On June 30, 1988, the Deans of the Archdiocese of Kaunas and the Diocese of Vilkaviškis were summoned to the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Kaunas for their annual meeting with the Commissioner for Religious Affairs, Petras Anilionis.
Anilionis, after announcing that this year his traditional lecture to the deans would not take place, suggested that they have a general discussion on questions of mutual concern. Anilionis himself began by explaining that cemetery memorial markers had already been ordered, if citizens so desired to inscribe religious symbols officially on grave markers, something which had been heretofor forbidden to government craftsmen; nor are government agencies forbidden to accept orders for cemetery crosses.
The Commissioner tried to convince the deans that it is now very easy and proper to deed parish structures — rectories erected in the priests' name -- to the state, which commits itself to rent them to ministers of the Church.
To the question whether restructuring would effect Church-state relations: specifically whether Fathers Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevičius
The Cathedral of Vilnius as an art gallery.
would remain in prison, Anilionis replied that this question is under consideration, but that a whole list of responsible officials is still against the release of these priests. "You must understand that just as you have your extremists, we have in our midst atheist extremists, with whom it is also not easy to reason," the Commissioner apologized.
During the meeting, the deans did not place too much credence in the magnanimity shown by Commissioner Anilionis (time will tell); the questions concerned economic matters.
At the end of May, 1988, the Chancery of the Archdiocese of Vilnius received a communication from the Commissioner for Religious Affairs, Petras Anilionis, in which it was announced that petitions by the faithful, addressed to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Moscow, requesting that the Cathedral of Vilnius - presently an art gallery - be returned, have been returned from Moscow to him. In his letter, Anilionis affirms that at the present time, there is no possibility of responding positively to the request.
On May 22, 1988, at 3:00 P.M., pensive and somber residents of Vilnius and their guests assembled in Gediminas Square to commemorate and
August 23, 1987 demonstration in Vilnius.
honor the victims of the 1948 deportation of those who lie in mass graves at eternal rest in the ground of Siberia, or along the shores of the Arctic Ocean. (On May 21, at the Angarietis Monument, the victims were officially commemorated.)
Hardly had some spoken and 'he national hymn been sung, when from the loudspeakers, the words poured out, "Along the Nemunas, another morning has already dawned..." and militia officers demanded that the crowd disperse immediately. The terrifying past rose before the peoples' eyes, while loud music turned on by government officials reverberated through the square at the highest decibels. By the efforts of the KGB and the militia, the crowd was dispersed in a few minutes.
So even in these days of proclaimed democratization, this surprises us less than the behavior of some parish priests. All of Lithuania, even the unbelievers, knew that the evening of May 22, the commemorations of the murdered and deceased victims of the 1948 persecutions would take place the evening of May 22 in all the churches.
However, in many churches, especially in the cities, this was not announced, and still, people assembled in the churches in greater numbers than usual. This is especially to be said of such centers of devotion and Lithuanian spirit as the Church of Saint Nicholas in Vilnius, or the Cathedral of Kaunas.
Why did the priests keep quiet? Without reason, it appears. Since by the government's own efforts a suitable commemoration was arranged, is this alleged humility good for us?
That memorable evening, the faithful asked of the priests only prayer, prayer for their relatives and fellow countrymen who died so far from their homeland. During every funeral Mass we pray: "It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead."
Why did we not want to pray together for thousands of our fellow countrymen whose bones were scattered throughout the vast wasteland of Siberia?
In the Cathedral of Kaunas, the speaker chose his words most eloquently. There was not the least mention what intention Holy Mass was being offered for. After services, the organ played musical variations for a long time. The people did not disperse. When the organ fell silent, the faithful who packed the cathedral prayed together for the dead, and sang the Lithuanian National Anthem.
Heedless of the rain which had started, the victims of Stalinism were commemorated at the tomb of Maironis as well.
On May 22,1988, in the seminary chapel in Kaunas, the spiritual director urged the seminarians to remember in prayer the victims of Stalin deported forty years previously. For the first time since 1944, the national anthem of independent Lithuania was sung in the seminary chapel.
