Read this and pass it on! Appearing since March 19, 1972
CHRONICLE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN LITHUANIA No. 54
In this issue:
2. His Excellency, Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius, Assumes the See of Kaišiadorys
3. Consecration of His Excellency, Bishop Antanas Vaičius
4. Religious Festival at Žemaičių Kalvarija
6. After the Destruction of Maiden Hill
7. A Lithuanian Catholic's Way of the Cross in the Soviet Army
9. Constitutional "Freedoms" and the Actual Truth
10. Government Efforts to Separate Priests from People
14. The Church in the Soviet Republics
Lithuania August 15, 1982
In July, 1982, the Apostolic See, with the agreement of Moscow, appointed the exiled Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys, and named Father Antanas Vaičius bishop, appointing him Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Telšiai and of the Prelature of Klaipėda. Lithuania is especially happy that one exiled bishop has been able to take over an episcopal see, but asks with uneasiness what the fate of the other bishop will be.
Today in Lithuania no one can tell why the Soviet government consented to the appointment of these two bishops. What advantage could it hope for? Does this appointment mean, as some foreign radio broadcasts commented, that the Soviet government is relaxing its oppressive stranglehold? Quite the contrary! Lately, even greater pressure is being felt by priests to conform with the Regulations for Religious Associations, the purpose of which is to strangle the Church. Those who try to defend the rights of the Church or of the faithful are being attacked even more vehemently.
In June 1982, it became known that the Soviet government was agreeing that His Excellency, Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius should return from exile to his diocese, and, at the same time Father Antanas Vaičius, Administrator of the Diocese of Telšiai, should be consecrated bishop.
On July 16, western radio broadcasts officially announced the news. Everyone waited impatiently for the exiled bishop to take possession of the Cathedral of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys. On December 25, 1957, Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis, a national and religious martyr, consecrated Father Vincentas Sladkevičius bishop without the consent of the Soviet government. In an attempt to subjugate the ecclesiastical hierarchy of Lithuania to its own interests, the Soviet government did not allow the newly consecrated bishop, who had already managed earlier to fall into disfavor with the government for his loyalty to the Church, to assume his duties. Bishop Sladkevičius remained in exile for twenty-three years, and a non-functioning bishop almost twenty-five years.
All that time believing Lithuania prayed for the bishop in exile: priests and faithful wrote petitions, and even went to the labor camps, and now . . . the exile has been allowed to assume the See of Kaišiadorys.
The solemn entry of Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius into his cathedral is one of the greatest victories of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, built on great sacrifices.
On August 8, 1982, early in the morning, the church in Pabiržė (Diocese of Panavėžys) was full of people wishing to bid farewell to Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius.
His Excellency Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius (third from left) entered the Cathedral of Kaišiadorys on August 8, 1982, during the singing of a hymn to the Holy Spirit. (From left to right) Bishop A. Vaičius, Bishop L. Povilonis, Bishop V. Sladkevičius and Bishop J. Steponavičius
Along the way to the Diocese of Kaišiadorys, hundreds of faithful from the parishes of Pasvalis and Pumpėnai met the exiled bishop. For these escorts, the priests of Pasvalis had to explain themselves at the Rayon of Pasvalis Executive Committee Headquarters.
On July 21, 1982, the Holy Father appointed Father Antanas Vaičius Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Telšiai and of the Prelature of Klaipėda, and at the same time, bishop. The priests and faithful of Lithuania received this appointment favorably, since Fr. Antanas Vaičius has distinguished himself in pastoral work, approving and supporting the temperence movement, and confirming the priests' senate of the Diocese of Telšiai.
In his role as Administrator of the Diocese of Telšiai, he was able to make contact with the priests of the diocese. At one time, priests, especially beyond the boundaries of the Diocese of Telšiai, raised doubts about the fitness of the candidacy of Fr. Antanas Vaičius, but time has dissipated those doubts increasingly. Everyone regretted very much that last year Fr. Antanas Vaičius had been included in a trio of persons unacceptable to the Church in Lithuania, and therefore had to undergo sharp attack from the opposition.
