A Statement by the Catholic Religious Community of Žalioji Addressed to the Deputy of the Committee for Religious Affairs. Copy to the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian S.S.R.
The Catholic religious community (parish) of Žalioji was registered October 4, 1948, by Bronius Pusinis, Deputy of the Committee for Religious Affairs. It continued to operate until January 28, 1963. Despite the protests of the faithful, and the fact that the church was attended in great numbers by the faithful, the religious community of Žalioji was abolished and the church was arbitrarily closed by S. Rogov, Vice Chairman of the Rayon of Vilkaviškis. This can be confirmed by the priests and faithful of neighboring parishes. What an obvious offense against Soviet law concerning religious cults and freedom of conscience, to carry out all one's deceitful plans without the consent of the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian S.S.R., and moreover to send the militia, with District Chairman Makšriūnas, to Chairman Kazys Mažeika, to confiscate the parish seals!
The parish chairman, seeing the armed militia and the Chairman of the district, became frightened. Thinking that they had come to arrest him. Rogov himself had earlier threatened with prison anyone defending the Church. Before surrendering the seals, Mažeika demanded a written statement that the seals were being taken from him.
Chairman Mekšriūnas drafted a response and left it with Mažeika. Thus the religious community of Žalioji, although it has been guilty of no offense against Soviet law, was finally liquidated by administrative decision, with the help of the militia. What a brutal violation of the basic rights of the faithful! Based on the law, every Soviet citizen is free to decide for himself or herself his or her attitude towards religion and the Church, and not ex-vice-chairman Rogov. And with the help of the militia to boot! Why did Deputy for Religious Affairs Rugienis, and the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian S.S.R. allow Soviet law to be broken, and freedom of religion and conscience to be repressed?
We, the Faithful of the Parish of Žalioji are bound in conscience to demand that our right be restored to have our own religious community, with its own executive body at its head, and to get back our church, which was taken from us. The Helsinki Accord, which was signed by the leader of the Soviet delegation,
Leonid Brezhnev, obliges all to respect the rights of the human being, and his religious convictions.
Žalioji, Rayon of Vilkaviškis Signed by 124 of the faithful of Žalioji February 25, 1977
On April 19, 1977, two representatives of the faithful of Žalioji, (Mrs.) K. Bubnaitienė and (Mrs.) T. Kaminskienė took this petition to Deputy Tumėnas, of the Committee for Religious Affairs. After reading the petition, the Deputy asked why the seals had been surrendered, and why they allowed the church to be closed. The women explained that they had been forced to do so by the militia. The Deputy tried to explain that in 1963, churches in Lithuania were not being closed by force. At the end of the interview, Tumėnas concluded that the Parish of Žalioji had been treated unjustly, and promised to send a reply in May through his representative.
To: Comrade Noreikienė, Vice-Chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Rayon of Šakiai Copies to: His Excellency, Bishop L. Povilonis His Excellency, Bishop V. Sladkevičius His Excellency, Bishop J. Steponavičius His Excellency, Bishop R. Krikščiūnas Dean of Šakiai, the Rev. J. Žemaitis Commissioner for Religious Affairs Tumėnas The Chairwoman of the District of Griškabūdis
A PETITION BY THE REV. PRANAS RAČIŪNAS, PASTOR OF THE PARISH OF PALUOBIAI
On February 10, 1977, I was summoned to Šakiai to take part in a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Commission on Observance of the Laws of Cult, of your Rayon,at which you presided. Also taking part in the meeting were: the Prosecutor of the Rayon of Šakiai, the Head of the Financial Section of the Rayon of Šakiai, Danyla, the Secretary of the District of Griškabūdis and some individuals unknown to me.
The first time the rayon authorities lectured" me was several years ago, regarding why I allowed school-age girls to scatter flowers during a religious procession. This question was passed on by the rayon authorities to J. Rugienis, Commissioner for Religious Affairs of the Lithuanian S.S.R. I was told that the girls could make use of the freedom of worship guaranteed by the Soviet Constitution, only after they reached the age of eighteen.
Last year 1 was questioned by the aforesaid commission about the presence of eleven beds in the rectory of Paluobiai. I inquired how many beds, inflatable mattresses and folding cots Soviet law allows in a rectory. I received no answer to this question.
