"From: The Faithful of the Parish of Šlavantai
"To: The Prosecutor's Office of the USSR
"We, the faithful of the Šlavantai parish, are deeply shocked by the events of which our pastor, Fr. Juozas Zdebskis, has become a victim. At the beginning of October 1980 many automobiles drove about in the village of Šlavantai. People witnessed their stopping randomly and some suspicious characters even changing license plates. These automobiles followed the pastor everywhere. At that time our pastor and his passenger, Vytautas Vaičiūnas, an engineer, were mysteriously burned by either radiation, chemicals, or some other means. In the Republican Clinical Hospital of Kaunas, Father Zdebskis was diagnosed as suffering second-degree burns.
"Lately, for some reason, the priests of Lithuania are being persecuted. In Luokė, Father Šapoka was brutally tortured and murdered. Priests have been brutally injured
in Griškabūdis, Kulautuva, and Karmėlava.
"We request that the Prosecutor investigate these events and take steps to ensure that these incidents will not be repeated in the future."
Šlavantai, October 1980
Signed by 684 persons
Kapsukas (formerly Marijampole)
During November 1980 a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the churchyard was vandalized in a most vulgar way.
How much further will the hatred of the atheists go?
Recently, the faithful of Lithuania have been shocked by events which closely followed one another: the murder of Father Šapoka, Father Zdebskis's injuries, the desecration of the Blessed Sacrament in a number of churches, etc. In light of these facts, the faithful in a number of parishes have approached the Prosecutor's Office of the Lithuanian SSR with a petition requesting that steps be taken to prevent the actions of uncontrollable raging criminals. A similar petition was sent in by the faithful of the parish of Kapsukas.
The atheism instructor at the Kapsukas Pedagogical School, Pangonis, instructed the school's students to keep track of people collecting signatures for petitions that defended the interests of the faithful. They were to inform the city executive committee about them immediately.
One gets the impression that atheists approve of such criminal acts.
On November 7, 1980, proclamations were found scattered about Prienai and glued to the apartment doors of certain party members.
The propaganda leaflets describe the recent painful events in our country: the murder of Fr. Šapoka, the assault on Fr. Zdebskis, the desecration of the Blessed Sacrament, etc.
On November 17 a security agent calling himself Algis came to see Fr. Juozas Užupis. The Chekist claimed that he had been sent by the LSSR Chief of Security. He acquainted the pastor with the contents of the leaflet. The visitor told the pastor to warn his assistant pastor, Fr. Antanas Gražulis, about the possibility of unexpected consequences. "We suspect that this work was organized by Fr. Gražulis. This is supported by the fact that he spoke about these incidents from the pulpit," stated the agent.
This is the third visit from the security police to the Prienai rectory regarding similar matters.
The faithful of Kaunas complained to the Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR that the government is interfering in the seminary's internal affairs and that it ordered the expulsion of the seminarian Aloyzas Volskis.
In November 1980 Saulius Kelpša was summoned to the Prosecutor's Kaunas office. It was explained to him that:
(1)The seminarian Volskis had failed to show respect to the Soviet anthem during a celebration.
(2)He behaved objectionably during a preliminary interrogation regarding Anastazas Janulis's case and had made false statements.
(3)He greeted reactionary priests.
(4)In the seminary he had organized secret discussion groups.
The prosecutor explained that the seminary's administration "consulted" with the Commissioner for Religious Affairs concerning these offenses and expelled A. Volskis from the seminary.
On August 12, 1980, Fr. Algimantas Keina was summoned to the Valkininkai Township headquarters. Here he was met by Religious Affairs Commissioner P. Anilionis, Rayon Vice Chairman Jakavonis, and Township Chairwoman M. Markevičienė.
During the discussion Anilionis accused Fr. Keina of permitting a priest who had visited him without permission to preach an extremist sermon on July 6, 1980, which insulted the atheists with such phrases as "atheists are like soap bubbles" and "the schools are graduating rejects."
The commissioner demanded that minors be expelled from the church choir and that they not be allowed to serve at mass. In addition, he warned that the catechizing of children is forbidden (on July 6, 1980, a woman had explained religious truths to twenty children), that it is forbidden to take up a collection in church or to erect loudspeakers at the altar, regardless of the fact that all of the faithful cannot fit into the church. Fr. Keina was accused of preaching extremist sermons. He was reminded of his sermon during the religious festival of the Mother of Mercy of the Gates of Dawn in 1979. (During this sermon examples of the persecution of religiously believing children in school had been brought up, and it had been explained that the Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR nad groundlessly warned Fr. S. Tamkevičius and Fr. A. Svarinskas.)
Anilionis was angry, moreover, because Fr. Keina had explained to the faithful during Confirmation ceremonies in Valkininkai that it has been twenty years since Bishop J. Steponavičius was exiled from his diocese without cause, without having committed any crime, solely because he had remained faithful to the Church and had not carried out the demand of the government that children be driven from the altar.
Continuing, the commissioner "instructed" the priest that in sermons one must explain the Gospel and adhere to the decrees of Vatican Council II. Strange, that an atheist instructs priests how to give sermons and scolds them for all that is done in keeping with the Gospel and the decrees of Vatican Council II!