The consecration ceremonies were very beautiful. Bishop Antanas Vaičius was consecrated by Bishops Liudvikas Povilonis, Vincentas Sladkevičius, Julijonas Steponavičius and Romualdas Krikščiūnas. In his talk during the Mass, Bishop Liudvikas Povilonis read a telegram of greetings from Pope John Paul II to the Church of Lithuania, announced the appointment of Bishop Vincentas Sladkevičius, after twenty-three years of exile—as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys, and spoke at length about the episcopal ministry, emphasizing that "the ministry of bishop is not one of honor, but a ministry of work and sacrifice".
July 2-9, 1982, the great religious festival at Žemaičių Kalvarija (Calvary of the Samogitians) took place, with units of the militia and army on alert. Militia trainees were housed in schools and dormitories in surrounding cities, water-cannon were brought in from Vilnius, and a fleet of closed trucks with listening apparatus was prepared. Cars of believers on their way to the devotions were checked at forty-one state auto inspection points, which all had direct radio contact with a communications center, set up at the Pas-ruojė Fish Nursery in the Village of Juodėnai II. Even the Republican Auto Inspection Chief Vaitasius and General Žemaitis came. At Pasruojė they set up a computer center, to which they would transmit the license numbers of all automobiles, in this way determining how many times an automobile traveled to Žemaičių Kalvarija. Even the clergy were not exempt.
The pastor of the neighboring parish of Tirkšliai, Fr. Vincentas Gauronskis, went home each evening. Occasionally, he would bring to the devotions his neighbors, the priests of Mažeikiai, so the auto inspection people stopped him and removed the car's license plate, exclaiming, "You won't be commuting any more!"
On the evening of July 5, the Pastor of Seda, assisting at the festival, was summoned on a sick-call to Plinkšės. When his driver,
The main altar in the church of Varduva. This locality came to be known as Žemaičių Kalvarija (The Calvary of Samogitia), but following the Soviet occupation of Lithuania, the name was changed to Varduva.
Paulauskas, returned, the state auto inspectors confiscated his chauffeur's license.
On June 8,1982, the diocesan deans were summoned to a meeting with Commissar for Religious Affairs Anilionis. Only the Dean of Mažeikiai, Jonas Gedvilą, did not attend. The deans refused to confer at the headquarters of the Telšiai Rayon Executive Committee, since the government of the Telšiai Rayon had desecrated Maiden Hill. The conference took place at the chancery of the Diocese of Telšiai. The commissar, as usual, spoke about the Regulations for Religious Associations. Concerning Maiden Hill, he responded as follows: "Religious extremism evoked atheistic extremism." After the conference, the deans submitted to the commissar the following statement:
"From time immemorial, priests and faithful according to Church regulations, pray annually on November 1st and 2nd for the dead. On November 1, 1981, in almost all parishes of the Diocese of Telšiai the faithful were forbidden to pray in cemeteries as a group for their dead. In some places (e.g. Telšiai) it was forbidden even to bless crosses that day in cemeteries. In other rayons (e.g. in Mažeikiai), it was not forbidden in so many words, but in the cemeteries, sound systems were turned on so loud that it was in no way possible for the faithful to honor their dead or to pray for them in any communal fashion. We believers felt grossly offended. All the people insulted expressed their protest at not being able to honor their dead in the way required by their faith and by the Church.
In May, 1982, as has been the practice annually for almost forty years, many of Lithuania's young sons were drafted into the Soviet Army. On May 13, Robertas Grigas, of the Rayon of Lazdijai, City of Leipalingis, was also drafted. On May 25, 1982, in Yany-Kurghan (Kazakh SSR) in the presence of soldiers and officers, Robertas refused to take the oath, as contrary to the religious convictions of a Catholic, and to the patriotic convictions of a Lithuanian.
