To: Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union Copies to: Bishops of Lithuania From: Priests and Faithful of Lithuania
Twenty-six years ago, the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius, was exiled from Vilnius by order of organs of the Soviet government and forceably settled outside the boundaries of the archdiocese in Žagarė. The bishop was punished for adhering to Canon Law, refusing to ordain unsuitable candidates to the priesthood and refusing to forbid priests to carry out one of their most important duties, that of teaching catechism to children; remove minors from the altar and from processions, as required by the civil government of those days.
For refusal to carry out these requirements, the bishop was punished by the civil government without any trial to an indeterminate sentence not provided in the Criminal Code.
This unjust decision is in effect to this day, the era of openness and restructuring. Academician Sakharov who was similarly punished has already been released from his exile in Gorky, but Bishop Steponavičius is kept in exile in Žagarė to this day.
We ask you, General Secretary, to see to it that Bishop Steponavičius be allowed to return to Vilnius and carry out his duties as the bishop of the Archdiocese of Vilnius.
We also request that the imprisoned priests be released: Alfonsas Svarinskas, Sigitas Tamkevičius and Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis. They have been sentenced just for publicizing injustices and evils which occur in our society --disregard for basic Constitutional civil rights and instances of drunkenness and the proliferation of irresponsibility. Today, you are urged to bring those same evils to the fore; for daring to do just so, these priests are in prison.
We ask you, General Secretary, to order the appropriate agencies to review the cases of the sentenced priests and to release the priests.
Signed by the following people of:
Pakruojis - 654
Viduklė - 46 (More to be added)
Žemaičių Kalvarija - 586
Marijampolė - 2427 (More to be added)
Vilnius (Saint Michael's parish) -1041 (More to be added)
Garliava - 954
Balbieriškis - 932
Simnas - 4490
Griškabūdis - 1677
Lazdijai - 2790
Krokialaukis - 851
Slavikai - 870
Alksnėnai - 666
Pivašiūnai - 5560
Rietavas -1115 Gargždai - 658 Liudvinavas - 856
P.S. Altogether, the petition has been signed by 75,000 of the faithful.
To: The Editors of Tiesa
Copies to: The Bishops of the Catholic Church of Lithuania and the Administrators of Dioceses
The August 6 issue of Tiesa carried the reply of Petras Anilionis, Lithuanian S.S.R. Commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs attached to the U.S.S.R. Council of Ministers, in response to the letter of V. Kazlauskas. The response was entitled, "Why Does the Bishop Live in Žagarė?" Anilionis, in an effort to justify my exile from Vilnius to Žagarė, effected by the civil government, writes that the Council for Religious Affairs suspended indefinitely my certification as administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius. He states that the leadership of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, in the person of Canon Juozapas Stankevičius, the former Administrator of the Archdiocese of Kaunas and of the Diocese of Vilkaviškis, wrote a report on January 26,1961, to the Commissioner at that time about my appointment as emeritus to Žagarė which he offers as proof that it was not the civil government which removed me from my duties as Apostolic Administrator to Vilnius and exiled me to Žagarė, but the spiritual leadership which transferred me from Vilnius to Žagarė.
Since such a statement by Anilionis does not conform with the truth and is misleading, I feel obliged to present the real reason for my exile and the way in which it was carried out.
1. On January 4, 1961, Juozas Rugienis, then Commissioner for Religious cults, telephoned me to come to his office and bring with me the certification issued by the Commissioner. When I arrived at the Commissioner's office, he took the certificate from me and told me that by decision of the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian S.S.R., I had been removed from my duties as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius and was being transferred to residence in Žagarė, Rayon of Joniškis.
When I asked him to give me a copy of the decision of the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian S.S.R., or at least to read it to me, the Commissioner refused to grant my request and offered me the certificate issued by the Commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs registering me as priest-in-residence at the church in Žagarė.
When I refused to take the proffered certificate, explaining to the Commissioner that his office issues such certificates of registration only after receiving the bishop's or administrator's announcement of a priest's appointment, the Commissioner told me that if an appointment by the administrator, Canon Stankevičius, was necessary, then it would be obtained for me.
When he went to Capital Administrator Canon Stankevičius to obtain my appointment to Žagarė, he did not obtain it because the administrator said he could not give me the appointment, since he had no jurisdiction for such an appointment.
Then Commissioner Rugienis, desiring to expedite my exile from Vilnius, took administrative measures, turning the question of my exile over to militia and security organs. The militia cancelled my registration and at the KGB, I was told in no uncertain terms I could no longer work at the post of Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius and that I must leave Vilnius without delay and go to the place of exile assigned to me, to Žagarė. Moreover, the security officials added that if I delayed my departure from Vilnius for Žagarė, then I would be taken to Žagarė the way Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis was taken to Šeduva.
