The Catholics of Lithuania presented to the Delegation of the Intcrnational Helsinki Federation, visiting Moscow at the invitation of the government of the U.S.S.R. at the end of January 1988, this document:
Concerning the Plight of Believers in Lithuania
The plight of believers in the U.S.S.R., and by the same token, in Lithuania which has been annexed to the U.S.S.R., is determined by Soviet law in which, albeit frequently in disguised fashion, it is stated that in the U.S.S.R., religion must be rendered irrelevant. And only because the law is often executed in slip-shod fashion, have believers in the Soviet Union so far succeeded in retaining some of their positions.
In the Preamble to the Constitution of the U.S.S.R., it states: "The highest purpose of the Soviet state is to a classless, Communist society... to develop the man of the Communist society..."
In Par. 39, it states: "Citizens making use of their rights and freedoms must not interfere with the interests of society and the state..."
Since the man of Communist society is exclusively atheist, this means that the use of any rights or freedoms in behalf of religion is an infringement of the Constitution.
Par. 25: "In the Soviet Union, there exists and is being perfected a single system of public education which is at the service of the Communist education of the youth..."
No room is left for believers. Those young people who, by some miracle, do not succumb to atheist (Communist) education, become at best, second class citizens.
Freedom of conscience in the Constitution (Par. 52), is understood as "... the right to practice religious cults or to carry on atheistic propaganda...".
This means that religion and religious believers may be attacked by all communications media, and believers cannot defend themselves, carry on counter-propaganda, or all the more, religious propaganda.
Based on these and similar Constitutional grounds, high and mid-level government organs allow laws, orders and regulations discriminating against believers, and government officials know that in the war against religion, it is possible to go too far, while not to go too far is risky because it is possible to lose one's post.
The most obvious discrimination against Catholics in Lithuania is reflected in the Regulations for Religious Associations, confirmed by the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the U.S.S.R., July 20,1976, and still in effect. Art. 17 of these directives says, "Religious organizations do not have the right to organize special meetings of children and youth, nor of workers, literary or other circles or groups having no connection with the earring out of performing worship services." Art. 18: "The teaching of religion may be allowed only in spiritual schools open according to acceptable procedure."
In Lithuania, only one such school has been allowed, with the number of students strictly limited by the government --the Kaunas Interdiocesan Seminary.
Not only are these two points in the Regulations discriminatory, but so are all the others. Throughout, "It is forbidden. It is forbidden. It is forbidden... " Hence, an absolute majority of Catholic priests in Lithuania have addressed to the government a written appeal in which they have refused to conform with the requirements of these Regulations. However, the government has paid no attention to this, and officials, basing themselves on these Regulations, continue today to terrorize the faithful and especially religiously believing youth.
The restructuring of government attitudes has not touched believers. The laws remain the same. The tendancy to remove religion from life not only remains but has been fortified by new urgings by Gorbachev, and in Lithuania, by Communist Party Central Committee Secretary Griškevičius, to step up the war against religion.
This year is a jubilee year for the Catholics of Lithuania - 600 years since the Baptism of Lithuania. On this occasion, the Catholics of Lithuania had hoped to meet with the Pope in their own homeland, especially since the Holy Father himself wished it. The "restructuring" government of the U.S.S.R. did not allow it. Many Catholics of Lithuania wished to participate in the jubilee solemnities at the Vatican. The Soviet government, after promising in Helsinki in 1975 to relax restrictions on contacts between people of various countries, allowed all of eight people to travel to the Vatican, after the KGB had warned them how they should behave there.
To date, contrary to the Helsinki Accords, bringing religious literature to Lithuania from abroad, or its publication internally, is forbidden.