In one of his letters, Robertas Grigas writes:
"Up to the last moment I was praying, undecided how to act with regard to this vexing problem of the oath. On May 25, 1982, in Yany-Kurghan, it was our group's turn. I was second in line. I saw how the young man in front of me grasped the machine gun and reading the 'oath' from a book, signed it, —and I still did not know what I was going to do. I agonized as never before in my life, and repeated in my heart, 'Mary, Mary, let me do as God wants.' Then it was my turn. I took the machine gun, stood between the formation and the major administering the oath, and understand me, forgive me for my ignorance, which will bother you after reading these lines — I said in Russian, 'I, Robertas Grigas, citizen of Lithuania, declare that I refuse to take the oath, as contrary to my religious and patriotic convictions.'
After castigating him in the vilest words, and threatening him with physical punishment, officers of the local battalion sent the young man that very day to brigade headquarters in Chimkent. The following day, the relay of threats was taken over by the brigade leadership.
On May 29, 1982, Vytautas Vaičiūnas imprisoned in the Cheliabinsk region, City of Bakal, had a visit from his brother and wife, and on August 11, during visiting hours he was able to converse with his wife through a glass partition for one and a half hours.
Vytautas Vaičiūnas' health has deteriorated badly. Not long ago, he was in the hospital from which he was discharged before he had fully recovered; an epidemic was raging in the camp and there were not enough beds in the hospital. His skin is ulcerated, he has a large abcess on his foot, he is subject to intense itching, and if he walks around for a while, his feet swell. At the present time, Vytautas Vaičiūnas weighs 73 kg (160 lbs.) (Before his imprisonment, he weighed 115 kg—253 lbs.)
After completing one third of his sentence, Vaičiūnas asked to go out on a road gang. (This privilege is allowed all criminals in general regime camps.) The prison administration refused to allow him out, affirming that his health was too weak.
"Then give me supplementary rations," Vaičiūnas requested. "You're not entitled," was the reply.
The criminal camps, after half the sentence has been served, prisoners' cases are reviewed, and if a prisoner has not broken the rules, he is retried by the camp court and allowed to go free. Vaičiūnas' case was never reviewed.
Letters written to Vytautas Vaičiūnas almost never reach him: of twelve letters from his wife, he received only two. The camp administration says that it has given him all the letters addressed to him.
To: The Vice-Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Pasvalis Rayon Council of Peoples' Deputies
Copies to: The Peoples' Court of Pasvalis Rayon
The Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Panevėžys Priests' Senate of the Diocese of Panevėžys The Dean of Pasvalis
A Petition from the Rev. Benediktas Urbonas, Pastor of the Joniškėlis Church
I appeal to you, as the immediate leader in the rayon, with regard to matters of cult.
On April 20, 1982, after having been reported by acting Chairwoman (Mrs.) J. Gasiūnienė of the Executive Committee of the Council of Peoples' Deputies for the city of Joniškėlis, I received Decision No. 59 of the Administrative Committee attached to the Executive Committee of the Pasvalis Rayon Council of Peoples' Deputies written April 16, 1982, by which I am blamed for the participation (serving) of schoolchildren at religious services and without investigation of the matter or any explanation. I was fined 50 rubles.
On March 18, 1981, the Associate Pastor of the Parish in Prienai, Father Antanas Gražulis, was invited to visit the faithful of the Villages of Ašminta, Apušotas and Bagrėnas in the Rayon of Prienai to bless their homes.
On March 30, 1981, (Mrs.) Ona Vaitauskienė, a staff member of the Ašminta District Library, was summoned to see Vice Chairman K. Morvėnas of the Prienai Rayon Executive Committee.
"A cultural worker is not allowed to go to church, taking her daughter with her, or to make up a list of people expecting the priest, and, after that, to invite the priest," Morkvėnas assailed her. The Vice Chairman emphasized that it was time for (Mrs.) Ona Vaitauskienė to draw the appropriate conclusions and to change her world view since otherwise, she would be embarrassing to the rayon. (Mrs.) Ona Vaitauskienė stated that she went to church and would continue to do so; had taken her daughter to church and would continue to take her; that no one was about to reform her, nor was she about to deny her faith. If, because of her conviction, she could not work in the library, she would take any other kind of work.
Vice Chairman Morkvėnas ordered Directress (Mrs.) G. Pole-kauskienė of the Prienai Central Library to discharge (Mrs.) Vaitauskienė.