Once the Commissioner for Religious Affairs had removed me from my duties as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, once the militia had cancelled my registration and the security police were threatening to take me by force from Vilnius to Žagarė, forced by the civil government, I left Vilnius on January 18,1961 for Žagarė, where I began life as an exile.
In Žagarė, I took up residence in the apartment assigned to me by the Commissioner, which had already been agreed upon earlier by the Commissioner with the Chairman of the Joniškis Rayon Executive Committee. That was the communal three-room apartment, publicized by Anilionis, whose living space was 34 square meters, which is a hovel without conveniences, without running water or plumbing and without central heating.
Hardly had I arrived in Žagarė when I was summoned to the Žagarė Executive Committee, where I was handed an order and told to register without delay. Knowing that without appointment by religious superiors and a certificate of registration from the Commissioner for Religious Cults they would not register me, and that without registration, they could apply administrative penalties or even take me to court, and wishing to take up spiritual duties at the church of Žagarė, I applied to the Administrator of the Archdiocese of Kaunas, Father Stankevičius, on January 23,1961, in writing, requesting that he would grant me faculties as a priest of another diocese, and that he would give me a written appointment as Mass priest, or resident, in Žagarė and would obtain for me a certificate of registration issued by the Commissioner for Religious Cult Affairs.
On January 26, 1961, I received from the administrator, Father Stankevičius the following communication:
"We appoint Your Excellency in accordance with your request of January 31,1961, as a Mass priest-dependent to Žagarė, and we grant you faculties in the territory of the Archdiocese of Kaunas and Diocese of Vilkaviškis to perform all spiritual duties."
Soon afterwards, the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Kaunas sent me a certificate of registration dated January 27,1961, signed by the Commissioner for Religious Affairs.
Thus, from all that has been said, it is clear that it was not the Catholic Church authorities who transferred me to Žagarė, as Anilionis writes, but the civil government which exiled me. My assignment by the administrator, Canon Stankevičius, January 26, 1961, as Mass priest, in accordance with my request while living in exile, was not my transfer to Žagarė but only a favor done for an exile so that I might register in my place of exile and carry out spiritual duties in the church of Žagarė.
2. In that reply from Anilionis, we read, "Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius, as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, broke the law and did not respond to warnings given him."
What laws I broke, Anilionis does not point out specifically. Since by his statement Anilionis probably wishes to remove the blame from the civil government which exiled me and to mislead the public which does not know the reason for my exile, I therefore declare that I was removed from my duties as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, and exiled to Žagarė, not for breaking civil law, but for refusing to violate the law of the Church, Canon Law.
This was confirmed by the security officials whom I was summoned to see before my exile. When the security people stated that I must leave Vilnius without delay and go to Žagarė, I asked what I was being punished for, what crime I had committed and if I had broken civil law, then the Soviet government should take me to court and try me.
They then told me that according to them, the whole problem was that there was nothing for which to bring criminal action against me, but the worst thing was that it is impossible to reason with me, since according to them, I failed to carry out government directives and demands which the Commissioner gives me. Those demands or regulations given me were such:
— To forbid the teaching of catechism to children preparing for First Confession and Communion and to forbid group questioning of those children already prepared, allowing them only to test the children individually;
— To forbid minors to participate in liturgical ceremonies: boys to serve Mass and girls to take part in processions, strewing flowers;
— To forbid priests to plan retreats for the faithful or invite priests to assist at religious festivals without permission of the rayon government;
— To forbid priests to engage in pastoral visits to the faithful, or a larger group of priests to gather for a priests' retreat;
— To leave without a parish and without priestly work those priests whose certificate of registration the Commissioner revokes;
— To ordain to the priesthood all candidates proposed.
The Commissioner demanded that I proclaim those demands to the priests in writing, even though he informed me of them only verbally. Moreover, he threatened that priests who did not abide by the regulations would be punished, and the bishop, if he did not help carry out those requirements, would be removed from his duties.
Since those regulations are in violation of Canon Law, the regulations of the archdiocesan synod and my episcopal conscience, therefore, disregarding the Commissioner's threats, I refused to promulgate them to the priests. After all, refusing to carry out regulations detrimental to religious and Church life, and the defense of the rights of the Church, of the faithful and of oneself, are not a violation of the law for Par. 50 of the Constitution of the Lithuanian S.S.R. guarantees citizens freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess any religion and to practice religious worship.
3. Finally, I wish to call attention to the false statement by Anilionis that in 1981, Pope John Paul II had made the decision to appoint me to the position of Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys. As proof of his claim, Anilionis offers an exerpt from a letter from the Council for Public Affairs of the Church to Bishop Liudas Povilonis. That communication from the Council for Public Affairs of the Church is a document from the Vatican office which at the direction of the Holy Father carries out the preparatory work in the appointment or transfer of bishops.
Hence, in this document which was sent not only to Bishop Povilonis but to me, it was announced that the Holy Father had decided to appoint me Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys and it also directs that I inform the Council for Public Affairs of the Church through Bishop Povilonis of my acceptance of the appointment.
