CHRONICLE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN LITHUANIA No. 23
A Letter to His Eminence Antonio Cardinal Samore and to His Eminence Josef Cardinal Slipij
A Petition from the Priests of the Archdiocese of Vilnius
Deputy K. Tumėnas Replies to Allegations
A Petition by The Rev. Karolius Garuckas
Letter of Vladas Lapienis to Secretary General Leonid Brezhnev
Appeal of the Faithful of Simnai
The Defense of The Rev. Juozas Zdebskis
NIJOLĖ SADŪNAITĖ IN PRISON CAMP
June 13, 1976
To the Beloved Shepherds of the Roman Catholic Church and Friends of Lithuania1
His Eminence Cardinal Antonio Samore
His Eminence Cardinal Josef Slipij
1Cardinal Samore, an influential official in the Vatican, served in the Vatican Legation in Lithuania in the prewar years and is considered a great friend of Lithuania. Cardinal Slipij, leader of the Ukrainian Catholics, served many years in Soviet prisons. He was in the same prison cell with the Lithuanian priest, Pranas Radiunas (see note 3 below).
Our nation on its way to Golgotha—in the Gulag Archipelago, Siberia, and in exile in the Western world—has met many remarkable personages. Some of them have extended a hand of physical and moral assistance, while others by their personal example and heroic suffering strengthened our nation's resolve to struggle for God and for the most elementary human rights. To those noble spirits we are grateful, and we pray the Most High to grant them every kind of blessing.
Among those good friends of ours are you, honorable shepherds. Today, as we continue our life-and-death struggle for victory, oppressed as we are with difficulties, we wish to open our hearts to you. We trust you will hear and understand us.
TO OUR BELOVED IRISH BRETHREN:
On May 12, 1976 ,the Vatican Radio broadcast in Lithuanian the good news that in March, a group of Catholics in Ireland tried to submit through the Soviet embassy in Dublin a petition to the Soviet government concerning the persecution of Catholics in Lithuania.
The Soviet embassy refused the petition, and the Irish Catholic group, after reciting the rosary at the gates of the Soviet embassy, dispersed. The rejected petition was published the following day in the capital city's press.
The Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, in the name of the entire nation of Lithuanian faithful, cordially thanks the Irish for the moral support to the Catholics of Lithuania, who are waging a life-and-death struggle against so-called militant atheism, which is supported by the gigantic machinery of the government.
What terrible hypocrisy comes to light when we hear how the Soviet newspapers constantly proclaim that the Soviet Union supports the nationalists of Africa, when at the same time they ship to Siberia Lithuanians who love their own nation, shut them up in psychiatric hospitals, refuse to register them after they are released from camps, and throw them out of work. The Soviet press proclaims that the Soviet Union is assisting the Catholics of Northern Ireland by all possible means, including arms. At the same time in Lithuania the Catholic Church is mercilessly being crushed: Our venerable historic and artistic churches are being converted into warehouses and museums: e.g., the Cathedral of Vilnius—a picture gallery, the Church of St. Casimir—a museum of atheism. The morality of the nation is being destroyed, and the character of Lithuania is being damaged.
To: Secretary General of the Central Committee of the CPSU Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Soviet Union
Copies: From:1. Council of Ministers of Lithuania
2. Deputy of the Council for Religious Affairs of the
3. Leaders of the Dioceses of Lithuania
Priests of the Archdiocese of Vilnius
The Penal Code of the Lithuanian SSR, speaking of exile (Paragraph 27), banishment (Par. 18), and the abrogation of the right to carry out certain duties or to do certain kinds of work (Par. 30), says that "exile is meted out as the basic punishment as well as a supplementary punishment and is set at two to five years; banishment—from one to five years; the abrogation of the right to carry out certain duties or to do certain kind of work—also from one to five years. In Addition, the Code of Penal Procedure of the Lithuanian SSR states: "Justice in criminal cases will be meted out exclusively by the court" (Par. 11).