Rainiai (Rayon of Telšiai)
On June 18, 1982, in spite of a posted guard, three metal crosses sprang up in the little forest dedicated to the memory of the Martyrs of Samogitia. They were destroyed June 20.
Anulėnai (Rayon of Telšiai)
On June 21, 1982, the cross restored by the faithful at the intersection of the Šiauliai - Palanga Highway, and the Eigirdžiai - Anulėnai Road was demolished. A tractor also leveled the little fence which had always encircled the cross.
Paukštakiai (Rayon of Plungė)
On June 25, 1982, the cross which had stood at the village crossroads was bulldozed.
Šateikiai (Rayon of Plungė)
On May 3, 1982, an artistic little masonry shrine not far from Šateikiai was demolished.
On June 17, 1982, the bishops and administrators of Dioceses were summoned to the office of the Religious Affairs Commissar. Besides the commissar, Assistant Prosecutor Barauskas of the Lithuanian SSR spoke. He emphasized that strict measures will be taken to enforce the Regulations for Religious Associations.
Veiviržėnai (Rayon of Klaipėda)
On July 25,1982, the Sacrament of Confirmation was administered with throngs of the faithful in attendance. This annoyed the atheists no end. The night of July 27-28, they broke into the church. The cuprits, unable to break into the large safe-type tabernacle tore out its anchor points, wrecked the center portion of the high altar, demolished the throne of exposition, and carried off the entire tabernacle. The pastor, Father Juozapas Janauskas summoned experts from Klaipėda. They determined that the crime was committed by two adults and one minor. In the spirit of atonement, many of the faithful approached the wrecked high altar on their knees, weeping bitterly. Solemn services of reparation were scheduled for August 22.
Laukžemė (Rayon of Kretinga)
During the night of August 3, 1982, culprits broke into the church and wrecked the alms boxes.
Luokė (R a y o n of Telšiai)
On March 4, 1982 , Luokė Middle School Vice Principal (Mrs.) Tendziagolskienė publicly threatened pupil Lešciauskas, before the whole class, that his conduct mark would be lowered for going to church. At the end of February, Principal Limantas summoned the grandmother who was raising the five Kikilus grandchildren and threatened her: "If your grandchildren continue to go to church and hang around the altar, they will be taken away from you and turned over to the state to rear."
On April 12, 1982, History Teacher (Mrs.) Mitkuvienė asked her pupils who of them had been to church, and demanded that they reveal what the priest had said. Teacher (Mrs.) Skriabienė ridicules churchgoing pupils before the whole class. She is especially fanatical in her hatred of them.
Viešvėnai (Rayon of Telšiai)
On March 7, 1982, in the Viešvėnai Middle School, a parent-teacher meeting was baing specially held at the very hour when a parish retreat was taking place in church. During the meeting, the principal, (Mrs.) Stancelienė said, "Faith encourages a person to be a hypocrite. See, not a single pupil who goes to church is willing to admit it to us! Well, pupils, which of you goes to church?"
Several kilometers from Druskininkai is a beautiful cluster of lakes tucked in between Parieče and Aziorū. When Sunday arrived. I decided to look around, and to feast my eyes, especially since there was nothing for one who was free from legal actions to do in Druskininkai itself. Having convinced a friend to go along with me, and having found a car, I wound up in Byelorussia, where through the evergreens, the watershed was an impressive blue. On the way, we happened upon the little town of Naujoji Rūda, tucked in between two lakes. As beautiful as the scenery was, so were my other impressions depressing, not recalling the feeling of Sunday at all.
We saw people working: they were cutting wood and stacking straw. Every man we met in town had been drinking. A couple was strolling along, a soldier and his girl. It was not he who was leading her, but she who was dragging him along. We noticed the church, wooden, not too old, fairly imposing; it did not look bad from the outside. We wanted to see it from inside. Upon inquiring, we found a woman who unlocked it for us. Our eyes fell on a sad sight, as though a war had taken place. In the sacristy, the closet doors had been broken open, the altar pictures had been torn down, the tabernacle broken open; only the crucifix over the main altar was undamaged. This, apparently, they had been unable to demolish.