I immediately wrote two letters: one directly to the Council for Public Affairs of the Church and the other to Bishop Povilonis. In my letters, I thanked the Holy Father for granting me the possibility of returning to episcopal duties and I requested that I be appointed Ordinary of Kaišaidorys and not Apostolic Administrator.
Since efforts were being made at that time to obtain the Holy Father's appointment for three candidates proposed by the civil government as bishops, I therefore requested the Holy Father that the return of the impeded bishops -- Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius and myself — to episcopal duties not be tied to the appointment of new bishops and that permission be given first to put the impeded bishops to work, with the Holy Father appointing them to any diocese of Lithuania to episcopal duties and that after that, negotiations be carried out concerning the appointment of new bishops for Lithuania.
Apparently, an agreement was not reached to separate the question of putting the impeded bishops to work from the appointment of government-propos candidates for bishops. Hence, neither were the impeded bishops restored to their episcopal duties nor were new bishops appointed. Only later, in 1982, when the Apostolic See agreed to appoint the proposed candidate as Bishop of the Diocese of Telšiai was Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius, the impeded Apostolic Administrator of Kaišiadorys, allowed to return to his diocese.
Concerning my return to duties as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, Anilionis either does not wish to speak or in speaking, he gives answers similar to that which were published in the September 6,1987 issue of Tiesa.
Having written to the Council for Public Affairs of the Church regarding my appointment by the Holy Father to Kaišaidorys, and not having received the document of appointment signed by the Holy Father, I do not feel I have offended the Apostolic See by disobedience, even though Anilionis accuses me of that. Similar letters from the Council for Public Affairs of the Church were received at that time by Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius and the three candidates proposed for the episcopacy who were not appointed bishops. Perhaps Commissioner Anilionis, using the letters sent to them by the Council for Public Affairs of the Church, will someday tell also of their disobedience to the Vatican.
If the Apostolic See would have seen disobedience in my actions when negotiations were being carried on regarding my return to episcopal duties, it would have applied the appropriate penalty to me, for example, relieving me of the post of Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius. But it did not do so. For every year, I am listed in the directory of dioceses and bishops of the world (Annuario Pontificio) as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius (Impeditus - prevented from functioning).
Only Anilionis, censoring the 1985 Catholic Calendar-Directory, demanded that in the calendar next to my name there not be the title of Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Vilnius.
It is surprising that during this time of openness, when much is spoken and written concerning the repair of mistakes and injustices in your newspaper, the statement of Petras Anilionis, not corresponding to the truth and misleading the readers, was published in your newspaper. One gets the impression that Anilionis, giving the press the aforesaid statement, is seeking to remove from the civil government responsibility for my exile, to justify it and to make me out as the criminal. Does Petras Anilionis by such action not abuse his position at work by spreading disinformation?
In order that the moral wrong perpetrated by Anilionis be repaired, I request the honorable editors to print this letter in their newspaper.
Respectfully, Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius
To: General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev
Chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs,
Council of Ministers of the L.S.S.R.
Bishop of Telšiai, Antanas Vaičius From: The Community of Catholic Believers of the City of Klaipėda
We are glad, General Secretary, that under your policy of openness and democratization, the Church of the Queen of Peace in Klaipėda is being returned, which we had erected with our own money and which, in 1961, by order of Nikita Krushchev, was taken away from us. We ask you to use your influence with the officials of our republic concerned with this question, that the question of the return of the church be settled as soon as possible, since we continue to be inconvenienced: Still having only a small church barely 214 sq. meters in area, we are forced to stand outside while inside, people faint from the stuffiness. Hence we request:
1.That we be left the present church, since the Church of the Queen of Peace has only 1500 sq. meters of space, and we will not fit in it. When in 1954 they gave us permission to build it, about 80,000 residents lived in Klaipėda, and now there are over 203,000. Smaller cities such as Telšiai, Panevėžys and Šiauliai have two churches, two religious associations and church committees apiece. If the present church is closed, the faithful will again be dissatisfied since no one wishes to stand on the street and they will fight for it.
2.To allow the religious association for the Church of the Queen of Peace, which is scheduled to be returned, to be formed and to be confirmed. The committee and pastor of the little church now functioning are overburdened with work and with the concerns of ministering to the faithful, so they do not have and will not have the ability to concern themselves with the recontruction of the church being returned. The faithful, waiting for any kind of ministration, are forced to waste time and wait for hours, and this indirectly effects productivity. Hence, it is essential for Klaipėda to have two parishes - two religious associations.
3.To allow the bishop to appoint a pastor for the church being returned, who would see to reconstruction of the church; we would like to see Father
Bronius Burneikis, who built this church, appointed, since no one will be able to perform this work better.