What "bulldozer atheism" (This is what the atheists themselves call the rampaging of the government atheists in the U.S.S.R.!) has wrought during the Soviet era in Lithuania and continues to wreak even, now can be read in the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. In this sole, albeit illegally published Lithuanian Catholic periodical, mistakes (which would seem unavoidable in the underground conditions) show up as a rare exception. The Chronicle of the Catholic Church is available at the Lithuanian Mission to the United States and to the Vatican as well as in other countries, in English, German, French, and other languages.
We consider that normal, active religious life in Lithuania will be possible only in the event that the government actively changes its attitude toward religion, basing it on the law.
Lithuania, November, 1987
His Excellency, the Bishop of Vilnius, Julijonas Steponavičius - Žagarė Father Jonas Danyla - Bijutiškis
Father Jonas Zubrus - Kirdeikiai Father Zenonas Navickas - Saldutiškis Father Rokas Puzonas - Kiaukliai Father Kazimieras Gražulis - Šiauliai Father Gustavas Gudanavičius - Žagarė Father Edmundas Atkočiūnas - Kuršėnai Robertas Grigas - Kiaukliai Nijolė Sadūnaitė - Vilnius Liudas Simutis - Kaunas Petras Plumpa - Kulautuva Saulius Kelpšas - Garliava Petras Gražulis - Sasnava
To: The General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union, Comrade Mikhail Gorbachev Copies to: The Bishops of Lithuania From: Priests of Lithuania
For some time now, the officials of the Soviet government have been saying that new Regulations for Religious Associations are in preparation, to conform with the Soviet government's present policy of restructuring and democratization.
When the Regulations for Religious Associations in effect today were being prepared in 1976, the bishops and priests of the Catholic Church in Lithuania requested of the Soviet government that those Regulations be coordinated with the Canon Law of the Church, so that believing Catholic laity and clergy would be able to obey them without violating their own consciences.
However, those requests were ignored, and the Regulations ordering religious life in our country were drawn up exclusively by atheistically oriented Soviet government officials. So that such a paradoxical situation not be repeated this time, we come to you, General Secretary, requesting you to direct the attention of officials preparing the new Regulations to the Canon Law of the Church, to international committments of the U.S.S.R. as signatory to the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, and to the Helsinki Final Accords.
The Code of Canon Law (Canon 211), obligates every believer to contribute to the dissemination of the Faith, that is, of the teachings of salvation to all the nations of the world. The current Regulations for Religious Associations and the corresponding paragraphs in the Lithuanian S.S.R. Constitution (Par. 50 and 52), guarantee the faithful only a fulfilling of their worship obligations, while non-believers are guaranteed the right of conducting atheistic propaganda.
This is clearly incompatible with the principle of the equality of all citizens, proclaimed in those very constitutions. The government of the U.S.S.R. has obligated itself to abide by this principle in signing the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights and the Helsinki Final Accords.
Canon Law (Canons 213 and 278) urges the faithful, laity and clergy, to join in organizations supporting social justice, and works of love of neighbor, for the purpose of developing devotion and Christian living. This right the current Regulations for Religious Associations (Par. 17 and 45), do not grant the faithful. Eastern Rite Catholics are forbidden even to carry out worship services, or to gather in religious associations for that purpose.
Church law (Canons 528 and 776) obliges pastors to show special concern for the education and catechization of Catholic children and youth. Canon 532 obliges them to assist parents in their duty of Christian education. How the catechization of youth and children is to be carried out is indicated in seven Canons of the Church's Canon Law (Canons 773-780).
The laws promulgated by the state forbid priests or catechists trained for the purpose to teach children catechism. Teaching the truths of religion is allowed only in "spiritual schools, opened in the appropriate manner", that is, theological seminaries where only youth who have attained majority are admitted (see Par. 17 and 18 of the Regulations for Religious Associations).
The right to teach children religion is granted only to parents. Atheistic parents, meanwhile, in handing on their views to their children, are able to make use of qualified propagandists of atheism and qualified teachers, as well as the support of the public schools. This is clear inequality before the law for believers.