Žagarė (Joniškis Rayon)
At the beginning of February, 1988, the Pastor of Žagarė, Father Gustavas Gudanavičius, was summoned to the procurator's office in Joniškis. The rayon procurator warned Father Gudanavičius for signing an appeal to people of good-will world-wide on the occasion of February 16, and threatened that for such activity, he could be sentenced to ten years of imprisonment.
At the end of March, 1988, parish committee members of the rayon were summoned to the offices of the Executive Committee. This time, the Commissioner for Religious Affairs, Petras Anilionis himself, "educated" them. After singing the praises of Soviet freedom of conscience and religion, the Commissioner fell to attacking what the government calls extremist priests, among them, Father Rokas Puzonas and Father Petras-Kąstytis Krikščiukaitis. The Commissioner was disturbed because the aforesaid priests, in carrying out religious ministrations, several times visited churches of the rayon in Rudamina and
A religious procession in Alytus II parish.
Leipalingis. Nor was he pleased by the words of Robertas Grigas spoken during a funeral in Leipalingis: "Even though they have to cut me to pieces, nevertheless we will speak - under today's conditions in the Soviet Union, there is no freedom of religion!"
Commissioner Anilionis demanded that in the future, church committees not allow such individuals as Father Rokas Puzonas or young Robertas Grigas to speak not only in church, but at the cemetery, otherwise, he would penalize the religious associations themselves.
On May 5, 1988, members of the Alytus II church committee, V. Alekna and S. Bendoravičius, went to the Office of the Council for Religious Affairs in Vilnius to learn the government's decision regarding the expansion of the church building. They were received by Vice Commissioner Jozėnas, who stated that this question would be decided by the L.S.S.R. Council of Ministers. At the Council of Ministers, the chief of the reception room, Visockas, and official Koroblova explained to members of the committee that the question really would be decided by the Council of Ministers, and believers could know the decision the evening of May 5 at the headquarters of the Alytus Rayon Executive Committee.
At the Executive Committee, no specific answer was obtained. The explanation was given that the question must be decided by the local government, or even Moscow. In the opinion of the rayon government, it is not necessary to enlarge the church of Alytus II since the church of Alytus I is not full, especially in the winter. (The Alytus I church is not heated.)
The solution suggested by the Executive Committee: believers, do not be afraid of a little cold or of travelling to more distant churches.
At the beginning of February 1988, brigade leader Algis Sakalauskas of the Kirsna Communal Farm summoned the people of his brigade and asked them to sign some sort of paper. Sakalauskas declared that it was a document requesting the appointment of a new priest to Rudamina. According to him, the priest had already been appointed and the only thing needed was to collect the signatures of people to testify that they really need a priest.
February 13,1988, the rayon newspaper, Work Flag, published the petition from the residents of the Kirsna Communal Farm. In the petition, there is an angry attack on the faithful who gathered February 5 from all corners of Lithuania to the church in Rudamina to commemorate and pray for the late Father Juozas Zdebskis on the second anniversary of his death. An attempt is made to accuse them of extremist attacks, having nothing in common with the commemoration of the deceased. The threat is being made that in the future such commemorations will not be tolerated.
Twenty-seven signatures were collected from people by means of a ruse to someone's statement written in bad faith at the instigation of brigade leader Sakalauskas.
That day in the church of Rudamina, Holy Mass was offered, a sermon was preaached and prayers were said at the grave of Father Zdebskis.
On May 22, 1988, at about 11:00 A.M., in Vilnius, not far from the Church of St. Nicholas, three individuals in civilian dress jumped up to Nijole Sadunaite and, without submitting any identification, twisted her arms, pushed her by force into a Zhiguliautomobile. (One of the officials had already driven Nijolė Sadūnaitė about the forest of Lithuania and Byelorussia for about thirty hours on August 28 - 29,1987, without a warrant.)
This time, in Russian, they threatened to take her to Kolyma, and to drown her in the river. At Nijole Sadūnaitė's apartment (Architektų 27-2) three more men awaited them, one militiaman and two civilians. When Nijolė demanded that they produce papers and a warrant for her arrest, the militia officer promised to produce everything in ten minutes. Throughout the whole day, however, even though Nijolė Sadūnaitė telephoned the KGB and the militia, who promised to clear everything up immediately, no one ever did produce the promised papers.