4.We wish to reconstruct the church in a business-like way, with funds appropriated by the state; we the faithful will contribute unpaid labor.
5.As has already been announced, the church is being returned not in two years, but by July 1,1988 or earlier, so we request that both buildings: the church and the residence, be returned as soon as possible.
We trust that these requests of ours will be heard, and that our troubles will be over. We will be very grateful.
Attached: 69 pages with the signatures of 17,600 believers.
Klaipeda, August 31,1987
P.S. the faithful of Klaip6da, together with the church committee, wrote petitions to the government of Lithuania and the City of Vilnius in which they express their pleasure with regard to the government's decision to repair the wrong done to the faithful. However, they feel uneasiness and dissatisfaction at the fact that the intention is to go from words to deeds only after two years have passed.
In the petitions they write, "We, the committee of the Catholic religious association of Klaipeda and the faithful, received with pleasure the news of the decision to return the Church of the Queen of Peace to us. This decision, however, caused not only joy... the two year time lapse envisioned for the return of the church in the decision causes us uneasiness. In our opinion, the question of the return of the church is not new, so the time for its return is unduly protracted. Why should we be to blame for the fact that the mistake perpetrated was not repaired for so long; why should we, after the essentially good new decision has been taken, still have to suffer this wrong for two more years? This is hard to understand in view of the new era of social restructuring.
"Let us imagine what the decisions taken by the government on various questions of restructuring would be worth if their implementation began not immediately, but a couple of years hence! The ideas of restructuring must touch not only the material but also the spiritual sphere. In speaking about the speedy return of the church, we have in mind precisely the satisfaction of the spiritual requirements of the faithful, which is just as necessary as the material program for the renewal of society.
"Requesting the speedy return of the Church of the Queen of Peace, we have in mind too its auxiliary structures, the rectory and the churchyard, without which the church cannot function normally, since there are located the sanitary conveniences, three garages, storage spaces, a laundry for church vestments, a drying room and priests' quarters.
"We are concerned about the future of the present little church. It should be left to the Catholics of Klaipeda. We would think that would be self-evident since the population of Klaipeda, hence also the number of the faithful, has grown: The facts speak for themselves! If in pre-war Klaipeda there were 51,000 residents and five churches, then, at the present time, there about 102,000 Catholic residents. Why would it fall to only one church to serve them?" (Text unedited - Ed. Note)
This year alone, about 170,000 faithful signed petitions demanding the return of the Church of the Queen of Peach in Klaip6da.
To: The Chancery of the Archdiocese of Kaunas and of the Diocese of Vilkaviškis
Copies to: Father Antanas Gražulis, Associate Pastor of Alytus II Parish
Canon Juozas Berteška, Dean of Alytus From: Father Antanas Liesis, in residence at the parish of Alytus II
On September 23, 1987,1 received your letter, No. 888, written September 21, in which you appoint me as pastor of the parish of Alytus II until the return of the pastor, Father Pranas Račiūnas, from the U.S.A. These duties I cannot assume for the following reasons:
1.1 am not well, and so I shall not be able to be pastor of such a large parish.
2. According to Canon Law, in case of necessity, it is the associate pastor who takes over for the pastor. In this instance, with the pastor gone to the U.S.A., the pastor's duties should automatically without any letter of appointment, fall to the associate pastor, Father Antanas Gražulis, who is healthy and strong enough to fulfill them. The chancery, before sending me this appointment, did not ask me whether I would be able to be pastor. Moreover, the chancery made this appointment without any request from Father Račiūnas (this the pastor, Father Račiūnas himself, told me). Hence it is quite obvious to me that the chancery made this appointment not of its own free will, but in accordance with the dictates of Petras Anilionis, the Commissioner for Religious Cults.
The Church is separated from the state, and Anilionis has no right — not only moral but religious either - to dictate to the bishops the appointment of priests, so I protest against this interference of the government in the affairs of the Church, and I do not accept this assignment dictated by Petras Anilionis.
Open letter to the Procurator General of the U.S.S Copies to: Bishops of Lithuania and Administrator
On August 28,1987, at about 5:00 PM, Nijolė Sadūnaitė was riding to Kaunas in an automobile. Beyond Vievis, the car was stopped by six or seven militiamen and several persons in civilian dress. A balding civilian and a militiaman told Miss Sadūnaitė to alight and to get into a light yellow Zhiguli without a license number, which was standing by.
When Miss Sadūnaitė asked on what grounds they were apprehending her, the civilian angrily shouted, "You knew that you had no right to leave Vilnius... just on account of Sunday's demonstration (On August 23, residents of Vilnius remembered the victims of Hilter and Stalin and Nijolė Sadūnaitė had given a speech), shooting is too good for you..."