Priests and lay catechists, fulfilling the serious duty of catechizing children and youth, find themselves in a situation of conflict with laws promulgated by the Soviet government. Canon 1374 of Church Canon Law says that those faithful who enroll in organizations working against the Church, are to be penalized by appropriate ecclesiastical penalties, while those who actively support the work of such organizations, draw upon themselves the ecclesiastical penalty of excommunication.
Meanwhile, believing schoolchildren are forced to enroll in atheistic political organizations fighting against religion (Communist Youth, Pioneers, atheistic circles).
Young men enrolling in the theological seminary, some priests, and some laity, are recruited to become what amounts to organizations working against the Church - cooperators with the KGB. The consciences of the faithful and of the younger generation are skewed by such pressures and recruiting measures, thus transgressing the Constitutional principle of freedom of conscience.
Church Canon Law (Canon 529) obliges pastors to know the faithful entrusted to them, and to visit their families, but this the priests are forbidden to do by the current Regulations for Religious Associations (Par. 45). Not even bishops cannot visit the parishes in their dioceses without the consent of the civil government.
Church Canon Law determines that the parish is directed, its affairs are administered, and it is represented by the pastor, with the assistance of faithful laity (532 and 537). However, the Regulations for Religious Associations, ratified by the state, require that the parish be led only by a Committee of Twenty, made up entirely of laity, or the association's Executive Committee, in whose makeup priests are forbidden to be included (Par. 11 and 13). Incidentally, neither the group of twenty nor the executive organ of the religious association is granted the status of a juridical person by state law.
Canon Law grants a priest who has been ordained, approved by his bishop, and not suspended by Church authorities, the right and the duty to preach anywhere in the world (Canon 762 and 764). A priest approved by his Ordinary has the right, anywhere (and in the case of a dying patient, even strict duty), of hearing confessions (Canon 967), and also, of holding Mass anywhere in the world (Canon 903). The current Regulations for Religious Associations (Par. 19) limit "the area of the activity of ministers of cult and preachers to the place where the members of the religious association serve by them live".
For assisting in parishes other than their own during religious festivals and for preaching sermons at such solemnities, priests are punished by fines and issued warnings by the Commissioner for Religious Affairs. The atheists can invite a clever lecturer to deliver an atheistic lecture, but believers wishing to invite a more talented preacher must obtain permission from officials of the Soviet government propagating atheism.
We wonder whether the atheists would be happy if they had to check their list of atheistic lecturers with the local pastor. The current Regulations for Religious Associations place believers in such a position. This is incompatible with the Constitutional principal of equality of citizens before the law.
Canon 235.2 provides for the possibility of young men, under the guidance of a priest appointed by the bishop, to prepare for ordination to the priesthood, even outside the seminary. And yet, priests who have received ordination in this way are not recognized by the government and are not allowed to be assigned to parishes. (Strangely enough, Orthodox and Protestant clergy prepared in this way are recognized by the Soviet government.)
Church law (Canon 279) obliges the priest to continue theological studies even after he has finished the seminary, but for this, serious Catholic theological and philosophical literature is necessary. The Catholics of the U.S.S.R. have no possibility of printing such literature domestically, nor of importing it from abroad (e.g., from peoples' democratic countries such as Poland or the German Democratic Republic).
In the Lithuanian S.S.R., only religious literature absolutely necessary for the carrying out of ritual is allowed. The faithful are not allowed to establish libraries of religious literature, bookstores, or presses; they cannot make use of radio or television to disseminate religious ideas, while the atheists have the broadest facilities for spreading their world view through these mass media of information. This is a clear example of the inequality of believers and of atheists before the law.
The majority of the residents of Lithuania are believing Catholics. Please provide them the conditions for celebrating at least the Feast of Christmas (December 25).
There are many nursing homes and homes for the aged where the visit of a priest depends entirely on the good-will of the institution's director. Such institutions should have a separate room, a small chapel, where the faithful who are residents of such institutions could meet their religious obligations. But Par. 49 of the present Regulations for Religious Associations forbids this.