On the same occasion I had to explain why, without permission of the Rayon Executive Committee, I put up four panels of wall-board in the attic of the rectory without permission of the Rayon Executive Committee. It was explained to me that without permission of theRayon Executive Committee, I had no right even to drive a nail in the church or rectory.
This time I was blamed for breaking the Soviet law regarding cult, I had on several occasions allowed a Catholic priest who did not have the so-called registration of a minister of cult issued by the government, to hold services in the church at Paluobiai. They demanded that I explained writing. In performance of that obligation, I reply:
The requirements and regulations forbidding a priest in good standing with the Church to hold services in a house of prayer is contrary to:
1) The Constitution of the Soviet Union, Par. 124.
2) Canon 1260 of the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic
3) Par. 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
4)Obligations imposed by the Helsinki Final Act on Peace, Security and Cooperation
5)For interference with the performance of rites of worship, Par. 145 of the Criminal Code of the Lithuanian SSR provides a penalty of up to one year of jail.
First of all I wish to call your attention to the fact that in the new agreeement between the Parish Council of Paluobiai and the Executive Committee of the Rayon of Šakiai no obligation is assumed, not to allow a person not having a government license as a minister of cult, to hold services in the church of Paluobiai.
The requirement to obtain permission of the Rayon of Šakiai to hold services in church or the denial of permission to a priest in good standing to hold services is in direct contradiction to:
1) Paragraph 124 of the Constitution of the Soviet Union. The Constitution states: "The right of carrying out religious worship and anti-religious propaganda is acknowledge for all citizens. Notice that it says "all", and not just those who have the permission of the RayonExecutive Committee or a license.
2)It is contrary to the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church. In the Soviet Union, the Church is separate from the state, and so the right of deciding where, when, how, and by whom worship services may be performed belongs not to officials of the Soviet government, but to the leadership of the Church. This is confirmed by the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church (Canon 1260): "Only the ecclesiastical superior has jurisdiction over clergy performing the rites of worship."
3)It is in direct contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: "Everyone had the right of freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes . . . freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. (Par. 18) Hence any refusal to allow a priest who has not transgressed ecclesiastial discipline, to hold services is a clear transgression of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
4)It is in direct contradiction to the Helsinki agreements. The Final Accord of the Conference on Peace, Security and Cooperation, which took place in Helsinki July 30-August 1, 1975, was signed by Leonid Brezhnev in the name of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Part VII, entitled "Respect for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Including the Freedom of Thought, Conscience, Religion or Belief states: "The participating States will respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.. . . Within this framework the participating States will recognize and respect the freedom of the individual to profess and practice, alone or in community with others, religion or belief acting in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience." (That is, in accordance with the dictates of conscience, and not with the permission of the Rayon Executive Committee—my comment) "The participating States recognize the universal significance of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for which is an essential factor for the peace, justice and well-being necessary to ensure the development of friendly relations and co-operations among themselves as among all States."
In Section X of this declaration, entitled "Fulfillment in Good Faith of Obligations under International Law, it states:
"The participating States will fulfill in good faith their obligations under international law, both those obligations arising from the generally recognized principles and rules of international law and those obligations arising from treaties or other agreements, in conformity with international law, to which they are parties ....
"All the principles set forth above are of primary significance and, accordingly, they will be equally and unreservedly applied, each of them being interpreted taking into account the others."
Hence, with these basic obligations of the Soviet Union to its own people and to foreign governments, which she has promised to keep strictly and conscientiously, belongs the right not only individually, but also with other citizens, freely to carry out obligations of worship.
Article 30 (of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) states:
"Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any state, group of person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein."
5) For interfering with the performance of rites of worship, the Criminal Code of the Lithuanian SSR provides various penalties. The Criminal Code of the Lithuanian SSR, Par. 145, states:
"Interference with the performance of religious rites, insofar as these do not disrupt the public order and are not involved with designs on the rights of citizens, is punishable by imprisonment of up to one year, or to corrective labor for the same period of time, or a fine of up to one hundred rubles."
In explanation of this paragraph, Chairman Puzinas of the Council on Religious Affairs with the Council of Ministers of the USSR, in his lecture of August 5, 1965, in the courses on atheistic education for party workers of the Russian Federation says, among other things:
"Any administrative measure or other actions interfering with the free performance of religious ceremonies, may be used only in exceptional cases (during an epidemic or the like), and must be explained in understandable fashion to all, and based on the law.