They seated Nijolė Sadūnaitė between a militiaman and a KGB agent who had taken her from Antakalnis to KGB headquarters when she was arrested April 1, 1987. They spoke between themselves only in Russian. The civilian began again to threaten her in Lithuanian, saying that the dissidents needed Stalin. He, the KGB agent said, would shoot all demonstrators. They did not take her to Vilnius, but in the direction of Byelorussia, by side roads and through woods.
About midnight, they returned to Vilnius. In the Valakampiai Swamp, a change of guard emerged from the shrubbery - three civilians whom the KGB is said to call Dzerzhinski's younger brothers, mentally retarded. They drove her back to Byelorussia to the City of Molodechno. At about 2:00 P.M., they returned to Valakampiai, where yet one more change of guard emerged from the bushes and drove Nijolė Sadūnaitė all over Lithuania: Ignalina, Sniečkus, Zarasai, Utena, etc., until 11:00 P.M.
The militia twice stopped the Zhiguli without a license number, but as soon as the driver showed his identification, they would salute and let the automobile through. In Ignalina, they broke the traffic law, but after checking their documents, the militiaman instead of a fine gave a salute and drove away. At 11:00 P.M., they took her right up to the door of Nijolė Sadūnaitė's apartment. They ordered her not to go out anywhere at night and on Sunday, not to leave Vilnius.
All night long, Nijolė Sadūnaitė's apartment was guarded by two men who paced back and forth under the window, smoking.
At about 11:00 P.M. that same night, Robertas Grigas, sacristan in the parish in theRayon of Širvintai, together with resident Algirdas Masilionis, gave a worker at the rectory a ride home. On his way back, Masilionis stopped the Zhiguli in front of an automobile in which five characters were riding who did not even try to hide the fact that they were KGB agents.
Participants at the August 23,1987 demonstration in Vilnius.
They dragged Masilionis and Grigas out of their automobile. The latter, they pushed into the Zhiguli, after several times striking Robertas in such a way that one of his molars broke, and he lost a shoe. They took Grigas to Širvintai where the KGB conferred with the militia about something or other, ostentatiously asking one another questions. Taking a shovel and threatening to kill him and bury him, they took him out to some woods.
After remaining in the woods about a half-hour, they drove on. They took away Grigas' spectacles so that he would not recognize his surroundings, and never returned them. The perpetrators spoke among themselves in Lithuanian, with a Russian accent.
At about 8:00 A.M., they stopped in a strange city and began explaining that their actions were a "warning" for participating in a peace demonstration in Vilnius. Toward morning, two of them went off somewhere while those remaining dozed.
Grigas leaped from the automobile, and thinking that he was somewhere in Russia, ran shouting in Russian, "I'm Robertas Grigas, a citizen of Lithuania. If anyone kills me, you'll know that it was the work of the KGB."
Some passersbys told him that the kidnappers had brought him to Joniškis, in the Archdiocese of Kaunas. Grigas ran to a church, where he found the sacristan. Later, two priests showed up: the pastor, Father Juozas Dobilaitis and the associate pastor, Father Alvydas Grabnickas. The faithful gave the escapee shoes and a jacket (he had been in shirtsleeves), and money to return home. Grigas went to Confession, assisted at Holy Mass and received Holy Communion, and afterwards, travelled about Lithuania telling people about the KGB actions.
Since the telephone in the rectory of Kiaukliai had been disconnected, the pastor, Father Rokas Puzonas, called from elsewhere to the Širvintai militia, reporting the brutal kidnapping of Grigas. The militia department replied that apparently "someone perpetrated a practical joke...".
Then, Father Puzonas, together with his guests Vytautas Bogušis, Julius Sasnauskas, Algirdas Masilionis and Andrius Tučkus, left in two Zhiguli automobiles for KGB headquarters in Vilnius to find out about Robertas' fate. Both their cars were followed the whole way by an unmarked Volga.
At one of the intersections in Šeškinė, Father Rokas Puzonas's automobile was stopped at 12:30 A.M. by Department of Motor Vehicles Zhigule number 112. One of the inspectors, in Russian, demanded documents and ordered them to open up the trunk. At that moment, Zhigulis and the other Volga showed up. From them alighted KGB agents. They seized Father Puzonas to drag him into an automobile carrying the license number VAZ 210011 LID 32-37.
Bogušis began calling to the traffic police, "Men, why are you obeying the instructions of this KGB agent? And you (to the KGB agent), don't pretend you don't recognize me."
The KGB agent then began to scold, using profanity, and several times struck Bogušis. The highway patrolman and three KGB agents dragged the priest into their automobile. When he protested, they struck him several blows and Father Puzonas fell. Picking him up off the ground, they dragged him to their car and ordered the pastor's Zhigiili to be towed to the motor vehicle department.
That night, Bogušis and Masilionis reached Kaišiadorys by way of southern Lithuania. Here, they informed Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius about the incident.
Father Rokas Puzonas was driven by three KGB agents through the Rayons of Vilnius and Trakiai. When the priest demanded that they drive him to militia headquarters, the kidnappers replied, "You'll soon see where we take you".