In drafting the Regulations, governing relations between the Church and the Soviet state, it would be well to form a joint commission, consisting of representatives of Church and state. These new Regulations should not try to moderate the purely internal life of the Church (for example, they should not direct who should lead a community of the faithful - a parish).
We request the General Secretary to see that in the drafting of the new Regulations, consideration be given to the preferences and longings of believers, that these Regulations be made compatible with the norms of Church law, that the Regulations not force believers to offend against the requirements of Christian morality, and by the same token, that believers not be forced by conscience to ignore them.
Signed by the following priests Vitas Urbonas Juozas Mieldžadys Kazimieras Burba Albinas Deltuva Vaclovas Degutis Albinas Jaudegis Juozas Šalčius Juozas Matulaitis Jonas Maskvytis Boleslovas Čegelskas Antanas Mieldažys Kazimieras Kudirka
the Diocese of Vilkaviškis:
Juozas Matulevičius Vytautas Būdas Vytautas Insoda Juozas Barteška, Dean Vaclovas Stakčnas Antanas Gražulis Antanas Liesis Jonas Boruta Juozas Gumauskas Pranas Račiūnas Jonas Baranauskas Kęstutis Bekasovas Jonas Rusinas Msgr. Andrius Gustaitis, Dean Tadeušas Valianas Petras Dumbliauskas Kazimeiras Skučas Vytautas Prajara Lionginas Kanevičius Vincas Čėsna Valerijus Rudzinskas Vincas Petruševičius Jonas Malinauskas Juozas Užupis Gvidonas Pušinaitis Jonas Palukaitis Vytautas Užkuraitis Vaclovas Radzevičius Msgr. Juozas Žemaitis, Dean Pranas Liutvinas Jonas Būga Leonardas Kavaliūnas Juozas Marčiulionis Vladas Bobinas Gintautas Skučas Raimondas Žukauskas Bronius Klemensas Paltanavičius Antanas Lukošaitis Petras Sitka Gintautas Steponaitis Jonas Balionas Antanas Vitkus St. Mikalajūnas Antanas Liubšys Pranas Perlaitis Algirdas Pasiliauskas Vladas Jackūnas Juozas Gražulis Boleslovas Ražukas Alfonsas Sadauskas Jonas Grudzinskas Juozas Pečiukonis Vincas Jalinskas Gvidonas Dovydaitis Ignas Plioraitis Vytautas Vaitauskas, Dean Juozas Radzevičius Juozas Klimavičius Pranas Adomaitis Vladas Bilius Jurgis Sventickas Kazimieras Montvila Kęstutis Brilius
Refused to sign, Fathers: Juozas Barkauskas Vytautas-Simonas Guogis Vytautas Tėvelis Petras Vagneris Juozas Jakaitis Antanas Maskeliūnas
Others were not located.
To: General Secretary of the Central Committee of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev From: Priests of Lithuania
We are shocked by the new terrorist attacks against Catholic priests
Robertas Grigas (far left, with rose) on August 23, 1987.
and laity in Lithuania. On August 28,1987, Father Rokas Puzonas, his sacristan Robertas Grigas, and a zealous Catholic woman, Nijolė Sadūnaitė, were kidnapped by terrorists dressed in civilian garb and milita uniform, without being presented with any identification or order, and with the assistance of traffic police.
Those kidnapped were driven about Lithuania and Byelorussia; Nijolė Sadūnaitė for thirty hours, with several terrorist groups spelling each other; Father Rokas Puzonas, ten hours and Robertas Grigas, eight hours.
Father Rokas Puzonas was released in a forest in Byelorussia, 100 km. from Vilnius. Sacristan Robertas Grigas escaped the terrorists in the City of Joniškis, 300 km. from Vilnius.