How are we to understand the requirements of these codes, when it is the sixteenth year since the Ordinary of the Arch diocese of Vilnius, Bishop Julijonas Steponavičius, has been relieved of his duties without court action and for unknown reasons and sent to live far beyond the boundaries of the archdiocese, in Žagarė?1
This year, Deputy of the Council for Religious Affairs Kazimieras Tumėnas began to "enlighten and educate" the bishops, the administrators of dioceses, and ecclesiastical deans. In February he gave a lecture at the diocesan chancery of Telšiai; on Fabruary 18, at the chancery of the Archdiocese of Kaunas; on March 18, at the chancery of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys; and on April 17, at the chancery of Panevėžys.
In his lectures, Tumėnas attacked the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania.
Tumėnas explained that relations between state and Church are improving. There are problems and difficulties, but these can be resolved.
Long experience shows that the Soviet government will maintain good relations with the Church only when the latter capitulates. At the present time, vital problems of the Church are going unresolved; e.g., the publication of catechisms, the question of the seminary, etc.; only new ways of destroying the Church are being sought.
As Tumėnas sees it, villages are shrinking and consideration should be given to the consolidation of parishes. However, he did not say that with urban expansion, consideration should also be given to the construction of new churches; for example, in the suburbs of Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai, Panevėžys, Alytus, and other cities. In the development of Lazdynai in Vilnius there are 40,000 people, and there is no church.
Tumėnas admitted that at times officials act badly, tactlessly.
To: The Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Com-Communist Party of the Soviet Union1
The Representative of the Council for Religious Affairs of the Soviet Union
The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR The Deputy of the Council for Religious Affairs of Lithuania The Chanceries of the Dioceses of the Church in Lithuania
From: The Rev. Karolis Garuckas2 resident of the Rayon of Ignalina, Village of Ceikiniai
The Soviet press quite often carries antireligious articles. Some are personal in nature, while others are written by officials as if to explain Soviet laws. Among the latter should be included the article by the Deputy of the Council for Religious Affairs, K. Tumėnas, "Freedom of Conscience and Soviet Law" (Tiesa, November 22, 1974). This article raises a number of questions because reality shows something quite different.
1According to the editors of the Chronicle, this letter has been abbreviated slightly. Several concrete examples of regime pressure on the church have been ommitted.
2The author of this letter The Rev. Karolis Garuckas, is among the more prominent dissident priests, a member of the Lithuanian group to monitor the implementation of the Helsinki accords.
To: Leonid Brezhnev, Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Honorable Leonid Ilych,1
I address this letter to you in the hope that your personal intervention will help me to receive the justice which I have been unsuccessful in getting from the appropriate levels of appeal.
On November 20, 1973, agents of the State Security Committee of the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR (the KGB) seized from my home many books of a religious nature. The seizure of the books was in gross violation of Paragraph 192 of the Code of Penal Procedure of the Lithuanian SSR because not all the books were included in offical record of the search. Not one of the bags into which the books were placed was sealed. When I wrote a complaint to the Chairman of the KGB of the Lithuanian SSR and to the Prosecutor General of the USSR, I was promised that those books unconnected with the criminal case (What case? Against whom ? I have not found out to this day.) would be returned.
After two years, on December 3, 1975, a security agent, Captain Marcinkevičius, returned some of the books seized from me and gave me a receipt to sign. When I requested a copy of this list, Marcinkevičius refused, explaining that only one copy had been signed. In truth, however, a second copy was on the office desk. Thus Paragraph 192 of the same Code of Penal Procedure was again transgressed since I needed a list of the books being returned to document whether I had received back all the books on the list2.
1The author of the letter, Vladas Lapienis, has been active in the religious dissent movement; his activities have been reported in the Chronicle (see, for example, No. 11, 15). According to the report of the Lithuanian group to monitor the implementation of the Helsinki accords Lapienis was arrested in Vilnius on October 19, 1976, and was charged with "duplicating and distributing religious and 'slanderous' literature".