Through Vilnius, Nemenčinė, Pabradė and Švenčionis, they drove him to some forest in Byelorussia. There, stopping several times, they conferred among themselves. One of the KGB agents warned, "You're tired of living like a human being, so you'll see what it's like to live like a dog."
Driving him to the town of Svyriai, they released him at about 11:00 A.M.: "Go on home, as you wish. This time, you got little from us. If you keep mentioning the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in your sermons, it's going to be harder on you. Go straight home, without stopping anywhere."...
During his sermon, Father Puzonas told the parishioners why he had been missing for over a day.
Since, on September 30, there was still no news about the fate of Robertas Grigas, four residents of Vilnius: Nijolė Sadūnaitė, Antanas Terleckas, Vytautas Bogušis and Petras Cidzikas sent Gorbachev a telegram.
Nijolė Sadūnaitė, Vilnius, Architektų 27-2
Robertas Grigas, Širvintų Rayon, Kiaukliai
Father Rokas Puzonas, Širvintų Rayon, Kiaukliai
Algirdas Masilionis, Vilnius, Ramunių 29-A
Vytautas Bogušis, Vilnius, Savičiaus 13-8
Vilnius-Kiaukliai September 1,1987
To: D. Tvirbutas, Vice Chairman of the Širvintai Rayon
Executive Committee From: Faithful of the Kiaukliai Parish
Vice Chairman, we are shocked and pained by the way officials have treated our pastor, Father Rokas Puzonas, and our sacristan, Robertas Grigas. The night of August 28, security agents assaulted them, beat them and dragging them by force into automobiles, drove them around all night threatening them. Those who acted so showed neither identification nor a procurator's order. That is hooliganism! Take measures to see that such assaults would end and that the kidnappers be made to answer before the law.
Moreover, on September 11, three members of our church committee were summoned from work to the communal farm office. An official dictated to them an order according to which the sacristan, Robertas Grigas, was to be discharged from his position as of September 19, because according to them, the sacristan engages in activities having nothing to do with the carrying out of religious services.
In the office, they threatened that the church would be closed and the pastor arrested if they did not terminate the contract with Grigas. We, the majority of the church committee of twenty, and the faithful of Kiaukliai, wish to state: The only kind of individual who cannot work as a sacristan is one who acts immorally or fails to perform the duties he has assumed. We have no complaints about the morality or the conscientiousness of Robertas Grigas; we are satisfied with him. We consider non-binding the termination of a contract by force. If we have a peoples' government, please give consideration to the wishes of the majority.
Signed by: 102 faithful of the Kiaukliai parish, including twelve members of the parish committee.
To: General Secretary of the Central Committee of
Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev Copies to: The Bishops and Administrators of Dioceses of Lithuania From: Faithful of the Parish of Žagarė and all Lithuania
From of old, in the crypt of the Old Church of Žagarė, the believing public have been visiting and venerating the remains of Barbora Žagarietė, the Seventeenth Century martyr for chastity. People would come from all over Lithuania to pray at the tomb of this heroine of faith and morality. In 1961, during the atheistic campaign begun by Nikita Krushchev, the church of Žagarė was confiscated and closed.
In 1963, the remains of Barbora Žagarietė were taken from the crypt of the supressed church by government officials and taken to some unknown destination.
We have heard that in commemoration of the millenium of the Baptism of Russia, the remains of some Orthodox saints, taken by the Soviet government, have been returned to the faithful.
We request that this year, in commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the Baptism of Lithuania, the remains of Barbora Žagarietė be returned to our church.
Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius
Brorųus Antanaitis Boleslovas Stasiutis Jonas Povilaitis Jonas Gedvila Pranciškus Ščepavičius Pranciškus Matulaitis Antanas Jokūbauskas Vladas Požėla Kazimieras Žukas Vaclovas Polikaitis Leonardas Jagminas Viktoras Brusokas
Gustavas Gudanavičius Vaclovas Tamoševičius Ladislovas Balionas Jonas Boruta Juozas Dobilaitis Algirdas Pakamanis and about 4720 believers from throughout Lithuania
Open Letter to the Editors of the Širvintai Rayon Newspaper, Lenin's Flag Esteemed Editors,
In the August 13 issue of the Širvintai Rayon newspaper, an item appeared reprinted from the Kapsukas official publication New Road, tenden-tiously describing some events from the celebration of the Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis. It reads:
"A group of individuals gathered on the corner not far from the church and began singing hymns. Having attracted the curious, they obstructed people exhausted from the crowd in church from going downtown. After some time, those 'hymn-singers' could be seen in the churchyard. There, some of them began shouting that they lacked certain freedoms. It was difficult to know what these individuals wanted, but where has it ever been seen that a few self-willed persons could, without interference, spoil the holiday spirits of the participants."