After the forced "ride", the terrorists warned that if they did not change their attitudes with regard to religious and national questions, it would be worse. The terrorists did not conceal the fact that they were KGB.
A similar act of terrorism was carried out the night of August 22,1985, against a member of the Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights, the Pastor of Kriokialaukis, Father Vaclovas Stakėnas. The terrorists, under the pretext of a sick call, kidnapped him from his home, drove him out into the woods, tortured him and left him tied hand and foot, and gagged, in the depths of the forest at midnight. The perpetrators of the terrorist act have not been discovered to this day.
On September 10,1987, at about 9:00 P.M., they tied up the Pastor of Gruzdžiai, Father Juozas Čepėnas. For two hours, they took over his apartment and afterwards, stealing his car, they departed for points unknown.
With such terrorist acts taking place, the suspicion arises whether those same forces did not push Father Bronius Laurinavičius under a truck November 24,1981, and contribute to events connected with the tragic death of Father Juozas Zdebskis, February 5,1986.
We request that these blatant offenses against justice (the terrorist attacks), be discontinued and the perpetrators punished.
We also request that as the process of restructuring goes on, the convicted priests Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and Father Sigitas Tamkevičius be released, and that Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius be returned to his duties.
Signed by the following priests of the Diocese of Kaišaidorys, Fathers: J. Danyla, Bijutiškis, Molėtai Rayon Z. Navickas (Dean), Saldutiškis, Utena Rayon K. Kazlauskas, Žiežmariai, Kaišiadorys Rayon R. Puzonas, Kirdeikiai, Utena Rayon Ign. Milašius (Dean), Molėtai J. Kaminskas, Kuktiškis, Utena Rayon J. Zubrus, Kiaukliai, Širvintai Rayon L. Smalinskas, Misininkai, Širvintai Rayon V. Kiškis, Vievis, Trakai Rayon A. Černa, Vievis, Trakai Rayon P. Krikščiukaitis, Čiobiškis, Širvintai Rayon L. Puzona, Labanoras, Švenčioniai Rayon A. Šatas, Stirniai, Molėtai Rayon A. Araminas, Molėtai Rayon E. Kraujalis, Butrimonys, Alytus Rayon Z. Stančiauskas, Palomenė, Kaišiadorys Rayon J. Čeberiokas, Daugai, Alytus Rayon L. Balionas, Molėtai P. Venckus, Skudutiškis, Molėtai Rayon P. Šiugžda, Šešuoliai, Ukmergė Rayon P. Čivilis,Žilinai, Varėna Rayon S. Stankevičius, Alovė, Alytus Rayon R. Rumšas, Alytus I Canon P. Laskauskas, Merkinė, Varėna Rayon J. Kaušyla, Pivašiūnai, Alytus Rayon A. Šilkinis, Punia, Alytus Rayon M. Novickis, Nemunaitis, Alytus Rayon Z. Gustainis (Dean), Birštonas, Prienai Rayon J. Voveris, Vievis, Trakai Rayon J. Lunius, Nemaniūnai, Prienai Rayon
Two illegible signatures.
To: General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party
of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev From: Catholics of Lithuania
In 1987, celebrating the 600-year jubilee of the Baptism of Lithuania, we were saddened not to be able to celebrate this jubilee so special to us, in the historical Cathedral of Vilnius — the place where the Baptism of the Lithuanians began, and where the earthly remains of one of the baptizers of Lithuania, Vytautas the Great, rest. The Cathedral of Vilnius, the central church of the Catholics of Lithuania and the Archdiocese of Vilnius, has for over thirty-five years, been used as an art gallery and concert hall. In preparation for the Millenium of the Baptism of Russia (sic), the Danylov Monastery in Moscow was returned to the Orthodox. We request that in commemoration of the 600-year jubilee of the Baptism of Lithuania, the central shrine of our county, the Cathedral of Vilnius, be returned.