"Organs of local government, in making decisions, concerned with religious ceremonies, sometimes posits formal demands, which are a serious obstacle to the carrying out of those ceremonies. In this category are requirements every citizen to submit petitions regarding the desire to carry out this or that service, or to submit various licenses and other documents, (my emphasis). The positing of all kinds of chancery — bureaucratic obstacles of an administrative nature has no foundation in law. Believers interpret this as deliberate prevarication and this only arouses their dissatisfaction and annoyance."
Therefore in strict adherence to the Criminal Code of the Lithuanian SSR, this paragraph ought to be applied to officials of the Rayon administration directly contravening this law. It is not he who allows a citizen to carry out rites of worship who breaks the law, but he who interferes.
Moreover, in the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference it is stated: "In implementing their sovereign rights, including the right to pass their own laws and establish their own administrative rules, they will conform them to their legal obligations according to international law; they will, moreover, pay fitting attention to the rules of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and implement them."
However, the order of July 28, 1976, No. IX-748, "Rules for Religious Associations", ratified by the Praesidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR, is a new, blatant act of discrimination against the faithful, expressed in the form of law.
As I have already mentioned, the Constitution of the Soviet Union as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims the right of everyone to disseminate his or her beliefs and to carry out rites of worship without any limitation. However, Paragraph 19 of the earlier mentioned regulations says, "The area of activity of the minister of worship, preacher or the like is limited to the dwelling place of the members of the religious association which they serve and the location of the appropriate house of prayer."
It is apparent that the authorities of the Rayon of Sakiai, based on this regulation, will want in the future to interfere with the free performance of the rites of worship.
Such a regulation completely ignores the strict requirements of Christ and the Church: "Go into the world and preach the gospel to all mankind." (Mk 16, 15) "Go then to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples . . ." (Mt. 28, 19) Canon 1329 says, "It is the special and very serious duty, especially of pastors of souls to take care of the catechetical instruction of the Christian people."
The aforesaid regulations of the Supreme Soviet completely ignore the gravest demands of conscience of Catholics, and especially of priests. Christian morality obliges every priest, regardless of any territorial boundaries, even at the risk of his own life, to minister the sacraments of Baptism, Penance and the Sacraments of the Sick to those who find themselves in danger of death. Such a prohibition, seen just from a humanitarian viewpoint, and all the more from the viewpoint of faith, is the most insensitive kind of disregard for the beliefs of the majority of the people of Lithuania, and even of the entire world, and the worst kind of ridicule of all believers, and especially of Christians.
The clergy of Lithuania see these regulations as a preparation to supress completely the pastoral activity of the Catholic clergy and as a plan of the atheists of Lithuania to introduce a system such as that in the Belorussian Republic, where these regulations are fully applied in various places. The aforesaid official regulations of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR are a clear proof of how terribly freedom of conscience and freedom of religion are infringed in our republic.
Until the present Constitution of the Soviet Union and the aforesaid serious international obligations of the Soviet Union are repealed, Instruction No. IX-748 (July 28, 1976) of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR has no juridical force.
Therefore your requirement not to allow priests in good standing to hold services in the church of Paluobiai and to ask your permission each time to hold worship services, I consider unconstitutional, in contravention to Canon Law, universal human rights and the obligations imposed by the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference, and juridically not binding on me.
If there is any further interference with the free performance of the rites of worship in the parish church of Paluobiai, which I administer, I shall be forced to appeal to the Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev, who signed the Final Act of the Helsinki Conference. In the recent speech which he gave in the City of Tula he once again emphasized his determination to abide by the agreements of the Helsinki Conference and he mentioned that he knew of no cases in which those agreements have been broken in the Soviet Union. If he becomes aware of such cases, it is difficult to foresee what measures he might take to discipline those who interfere with his policy of peace and detente.
Paluobiai, February 16, 1977
The Rev. P. Račiūnas
Pastor of the Roman Catholic parish of Paluobiai
P.S. If you consider the argumentation of this statement lacking basis in the law, please show me this in a reasoned document. If you do this, I will consider your requirements justified and I am determined in the future to carry them out fully.
