capital of Lithuania,
On the occasion of the golden jubilee of your priesthood, we wish to express to you, Your Excellency, that fraternal solidarity and love with wich the Second Vatican Council urges us to envelop all spiritual leaders, impeded for the name of Christ. (Vatican II, Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church, No. 7)
By your unswerving faithfulness to Christ and the Church "you are our pride and our joy". (1 Thessalonians 2,20)
May you shine for many years to come as an example of that noble
Kaišiadorys, June 21, 1986
Signed by:Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys and 68 priests of the Diocese
To: His Excellency, Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius on the 50-year jubilee of his priesthood
We congratulate you, venerable bishop of the capital of Lithuania, on the golden jubilee of your priesthood!
The Lord has led you, Your Excellency, through fifty years of priestly service, ever nearer and nearer to Himself. Having conferred on you the fullness of the priestly vocation in the episcopacy thirty-one years ago, He has allowed you to stand under His cross in the silence of exile in Žagarė for twenty-five years.
The road of your life is a living witness to Lithuania and the world that in the 20th Century, the Church has such shepherds whom "neither death nor life, nor angels, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other creatures can separate from the Love of God which is ours in the Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 8,38) May your great love of Christ and of His Church sustain your strength so that you might be able to shine for us as a noble example of faithfulness to God for many more years!
Antanas Vaičius, Bishop of Telšiai Priests' Council of the Diocese of Telšiai Signed in the name of the priests of the Diocese of Telšiai: Bishop Antanas Vaičius Father Albinas Arnašius Father Bronius Burneikis Father Jonas Gedvila Father Juozapas Gedgaudas Canon Kazimieras Gasčiūnas Father Jonas Kauneckas Father Petras Puzaras Father Adolfas Pudžemis Father Juozas Pačinskas Father Tadas Poška Father Petras Palšis Canon Juozapas Miklovas Father Bernardas Talaišis
Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius (third from left) pictured with Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights members Father Alfonsas Svarinskas (far left) and Father Vincas Vėlavičius (far right) and three unidentified priests in Žagarė, September 14, 1980.
To: His Excellency, Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius
Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius
Your Excellency, Bishop of the Church of Lithuania, honorable jubilarian,
With deep respect and cordiality, we greet Your Excellency on the golden jubilee of your priesthood, and your seventy-fifty b i r thday.
The years of your life have been replete with painful experiences. When we lost you, an open wound was left in the Diocese of Panevėžys.
The Second Vatican Council urges us to solidarize, enveloping in brotherly love all spiritual leaders impeded for the name of Christ.
Even though you have experienced ignorance from various quarters, nevertheless, your loyalty to the Church and to the nation shines forth, and on that account, your person is even more honorable and closer to us. Separated in a human sense, we are close in spirit.
We wish Your Excellency strength to continue your mission as bishop, through the power which comes from sacrifice and the love of God, in the loyalty of strength. Long life!
June 21, 1986 Signed by 90 priests of the
Diocese of Panevėžys
Ž a g a r ė
On June 29, 1986, faithful from all corners of Lithuania who had streamed to the church of Žagarė, to corrrnemorate the 25th anniversary of the exile of Bishop Julijonas Steponavičus, the fiftieth years of his priesthood and his seventy-fifth birthday. During the services, sermons were preached by the pastor of Žagarė, Father Gustavas Gudanavičius, Father Ladislovas Baliūnas and Father Leonardas Jagminas.
Before the jubilee ceremonies, a letter of congratulations from Pope John Paul II to Bishop Steponavičius was read, giving great joy to the jubilarían and to all the faithful. After services, Father Algimantas Keina greeted His Excellency Bishop Steponavičius in the name of the priests of the Archdiocese of Vilnius. He was greeted by the Dean of Joniškis and other priests, of whom there were seven; youth from Vilnius, Žagarė, Kaunas, Šiauliai, Valkininkai, Prienai, Kapsukas, Kybartai, Mažeikiai, Joniškis and other cities cordially greeted the beloved bishop-in-exile, thanking God and him for that remarkable perseverence and love for the Church which His Excellency is showing these days in adversity and persecution.