Further on, government officials are urged to be more zealous in restricting such "violations" and "disturbance of the peace". In a postscript, the editors say that they learned from the competant organs that one of the organizers of the violation was Robertas Grigas, sacristan at Kiaukliai, inciting believers to anti-Soviet actions, not for the first time, and already warned by the organs of justice.
The editors of the Širvintai Rayon newspaper added that the aforesaid citizen did not seriously consider that his unlawful activity deserves stricter evaluation by the organs of law and order and the condemnation of the believers since "religious services have nothing in common with disturbance of the public order and with violations against the Soviet system."
Concerning this, the accused sacristan of Kiaukliai would like to address you. First of all, the inconsistency of those who signed the complaint, S. Butkauskas and four other unknown residents of Kapsukas (the papers did not publish their names)... On the street corner and in the churchyard, it was not a "group" of individuals, but a large portion of participants in the holiday who sang the Lithuanian national anthem and applauded it; hence, it would be naive to claim that this spoiled their holiday.
Incidentally, what is the value of central and republican press statements against censorship — which has discarded many treasures of our nation-al-cultura heritage - and Vincas Kurdirkas's national anthem continues to arouse in some an inexplicable fear as a "disturbance of the public order"?
In vain, their efforts - after all, the absolute majority of the nation values the spiritual treasures preserved throughout the sufferings, the more they are banned, the more precious they are. "The Lithuanian nation will never be atheistic, because atheism destroys the highest values and narrows our horizon with material things."
I also wish to call your attention to the relative nature of the concept of "anti-Soviet actions". In the churchyard of Marijampolė ("City of Mary", the traditional Lithuanian name for the Town of Kapsukas, renamed for one of the early Lithuanian Communists — Trans. Note), to those who were willing to listen, I spoke about that which is a source of heartache to me and to all thinking Catholics. I can repeat it even now, accepting full responsibility:
Regardless of the joy over the beatification of Archbishop Jurgis, we testify on behalf of the three priests unjustly imprisoned: Sigitas Tamkevičius, Alfonsas Svarinskas, and Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis - and other Lithuanians sentenced just for the peaceful expression of their views; we mourn before the closed churches, especially the Cradle of Lithuanian Christianity, the Cathedral of Vilnius; for the Church of Saint Casimir, transformed into a Museum of Atheism in a crude mockery of the faithful.
We are sorry for the youth from whom the possibility of knowing the beauty and universal harmony of Christ's teaching has been criminally taken away; over the youth which thus is being pushed into the grasp of atheism, prostitution and various "punk" attitudes.
Without anger, just with a sympathetic love, we appeal to all, not only our brother Catholics but also contemporaries smothering in the darkness of moral error, as well as the officials persecuting us, and we say, "Think about it!" Only a decent Lithuania will be a free Lithuania! And Lithuania will be decent only with Christ!
Such is my conviction, too. For every word written here, I am prepared to go to prison, since I hold them to be true. International law and such documents as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Helsinki Final Act and finally, the normal understanding of our common humanity, guarantees freedom of speech, the possibility of freely forming one's opinion, sharing it with others and criticizing the opinions of other individuals or groups.
From the applause of those participating in the holiday, I would judge that there was no one who was scandalized by the thoughts expressed, or at least that no one approached and expressed their dissatisfaction. On the contrary, more than four residents of Marijampolė, and not only the residents of Marijampolė, thanked us and expressed complete solidarity. This is understandable since we Catholics have serious cause to talk about injustice. Ten years ago, the three imprisoned priests were already speaking boldly about the catastrophic spread of alcoholism, and they were called defamers of the Soviet system. And today, drunkenness is condemned from Gorbachev's tribune in phrases no less sharp; the magazine Sobriety and culture (unfortunately so far in Russian only) has begun publication.
The aforesaid priests unmasked the educational policy of recruiting pupils for atheistic organizations by force, regardless of their beliefs, and not even trying to convince them of the obligatory "truth" of atheism. For such ideas, they were accused of besmirching the educational system. The current Tiesa, Communist Youth Edition, openly writes about the mania for percentages which till now has been forcing most youngsters into Communist organizations completely independent of their beliefs.
Read the ruminations of Vilnius Middle School 47 Communist Youth Secretary, Daiva Česnulevičiūtė, in issue number 6 of Student: "Is it a small thing what we are taught to deny and not know? Since you have allowed me to speak, I will set forth one more doubt: Are the cornerstones of our worldview not denial? That there is no god we know from the elementary grades. Was that term 'there is no' explained in any way? No. One had to concentrate on it as though learning to write... Our entire materialistic worldview stood till now on very insecure foundations of scientific evidence. Hence, it is so simple to climb out of it."
It appears that here, too, the so-called calumniators were right. We would find the same thing upon analysis of every accusation of them and us, the Catholics of Lithuania, defending their rights. But this, as you well know, does not mean that they will be freed and we will not be threatened with arrest. There is no need to frighten anyone. I understand. My whole crime is that I have set forth my doubts and uneasiness without waiting for permission to speak, as the lady from Vilnius mentioned in The Student.