The Rev. P. Račiūnas
By the Rev. Sigitas Tamkevičius, Pastor of Kybartai To: the Soviet Deputy for Religious Affairs Copy to:His Excellency, Bishop Liudas Povilonis
Since it is your assignment as Deputy for Religious Affairs, to monitor compliance with Soviet law concerning religious cults, and your office has on several occasions reminded me to report any occasions on which my rights or the rights of the faithful are infringed, therefore I believe it might be best for you to know what is going on in the Rayon of Vilkaviškis.
During almost a year and a half which I have spent in Kybartai, I was reprimanded approximately six or seven times by Vice Chairman J. Urbonas of the Executive Committee: for ringing the church bells; for boys serving at Mass, whom I was pressured to put off the Altar; because a crucifix was carried in a funeral procession while I, the pastor of the parish, accompanied the deceased on foot to the cemetery. The Vice Chairman told me that I could only sit in the car.
He reprimanded me also, because without informing the vice chairman of the rayon, I allowed a priest friend to celebrate Mass. This time I was required to explain myself in writing. Since the celebration of Mass is regulated by Church law, and Soviet law does not allow government officials to interfere in the internal affairs of the Church, I did not write the above-mentioned explanation.
When I came to Kybartai, I focused my complete attention on repairs, believing that everyone would be satisfied and would allow me some peace. But this was not to be.
I brought home a car which I found; immediately the police showed up to see whether I had not perhaps stolen it. I began to erect a shed—and "cold war" erupted: investigators were sent to check whether the pastor really had a building permit, whether he was putting up the building properly, and whether he had the necessary documents for obtaining materials.
Vice Chairman Urbonas of the Rayon personally checked up on my building project, and the necessary papers, he examined all the nooks and crannies in the church, and even asked whether anyone lived in the church attic. It is obvious that only a rat could get up there.
The faithful followed all these inspections impatiently, and certain humorist remarked: "Father, the Rayon government really loves you!"
Since this blackmail concerned me personally, I kept quiet, but I can keep silent no longer, since the right of those are being violated, whose shoulders are not yet strong enough to take it.
In February, 1977, parents who hold religious beliefs told me the following:
On February 14, in Grade III-A the Middle School of Kybartai, Teacher (Mrs.) Miliauskienė of Grade II-A told those pupils who go to church, to raise their hands.The pupils were asked why they went to church, perhaps their parents forced them, etc.
The teacher demanded to know which girls participate in processions as flower girls. He ridiculed those who objected, saying that they understood nothing, and that was why they went to church. The teacher took down the names of all believing pupils, saying that she was going to turn over the list to the school principal.
In Grade VI-F, History Teacher Jurkynas ordered church-going pupils to stand while he asked them whether they really believed in God. Most of the pupils stood up. The teacher was amazed to find that sixth-graders were "so stupid" as to believe in God.
The following period in that same class, the homeroom teacher once more required the pupils to stand, while he listed those who owned up, and even interrogated them, demanding to know which pupils were preparing for First Communion, who was teaching them religion, and where they went for religion lessons.
Teacher (Miss) Šidlauskaitė, of Grade II-A told those children who go to church to raise their hands. Of thirty, twenty-one raised them.
On February 18, the Home Room teacher of Grade V-B ordered the children who attended church to stand. Almost all the children rose. The teacher made a list.
On February 16, Home Room Teacher Babinskas of Grade VIII-F asked pupils one by one whether they went to church, whether they served at Mass, how often they went, etc.
On February 15, Home Room Teacher Kazlauskienė of Grade VI-A gave her pupils a questionnaire to fill out, containing the following questions: "Do you go to church? Do you believe in God? Do you go on your own, or do your parents pressure you?" Then the teacher ordered those who participate in the church choir to stand.
On February 7, Zita Menčinskaitė, a pupil in Grade IV-B was interrogated by the principal, Mrs. Mrs. Bidukonienė. She demanded to know whether the girl believed in God, whether she went to church, whether she sang in the choir, which girls sang in the choir, who taught children religion, etc.
On February 22, Principal Bidukonienė again interrogated pupil Menčinskaitė about the church choir, inquiring how many girls attended. Mrs. Bidukonienė told the girl that she knelt before pictures and statues, because she understood nothing; when grown up, she would not do so.
On February 22, Zita Šiūraitytė, a pupil of Grade VIII-B, was summoned to the office of the principal Dirvonskis, and interrogated about the church choir: Did she sing in it? Who of the students sang in it? Was it only the pupils of the Kybartai school who went to church, or did others?