Commissioner Anilionis did not forget Fr. Keina's earlier "offenses" against the atheists. He mentioned an entire list of allegations: while working in the Rieškutėnai parish he had catechized children; in Valkininkai he had urged the faithful to gather in their villages on winter evenings for the singing of the rosary and Lenten and Marian devotions; he had asked some women pensioners to weave a decorative garland for the church; during Advent and Lent he had urged the faithful to refrain from frivolous and unnecessary television programs; etc.
At the conclusion of the discussion, Fr. Keina asked Anilionis whether he had the right to perform a priest's work according to Canon Law, the requirements of the Faith, the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR, and international law as subscribed to by the USSR in international covenants.
The reply was: "I carry out the law . . .. We know of no international law. They meet and debate . . . that's their business. Nothing has been announced here." That is how the Religious Affairs Commissioner regards international agreements.
Finally he said, "I am not giving you anything in writing but remember that we had this discussion with you!"
Šiupyliai (Šiauliai Rayon)
On November 13, 1980, the pastor of Šiupyliai, Fr. Antanas Ylius, was visited by Vice Chairman Caparas of the Šiauliai Rayon Executive Committee and by Chairwoman Krikštanienė of the Township of Gruzdžiai. They read the priest a warning from Commissioner Anilionis that on October 20 the priest had performed a religious service in Joniškėlis without permission from the authorities and had delivered an inappropriate sermon, thus violating Article 19 of the Regulations for Religious Associations. Fr. Ylius wrote beneath the warning "I performed no ceremonies but only said a few words beside a grave."
N.B. Most priests act correctly in completely ignoring such warnings (they do not even sign them).
Endriejavas (Klaipėda Rayon)
On June 18, 1980, at the urging of the rayon authorities, Township Chairman Kolcas, Bolshevik Collective Farm Party Secretary Šernienė, and the former secretary of the township came to the church in Endriejavas to disperse the children preparing for First Communion. Failing to find the priest, they scolded the sacristan, Bronius Poškus, for instructing the children in the truths of the faith and tried to make him come to Township headquarters and sign a statement. The sacristan refused to do so.
On November 24, 1980, [Mrs.] Ona Pumputienė, a resident of Molėtai, went to the Molėtai hospital to visit [Mrs.] Banevičienė (from the village of Šiaudiskiai) who was recuperating there. The patient requested a priest. Chief of Staff Rimas Lideikis gave them permission to bring a priest. Returning to the ward, Pumputienė was met by Director [Mrs.] Genė Kavaliūnienė of the internal medicine department. When she read the authorization, she tore it up and loudly scolded Pumputienė for daring to request such permission.
The faithful of the parish of Žalioji prayed in the cemetery on All Souls' Day because their church has been converted into a mill. The authorities had no idea how to prevent the services. On October 13 Klausučiai Township Chairman Adomas Gudynas attempted to force Chairman Juozas Matukaitis of the Didvyžiai Parish Council to remove the benches from the cemetery, but he refused to interfere in the affairs of another parish.
On November 13 Fr. Antanas Lukošaitis received an anonymous letter: "You won't have to hold services in that cemetery; it will be the same as in Griškabūdis." (The pastor of Griškabūdis was beaten this year. — Ed.).
During Antanas Terleckas's trial, [Mrs.] Sakaliene's child was ill and the mother was excused from work for a few days. Taking advantage of the opportunity, she came to the trial. After the trial Dr. Niunko, who had issued the excuse slip, was pressured to revoke it. When she refused to do so, she was forced to leave her job.
On July 18, 1980, [Mrs.] Danutė Kelmelienė wanted to send a telegram of greetings through the Vilkaviškis Post Office to Fr. V. Vėlavičius, member of the Catholic Committee for the Defense of Believers' Rights. The postmaster demanded that she omit certain words from the text. He was especially fearful of the letters TTGKK (initials of the organization's Lithuanian name — Tr.). Moreover, he asked who were the young people in whose name it was being sent and where those young people were? Kelmelienė would not answer the questions, and when she tried to take back the text, the postmaster would not return it. He said that he would be needing it and went off somewhere.
On October 22 Fr. Bronius Laurinavičius, a member of the Lithuanian Helsinki Watch Group, sent a protest to the Prosecutor of the Lithuanian SSR. He stated that on September 27, 1980, a libelous article was published about him in Tiesa (Truth). Laurinavičius wrote that during Julius Sasnauskas's and Antanas Terleckas's trial he had been asked whether he had signed certain documents. (The judge mentioned several numbers). He had requested to be allowed to acquaint himself with the contents of the documents so that he would be able to answer more accurately, but the judge would not allow that. Father Laurinavičius affirmed that it was not his practice to sign documents brought to him by provocateurs. He did not sign the Memorandum of 45 Baits because no one asked him to do so; his name is not found on that document.
"I cannot understand," wrote Fr. Laurinavičius, "on what basis the article's author places me among the witnesses who have testified that in the petition by the Baits were listed the names of the people who knew nothing about the petition. One is tempted to think, in spite of oneself, that the authors of the article wanted to compromise me and to defame me in public."
In his statement, Fr. Laurinavičius maintained that J. Sasnauskas and A. Terleckas were innocent because they had the right to defend those who were being wronged and to demand that the Stalin-Ribbentrop Pact be abrogated.
Fr. Laurinavičius ended his protest with the words "I request the Lithuanian SSR Prosecutor to protest the Supreme Court's decision by which Terleckas and Sasnauskas were sentenced."