1987, the Jubilee Year of the Baptism of Lithuania
Catholics of Lithuania from: Rudamina - 214 Alksnėnai -145 Aleksotas - 321 Prienai -1773 Igliauka -182 Patilčiai - 30 Kalvarija -107 Šakiai - 824 Liudvinavas - 270 Daukšiai -158 Šiluva - 650 Pilviškiai - 285 Sasnava -129 Lazdijai -1015 Kapsukas - 3201 Kriokialaukis - 341 Kazlų Rūda - 500 Kupiškis - 938 Ukmergė - 993 Utena -1394 Uliūnai -102 Pasvalys - 463 Biržai - 429 Vadokliai - 367 Kalvainiai - 77 Rosalimas - 75 Pakruojis - 370 Anykščiai - 504 Kėdainiai - 831 Pumpėnai - 338 Miežiškiai and Velykiai - 336 Eišiškiai - 456 Ramygala - 218 Smilgiai - 306 Various parishes- 1059 Rokiškis - 735 Veiveriai - 91 Krinčinas - 305 Skriaudžiai -102 Krekanava -184 Vilkaviškis -1372 Jurbarkas -184 Vilnius (St. Nicholas) - 1836 Jurbarkas - 463 Vilnius (Immaculate Conception) Žvėryne - 2257 Kybartai - 1080 Naujamiestis - 384 Simnas - 968 Radviliškis - 550 Sasnava - 222 Taujėnai - 259 Kalesninkai - 70 Šiauliai (St. George) -1814 Šiluva - 837 Šeduva - 592 Veisėjai - 546 Panevėžys (Cathedral) - 4168 Alytus II - 3759
To: Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kaunas and the Diocese of
Vilkaviškis, His Excellency, Liudas Povilonis From: Faithful of the Kybartai Parish
For the past five years, we, the people of Kybartai, in a way which rarely happens to a parish, experienced and suffered painfully many repressions from the government and the KGB.
On May 6,1983, the pastor of our parish, Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, was unjustly accused in Vilnius, and arrested. This was followed by interrogations of believers. The security police grilled about two hundred of the faithful of Kybartai, beginning with children and ending with illiterate grandparents. And not one of us was taken in by the promises of certified KGB agents or became trapped in the nets they spread. On the contrary, with the help of God, we stood the test in such a way that even the security agents themselves were surprised that they could not find "suitable" witnesses in the case of Father Sigitas Tamkevičius.
In this period so painful to our parish, we were greatly helped by Father Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis, who was the associate pastor of our parish. For some time after the arrest of Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, at the direction of Your Excellency, he was our only spiritual leader. For that, we are eternally grateful to you and to him. For no one else at that painful period for the parish of Kybartai showed us such attention and spiritual support as this zealous priest, committed to his vocation. However, in 1984, the KGB arrested Father Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis, together with his helper, Romas Žemaitis, for conscientiously carrying out his duties as a priest. On All Souls' Day, he visited the cemetery in procession. His arrest was followed by a new wave of repression: searches, interrogations and threats.
Inspired by the example the sacrifices of Fathers Alfonsas Svarinskas, Sigitas Tamkevičius and Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis, we resolved and we tried within our capabilities, not to bend to falsehood and deceit, to remain faithful to spiritual values, and not to break under the heavy burden of the trials given us. We prayed God to strengthen us, and our suffering priests.
And this year, thanks to the democratization being carried out in our country, Father Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis was released. October 17, he was discharged from Chita Camp. We rejoiced and thanked God that this priest, whom we all respect, after having suffered so much, will finally be able to return to his homeland, Lithuania, and the earlier scene of his labors, the parish of Kybartai.
However, almost three months have gone by since the return of Father Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis, but he still does not have a permanent place of work. Besides, we still hear the evil rumors of the atheists, vilifying not only Father Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis but also the bishops, saying that Father Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis is an imposter, without Holy Orders, or the necessary education.
Your Excellency, we turn to you, asking you to give your attention to the unusual difficulties which it has been and is the lot of the faithful of Kybartai to experience, and to appoint this zealous priest, Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis, to our parish.