2Printed at the end of this letter.
To: K. Tumėnas, Deputy for Religious Affairs, Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian S.S.R.
Copy to: Bishop L. Povilonis, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Kaunas
Statement of the Catholics of the Parish of Simnas
In the fall of 1975, the large parish of Simnas lost a priest — a curate—who was transferred on the order of the government. Only one priest — the pastor — was left to take care of the religious needs of the faithful. We have not been able to get another priest.
There are 85 parishes in Lithuania already, which do not have a permanent priest. In our diocese alone, there is no permanent priest in five parishes (Laukeliškiai, Patilčiai, Išlaužas, Riečiai and N. Uta).
Last year, after a long delay, by permission of the government, twelve candidates were accepted for the seminary; however during that same year, nineteen priests died in Lithuania. Two years ago, twenty-two priests died. Hence, the injury by the government to the faithful of Lithuania is obvious.
To: Bishop L. Povilonis, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Kaunas and the Diocese of Vilkaviškis
On March 10 of this year, the Rev. J. Zdebskis, pastor of Šlavantai, was detained in Vilnius by the militia, and, with the aid of the Commission of Medical Workers, was charged with drunken driving. Since Zdebskis is known everywhere as a strict teetotaler and a fighter against alcoholism this event cannot be seen as anything but a well-thought-out threat against the authority of the priest. No one can assure us, that if this attempt suceeds, any one of us will not be similarly charged with theft, profligacy or other crimes.
We the priests of the neighboring parishes request Your Excellency to react to this event so that the injured authority of the priest would be reaffirmed.
Signed by Five Priests of the Lazdijai Deanery
To the Head of the Security Committee of LSSR
Statement of the Faithful of the Parish of Šlavantai (District of Lazdija)
On March 10, 1975, in the city of Vilnius, Vilnius Automotive Inspection Officer Turevich detained our parish priest Juozas Zdebskis, who was driving a car, and declared him drunk. He demanded that the priest go to a psychiatric hospital to determine the degree of drunkenness.
At the above mentioned institution, without a blood analysis being made, even though the priest himself demanded one, a report affirming drunkenness was made. The VAI took away his driver's license and the rayon newspaper published a news item that a priest had been detained in Vilnius for drunken driving.
Another Victim Claimed by the Grave ...
Early in the morning of October 30, 1975, while it was still dark, near the ferry to Aleksotas in Kaunas, a killer lurked, impatient to fulfill his mission . . .
(Miss) Stasė Lukšaitė came down the wooden steps on the Aleksotas hillside on her way to church. The killer, waiting for a convenient moment when no one was around, fell upon his victim like a hungry wild beast. . . He threw her down, cruelly wounded her, and ran away, leaving his half-dead victim lying in a pool of blood near the stairs . ..
She was taken to the hospital where an attempt was made to save her life. However, because she was wounded too severely and had lost so much blood (There was hardly any part of her body not wounded, especially the head.), her noble soul departed on November 5 . . . She was received by Him, Whom she faithfully served all her life.
She was buried on November 7 in the Viduklė cemetery.
Her remains were accompanied to the place of eternal rest by many people and a crowd of small children with flowers in their hands. They brought flowers for her who loved them very much and taught them.
(Excerpts from her letters)
" .... I am grateful to those through whose efforts I find myself here. I learned much and I experienced much and all this has been useful. After all, the good God. knows best what I need" . ..
"In six days it will be half a year since they took me from Vilnius, but it all seems such a short time ago, as if it were yesterday. And everything remains before my eyes — my "honor" guard, sharers of my fate, of whom there were many (they were all criminals, I was the only political prisoner), the last farewell look at the city, or rather at the train station, and the whole "romance" of the journey, which is indescribable — it must be experienced in order to feel life and to understand the necessity and value of love. I have the possibility of living through this romance a second time— when they take me into exile. And you can only envy me for this, although that is not necessary—all this is not for people in your physical condition.