Nijolė Sadūnaitė twice wanted to go out into the yard, but they would not let her. When she tried to go, they knocked her down on the steps.
At about 6:00 P.M., they disconnected her telephone and kept it disconnected until 9:00 P.M. Until 9:00 P.M., Miss Sadūnaitė was kept under house arrest without cause. That very day, she directed a petition to U.S.S.R. Procurator General Rakunkov, demanding that he apprehend and punish those who "crudely violate the most elementary human rights guaranteed by the Constitution and by the Helsinki Final Act."
On June 8,1988, Nijolė Sadūnaitė was again rudely detained. As she left the house, two men leaped out of a Zhiguli automobile, of which one was KGB Major Bimbyris. The chekists, pushing Miss Sadūnaitė by force into the automobile, took her to the Republic KGB Division. Major Bimbyris kept Miss Sadūnaitė there for over an hour, from time to time suggesting that she leave the country.
All day long, Nijolė Sadūnaitė was followed openly by KGB agents. On June 9,1988, Miss Sadūnaitė appealed to Communist Party of the Soviet Union General Secretary Gorbachev. In her petition she writes: "What is the reason for such nervousness on the part of the KGB... Perhaps it is the fact that I am one of the organizers of the rally commemorating the forty-seventh anniversary of the mass deportations to Siberia? About 40,000 inhabitants of Lithuania became victims of deportations. Lately in the press, much is being written, saying that it is necessary to indicate the specific enemies of restructuring and democratization. Please restrict the arbitrariness of the Lithuanian KGB."
On April 24, 1988, psychotherapist Gutmanas was giving citizens of Šiauliai a lecture on hypnosis. During the lecture, he gave a demonstration of hypnosis. He told people on stage selected from the audience and under hypnosis to look at a child apparently climbing up a rope. Later, throwing a rope toward them, he warned them that it was a snake; he told them to eat bread which wasn't there, etc. The hypnotized subjects would obey, reacting accordingly.
After these tricks, psychotherapist Gutmanas declared that the miracles of Jesusand Moses rested on just such a foundation: the ascension into heaven, the transforming of a staff into a snake, or the miraculous multiplication of loaves. To arguments from the audience that those who are hypnotized do not remember later what they did under hypnosis, while the Apostles, witnesses of the miracles of Jesus, on the contrary, talked about them, wrote about them, the lecturer had nothing specific to answer, just as he had not to the reminder that after the miraculous multiplication of the loaves, from five loaves of bread twelve measures of remnants were collected.
After the lecture, psychotherapist Gutmanas, pressed by his listeners, explained that with such tricks he is trying to "improve the authority of atheism, which has compromised itself, and up until now, basically inculcated by administrative methods."
In February 1988, Administrator Kazimieras Dulksnys of the Diocese of Panevėžys, Chancellor K. Juodelis, pastor of Ramygala Father K. Baronas, the pastor of Uliūnai Father R. Pukenis, addressed a petition to the Chairman of the Executive Committee. In the petition, it states:
"With the spread of democratization, we come to you with a request. Allow us to repair the shrine in Barklainiai."
The shrine, standing on an archeological monument, the fortress-hill of Barklaičiai, is neglected. After making repairs to the shrine at the expense of the religious associations and cleaning up its environs, the old architecture of the village and a beautiful bit of nature would be saved. In this way, we would contribute to the realization of the purposes of the culture fund.
The shrine is very necessary to the local residents for the waking of their deceased, so that participants in funerals would not have to travel too far: 11 km. to the church in Ramygala or 5 km. to Uliūnai.
With permission granted to use the little chapel, a priest could perform the funeral rites on the spot. About 150 residents of the Village of Barklainiai supported the peition with their signatures.
On June 19,1988, the faithful of the parish of Velykiai sent the rayon government a similar petition. In the petition for the same purpose, the faithful request the return of the little chapel in their district (confiscated who knows when). The request was signed by 543 persons.