Respectfully and devotedly, The faithful of Kybartai, signed by 801
To: Commissioner for the Council of Religious Affairs of Lithuania,
Petras Anilionis From: The Faithful of the Kybartai Parish
We, the faithful of the parish of Kybartai, in a petition signed by 800 believers, and the pastor, Father A. Sadauskas, appealed to our bishops. In our petition, we called the bishops' attention to the fact that almost three months have passed since Father Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis returned to Lithuania from the labor camp in Chita, rehabilitated by the government.
Based on the fact that until his arrest in 1984, Father Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis worked in the parish in Kybartai as associate pastor, and also knowing him as a zealous priest dedicated to his vocation, we requested the bishop to assign the aforesaid priest to the parish of Kybartai.
On January 10, 1988, a delegation of the faithful, empowered by the parish, submitted a petition to His Excellency, Bishop Preikšas, and received the following verbal reply: "The bishops of Lithuania, regardless of the fact that Father Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis completed the correspondence course seminary, acknowledge him as a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. For this he has the requisite training and Holy Orders from a bishop. His ordination, like the ordination of those who have completed the Theological Seminary in Kaunas, or the correspondence course seminary, is valid, and no re-ordination is necessary. The sacrament of priesthood is conferred once and for all, and is irrevocable.
"As for the appointment of Father Matulionis as Associate Pastor of Kybartai, the bishops for their part have no objection."
However, in this case, you, Honorable Commissioner Anilionis, forbid the bishops to assign priests to parishes at their discretion - a right granted the bishops by the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
Honorable Commissioner, we ask you to explain on what basis you interfere with the Church? On what basis do you distinguish whose ordination to the priesthood is valid, and whose not? Finally, of what value are the resounding words constantly reprinted in the press: "The Church is separated from the state" and "The state does not interefere in the internal affairs of the Church", when reality demonstrates otherwise?
These facts arc shameful and clearly witness how devoid of legal rights today is the Catholic Church in Lithuania.
Honorable Commissioner, we request that you immediately cease the discrimination against our honorable bishops. We the faithful respect and love our bishops and priests, so we cannot reconcile ourselves to a situation in which they are forced to be puppets of the Office of Religious Affairs.
We have defended and we will defend our Church, its bishops and priests. Therefore, if there is further interference in the internal affairs of the Church, and if priests who have completed the correspondence school seminary continue to be ignored, among them, our beloved Father Matulionis, we will seek recourse at higher levels, until the rights of believers guaranteed in the Constitution of the U.S.S.R. are actualized, and the theoretical becomes the real.
January 11,1988 The Faithful of the Kybartai Parish
To: Minister of Defense of the U.S.S.R., Jazov Copies to: The Procurator General of the U.S.S.R.
Commissar Vozgirdas of the Military Commissariat, Vilkaviškis, L.S.S.R.
On November 13, 1984,1 was called up for compulsory military service in the Soviet Army. On November 12,1984, when I reported to the Military Commissariat in Vilkaviškis, two civilians came up to me, right in the induction center, and demanded that 1 come with them. When I refused, they put handcuffs on me by force and, taking me from the induction center, declared that I was under arrest.
The Supreme Court of the L.S.S.R. sentenced me, together with Father Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis, to two years incarceration under Par. 199, 3d, and Par. 201 of the Lithuanian S.S.R. Criminal Code. They accused me of organizing a religious parade, and actively participating in it, as well as resisting an official. I am not guilty of any of the accusations, because:
1.There was no religious parade at all. On November 1, the Solemnity of All Saints, it was not a prade to the cemetery but a devotional procession, clearly indicated in the Ritual of the Roman Catholic Church.