"And how good it is that the small boat of our life is steered by the hand of a good Father. When He is at the wheel—nothing is frightening. Then, no matter how hard life becomes, you will know how to fight and to love. And I can say that the year 1975 has flown by like the wink of an eye, but it has been my joy. I thank the Good God for it."
"There is not much dust in our work area, although the material from which we sew gloves gives forth fibre glass dust. The work is tiring in its monotony, and when the frequent mechanical breakdowns are added, it requires patience. The mechanic does not come every day, often we have to wait until they are repaired, but our quota does not wait. . . ." (70 pairs of gloves per day have to be sewn.)
Vilnius. On February 15, 1976 there were special services in many of the churches of the archdiocese of Vilnius for Bishop J. Steponavičius in rememberance of his name day (February 16) and the 16th anniversary of his exile.
Vilnius. In May, 1976, a delegation of priests from the Soviet Union, organized by the KGB, visited the U.S.A. Taking part were priests from Lithuania: The Rev. Stanislovas Lydys, Pastor of the
Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, in Vilnius, and the Chancellor of the Diocese of Panevėžys, The Rev. Vladas Rabašauskas. What mission they had to accomplish could best be judged by Lithuanians abroad.
Vilnius. On May 5, 1976 at about 10:30 p.m. (Mrs.) Jadvyga Petkevičienė, (residing in Šiauliai, Lenino 42-1) a nurse at the Šiauliai Maternity Home, was detained aboard the Kaliningrad-Moscow train in the Vilnius railroad station. The arrest was supervised by Major of Security J. Markevičius. Mrs. Petkevičienė was taken from the train to the Vilnius Department of Transport Militia. In the presence of two members of Security and Inspector of the Militia Children's Room, Angelė Purickienė, a minute personal search was made. According to the statement of Major Markevičius, the purpose of the search was to find literature with an anti-Soviet content, items and documents necessary for a case. Inspector Purickienė stripped the detained woman in the presence of two invited witnesses, G. Sklerova and A. Lozenko, and thoroughly checked her clothing, her shoes, looked even at the soles of her feet, but found nothing "anti-Soviet". Major Markevičius interrogated Mrs. Petkevičienė about her reason for going to Moscow, reproved her for her presence at the Vilnius Supreme Court during the days of Sergei Kovalev's trial, for her meetings with the people from Moscow, etc. He also expressed his disapproval of the detained woman's husband, Jonas Petkevičius, a former political prisoner, for his past and his present activities.
Vilnius. The students of the Grade VII d of the High School No. 41 in Vilnius decided to commemorate the 16th of February (Lithuanian Independence Day — Tr. Note). It was suggested that the students come to school that day wearing traditional Lithuanian ties instead of the pioneer neckties. Some of the students wrote slogans such as "Freedom for Lithuania!" on the houses.
Student A. Nagrockytė told her parents the plans of the class, and they passed all the news on to Security, where they are employed.
On February 17, Security Agent Kazlauskas came to the High School No. 41. Home Room teacher (Mrs.) Nijolė Varnienė of Grade VII d, Nijolė Varnienė, and all the teachers who taught grade VI d that day (Živilė Baltaduonienė, Gražina Kazlauskienė, Janina Petkevičienė, and others) were interrogated. Security was very actively assisted by Principal Vytautas Banevičius and Extra-Cur-ricular Activity Organizer, (Mrs.) Petkevičienė.
At the end of the trimester, during the meeting of the faculty, besides educational matters, this matter was also deliberated. Students Vytautas Jusevičius and Albinas Prakelis were interrogated by the principal himself, in the presence of all the teachers. The conduct mark of the more active students was lowered, and Home Room Teacher (Mrs.) Nijolė Varnienė, received a written reprimand for poorly performed work.