In early February, Principal (Mrs.) Eidukonienė interrogated pupils Kantautaitė, Sinkevičiūtė, Murauskaitė, and others, in an effort to discover who taught religion in church, who was in charge of the procession, etc.
On February 7, Vice Principal Sinkevičius of the middle school interrogated Valė Pudinskaitė, a pupil in Grade VII-A, demanding to know whether she went to church, sang in the choir, about choir rehearsals, etc. Also interrogated in a similar vein was Roma Griš-kaitytė, a pupil in Grade VI-C.
In February, Miss Salikaitė, a teacher of Grade II-B asked her pupils whether they went to church, whether the priest visited their homes, etc. The teacher even asked those pupils willing to disobey their parents and stay away from church to raise their hands.
On February 24, Mrs. Gurskienė, Home-Room teacher of Grade IV-A ordered those pupils who go to church, to stand up. That same day, Mrs. Iešmantavičienė, Home-Room teacher of Grade IV-A also ordered those who go to church, to stand up. Those who stood up were told that there were more imbeciles in this class than in any other.
Parents who were religious believers came to me and asked what they should do. Perhaps they should draw up a petition? Perhaps they should go somewhere in person to seek redress? I tried to calm the people, explaining to them that Soviet law did not forbid anyone to believe in God, and did not give anyone the right to list the names of religiously believing students, the way they list hogs on the collective farm.
The parents complained that their children, who were religious believers, were being forced in school to sketch atheistic caricatures. For example, Art Teacher (Miss) Galvadiškytė told her pupils to write atheistic compositions and verses. "What will become of our children," the parents moaned, "Who is teaching them to be such hypocrites and to act against their own conscience? I explained to the parents that no one had the right to pressure believing pupils in this way.
I request you, Deputy, to tell me, whether present-day laws allow people to confuse children's conscience in this way?
On March 1, I was summoned by the vice Chairman of the Rayon, J. Urbonas, and angrily scolded for a half-hour for allegedly calumnating him and the principal of the school in a sermon.
Four times I asked him to give me an example of how I columnated him, but he gave me no answer, simply repeating, "I will tell the appropriate person."
How is a priest to feel, when someone scolds him, without telling him specifically what wrong he has done? When I asked him to tell me what wrong I had done, the Vice Chairman simply replied that I knew perfectly well.
This whole uproar which the school administration stirred up in the school of Kybartai at the instigation of the rayon authorities, helped raise the religious and civic consciousness of the pupils, and their church attendance increased.
Nevertheless, such arbitrariness is not right; it is not right that believers are unable to avail themselves of rights guaranteed them by the Constitution. One would like very much for the people of Kybartai to feel in a practical way that the Soviet Government actually signed the Helsinki Final Act, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention Against Discrimination in Education, and the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights. I doubt whether the Soviet government would praise those who, by harassing the believing pupils in Kybartai, aroused the anger of the public. All the more, as preparations move ahead for the Belgrade Conference of European nations, where compliance with the Helsinki Final Act will be ascertained.
Also, I would like to ask you, Deputy, whether it is at your direction that the Vice Chairman of the Rayon of Vilkaviškis, J. Urbonas, when he wants to reprimand someone, never sends a summons in writing? On the last occasion I reminded him that I am not his secretary, whom he can send for with a word, but an official person, who should receive a written invitation. The Vice Chairman told me that throughout the Soviet Union, citizens are summoned by the Soviet government only orally . . . What am I to think, after such a statement? I am led to think, with some reason, that some day Vice Chairman Urbonas will state that he never did summon the pastor of Kybartai, and never did reprimand him.
I have serious reason to think so, because the Vice Chairman once told me an obvious lie. He once denied that the church at Kybartai was burglarized by members of the Communist Youth League this year, even though I saw with my own eyes the Communist Youth League card of one of the culprits. The second occasion was when the Vice Chairman repeatedly asserted to me that Principal Širvinskis of the middle school at Kybartai would not be so stupid as to make a list of believing students.
1 therefore request you, Deputy, carefully to investigate how the laws concerning religious cults are observed in the Rayon of Vilkaviškis. If need be, the facts I cite here can be attested to by many believing parents.
March 16, 1977
Rev. S. Tamkevičius Pastor of Kybartai