2.No one organizes church ceremonies, including processions. These are not your April or October demonstrations to which it is necessary to herd people with the help of attractive prizes, promises, and threats. Believers go to routine services and to religious solemnities of their own free will, and everyone, beginning with the priest and ending with the smallest believer, knows his place in church and what he is supposed to do during services. No special organization is needed for this, at all. So how could I, an ordinary believer, just eighteen years old, "organize a parade to the cemetery"?
3.1 was accused of resisting an official simply because I blocked Chairman Gudžiūnas of the Kybartai City Executive Committee, when he tried to interfere with the priest performing religious services. In this case, it was Executive Committee Chairman Gudžiūnas who was legally in the wrong, since he had no right to interrupt the priest during religious services, all the more since I used no physical force against the official, nor any offensive language. In such a case, it is the duty of any decent individual, especially a believer, to defend a priest.
In this case, it was I who defended the priest and not someone else because, during the religious services, I was standing nearest to Father Matulionis.
After I finished the two-year prison sentence unjustly meted out to me, I was once again urged on June 9 to report for military service in the Soviet Army. At the appointed time, I arrived at the Military Commissariat in Vilnius where I declared that I would serve in the army, but would not take the oath. For refusing to take the military oath, the staff of the Vilkaviškis City Military Commissariat terrorized me in all sorts of ways, threatening to ship me out to the "polar bears", where life would be more difficult than in camp. One staff member of the Vilkaviškis City Military Commissariat stated outright that those such as I should be shot.
From the Vilkaviškis Military Commissariat they took me to Vilnius. Here, about thirty individuals in mufti and in uniform assembled, and tried for several hours to convince me that I was obliged to take the military oath, since otherwise, I would be criminally liable. When I categorically refused to take the oath, I was released. They did not take me into the army.
On December 6,1987,1 was called up for military service. Once again, I had to undergo the same lectures and terrorizing. Once more, from Vilnius I was returned home. They did not take me into the army. Once again, I had to seek employment and take care of my documents.
On March 25, 1988, I again received an order to report to the Vilkaviškis City Military Commissariat. This time, when I went to the Military Commissariat, I declared that I refused to serve in the Soviet Army. I was led to make this decision by the following circumstances:
1. At this time throughout the Soviet Union, the processes of restructuring and democratization are taking place, but they do not touch the faithful of Lithuania:
a. To date, churches confiscated from the faithful have not been returned (Queen of Peace in Klaipėda, the Cathedral in Vilnius, etc.).
b. Political prisoners are still being held in the Soviet camps (Fathers Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius, Balys Gajauskas, Petras Gražulis, et.al.).
c. Prisoners of conscience who have completed their sentences in Soviet camps continue to be terrorized by KGB agents. (Father Jonas-Kąstytis Matulionis is not allowed to function officially as a priest. Procurators' Offices and Military Commissariats are pulling me back and forth, terrorizing me, threatening me, etc.)
d. Prisoner of conscience Petras Gražulis was beaten by militia officers in the courtroom before my eyes.
2. A dissarray prevails in the Soviet Army, as a result of which innocent people often die needlessly. In November, 1987, a good friend of mine, Ričardas Griškaitis, was brought home from Alma-Ata in a metal casket. They accused this lively, deeply believing young man who perished serving in the Soviet Army in mysterious circumstances, of hanging himself. Oh, the circumstances connected with this case clearly testify that this is absurd. Moreover, I was summoned to the Vilkaviškis City Military Commissariat where Major Spritzin warned me not to make any speeches, either at the grave of the deceased Ričardas Griškaitis, nor in church; otherwise I and those near and dear to Griškaitis would experience unpleasantness. Is this not persecution of believers?
Protesting against these negative incidents, I categorically refuse to serve in the Soviet Army until such time as the process of restructuring and democratization reaches the religious believers of Lithuania. I demand that all prisoners of conscience be rehabilitated publicly, in the press, and this, not sometime sixty years from now after they are dead, as is being done with some victims of the cult of Stalin, but right now, today!
April 4,1988 Romas Žemaitis