I set it out, using the natural right of everyone to condemn lies and violence. You call this "anti-Soviet activity", and threaten to turn the organs of law and order on us even though I never urged anyone to break windows or accost passersby. On the contrary, I urged everyone to forgive and to pray for those persecuting the Church and the nation, to disarm them with the steadfastness and goodness of martyrs (This is proclaimed by the motto of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis on the facade of the shrine, "To overcome evil by good".)
I feel no envy for you. The fact that you participate in the accusations against your fellow countrymen and the campaign of driving them mad (how shockingly Abuladze's fine film Repentance reveals that phenomenon to us), may not be your personal fault but rather the creatures of education, environment and exaggerated obedience. But try to understand - the threat to society arises not from those who hold to their beliefs and defend them at whatever cost.
The threat to society arises from structures spawning such Variam Aravidzes; structures declaring as "offenders" all those who do not accept the only doctrine allowed which has proven a hundred times its inhumanity. One would not like to believe that during the post-war years, a log did not float from the north bearing the name of some relative of yours (c.f. Repentence).
And as for annoying the faithful, the claim that religious ceremonies have nothing in common with social action, would best be explained by the thought of Archbishop Desmond Tutu of the Republic of South Africa, "The Church which defends the oppressed and suffering unavoidably comes into conflict with the government, which accuses it of involvement in politics. But the Church cannot remain passive in the face of injustice."
Kiaukliai, August 13,1987
On September 5, 1987, journalist S. Jonaitis of the Širvintai Rayon newspaper Lenin's Flag, tried in his article to respond to Robertas Grigas' open letter to the editor:
In his September 22 letter to the editors, Robertas Grigas disagrees with the following reply from a Soviet journalist:
"Instead of giving the entire text of the letter and then discussing it as required by the concept of openness, you choose a few thoughts and try to deny them. For one who has not read the text as submitted, it is difficult in general to understand from the reply of Jonaitis what the question is. This is a dishonorable way of carrying on a discussion, and if it is repeated, the discussion will lose its meaning. Print everything, let the people have the possibility of comparing the arguments on both sides. This is how I understand democratization," writes Robertas Grigas.
In his letter, Grigas also responds to new accusations. We "sum" points from the letter:
"You ask, 'When and where believers were condemned and criticized for taking place in religious services?' If you wish witnesses, I can come to the editorial offices with a group of my contemporaries who will tell you what kind of 'system of criticism' and that, an anti-Constitutional system, the school, the workplace, etc., used to react to their participation in religious services. What kind of methods of ridicule, pressure and punishment were not invented!
"Even more angry is the response to citizens' efforts peacefully to express their disagreement with the state ideology or amoral activity by the state. A great number of our fellow countrymen did so August 23, at the Adomas Mickevičius Monument in Vilnius. Afterwards, during the night of August 28, without presenting identification or warrant, KGB agents assaulted us like hooligans, pushed us into automobiles and drove Father Rokas Puzonas and me around all night. Vilnius resident Nijolê Sadnnaitè they likewise kidnapped and drove around about thirty hours.
"By this, they showed once again that against our truth, against the word, you have but one argument - the fist and the death-threat - as was done in my case...
"Your newspaper needlessly encloses in quotation marks the expression 'victims of Stalinism'. The victims of Hitlerism were counted, they were honored with monuments and the condemnation of the brown plague is preserved in museums. War criminals were punished by the Nuremberg Trials. Why then does the mere attempt to speak out about people who perished innocently in the time of the so-called 'cult of personality5 arouse so much dissatisfaction?
"Has everything been told about those crimes? No. Even our press admits that. Expressing regret over the gaps in our history textbooks, unmasked evil is not corrected. Inhumanity must be dragged out into the light of day and condemned, whether it hides under the black swastika or the Red Star.
"You attack us derisively and threateningly when we speak of Lithuanian independence, saying that we want a Lithuania of 'nobles and pastors'. These things, the 'nobility system' and the independence of Lithuania, have nothing in common.
"The right of Lithuania to secede from the U.S.S.R. is guaranteed by Par. 69 of the Constitution. Why is the bringing up of this question considered a crime, not to be discussed?
"You accuse me of defending 'bourgeoise culture', but who determines what kind of culture is bourgeoise? And what kind is 'progressive'? As we know from the Soviet press, in Kampuchia, in the name of Socialism, practically the entire rich historical heritage of the country was destroyed after proclaiming it 'bourgeoise'. It appears that the values destroyed constituted a golden treasure of national culture; now, alas, it cannot be returned. Do some of the nuances of this tragedy not repeat themselves in the history of Lithuania? Who has the gift of omnicience to judge what is acceptable for the public and what is not? Let the public to choose for itself."