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CHRONICLE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN LITHUANIA, No. 59
In this issue:
1. It is Good to Think Freely, but Even Better to Think Rightly
2. Priests Struggle for Church Rights
3. Action in Lithuania in Defense of the Arrested Priests
4. Notes from the Case of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas
5. From the Trial of Jonas Sadūnas
Lithuania August 15, 1983
The plight of the Church in Lithuania has significantly deteriorated since Yuri Andropov assumed power. The best priests are being blackmailed, threatened with imprisonment, and the like. People collecting signatures to protests are being rounded up and penalized, and the faithful — children as well as adults — are being investigated. Atheistic propaganda and anti-clerical libel are widespread. The press and television explain that children under eighteen may not serve Mass, participate in processions or sing in choirs. People are being interrogated and penalized for organizing Christmas celebrations (in Simnas, Prienai and Kybartai) and All Souls' Day processions.
Teachers and in some places even militia lurk about the churches to see whether children are not being prepared for First Communion, Sometimes, children are stopped in the street on the suspicion that they are on their way to catechism class. The more government atheists persecute the Faith within the country, the more they try afterwards to convince public opinion abroad of the complete freedom of religion in Lithuania. They let bishops out of Lithuania for ad limina visits to Rome and put priests in jail.
Peace delegations of priests travel about to various congresses, while in Lithuania there is the greatest pressure to comply with the so-called Regulations for Religious Associations, which are intended for the complete destruction of the Church.
Efforts of the Church in Lithuania to regain its constitutional rights appear humanly speaking, to be hopeless; the government is not responding to any protests, nor is it replying to petitions signed by scores of thousands; the faithful are discriminated against; the ranks of the clergy are thinning, and the number of parishes which have no priest is increasing.
At this critical moment, Lithuania is losing two of its most zealous priests, Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and Sigitas Tamkevicius.
Keeping in mind all of the above, the question arises in the mind of more than one person: Was it necessary? Was it not possible to get along without this sacrifice?
Of course, these two Lithuanian priests could have avoided arrest and imprisonment if they had been blind to the injustices perpetrated against the faithful, if they had remained deaf to the voices of those calling for help, and, in the words of the old
Father Sigitas Tamkevičius
Lithuanian expression, rested quietly under the broom, keeping their own comfortable spot, as more than one is doing today. But is that everything? As true shepherds, they could not act otherwise.
Some consider them imprudent for such boldness. Seen in the same light, perhaps, were those who in the days of Czarist oppression wrote petitions to the government asking that the Lithuanians be allowed to print books in the Roman alphabet, and our book carriers who smuggled such books over the border and distributed them to the people, since they paid the price, many of them ending their days in Siberia. Did not their struggle appear
Father Alfonsas Svarinskas
pointless and unwise to the "clever ones" of those days, who wondered whether a handful of heroes could possibly hold out against the gendarmerie of the Czar's giant empire?
To: The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union— Yuri Andropov
Copy to: The Bishops and Diocesan Administrators of Lithuania From: The Priests of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys
We are concerned about the vicious attacks against religion which recently appeared in the press. In the speech of Petras Griškevičius, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Lithuania, he said, "We must strengthen in every way the bond between inte-national and patriotic education on one hand, and on the other, the struggle for the destruction of religious anachronisms." (Second Plenary Session of the Lithuanian Communist Party, Vilnius, June 17, 1981)
Communist Party Seceatary L. Šepetys has also spoken out in writing against religion and good priests, while Commissioner Petras Anilionis of the Council for Religious Affairs is demanding that the Regulations for Religious Associations, ratified by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR, July 28, 1976, be implemented.
The Lithuanian Catholic clergy would welcome normal relations between the government of the LSSR and the Catholic Church in Lithuania. Neither we nor our faithful refuse to carry out the just requirements of the Soviet government which do not contradict the Faith or morals of the Roman Catholic Church. We are determined with it to struggle agains moral evils in our nation: alcoholism, break-up of families, hooliganism, destruction of unborn life and especially, the wide-spread practice of abortion, now that the government has legalized it.
To: Yuri Andropov, Secretary General of the CPSU Copies to: The Attorney General of the Lithuanian SSR
Bishops and Diocesan Administrators The Commissioner for Cult in Lithuania (Commissioner
of the Council for Religious Affairs — Trans. Note) From: Priests of the Kaišiadorys Diocese
Recently in our press, articles on atheistic topics have increased, and, on January 26, 1983, Father Alfonsas Svarinskas, the Pastor of the Catholic Parish in Viduklė (Raseiniai Rayon) was arrested. Immediately, in the rayon newpapers, old accusations against Father Svarinskas were repeated.
We know Father Alfonsas Svarinskas to be a good, zealous priest, actively struggling against the constantly spreading drunkenness in Lithuania, boldly raising his voice against the wrongs which exist in the land of our fathers, and daring to state that when the atheists, given free rein go too far, the law is arbitrarily abused; believers and things sacred to them are insulted, their shrines are desecrated.
The article by Vytautas Žeimantas about Father Alfonsas Sva-
Following Mass at the religious shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Šiluva, Father Alfonsas Svarinskas led pilgrimage in kneeling procession, August 12, 1982.
rinskas, published in Tiesa (Truth), on June 28,1978, and now reprinted in rayon newspapers, is false. During the post-War years in Lithuania, many people were repressed, completely unjustly and without trial. Hence, it is wrong to throw the events of that era up to Father Svarinskas, just as it is wrong to punish someone twice for the same offense. The "guilt" of those days was, in the case of many, trumped up. One must not call people who suffered in those days "bandits without exception. By the same token, we do not believe that people visiting Father Alfonsas Svarinskas at the present time are former "bandits".
Father Svarinskas' police file consisted of 5465 pages.
On the basis of the Court Decree, April 22, 1983, there are grounds for remanding the accused for trial. It would be pointless to summon to the trial the witnesses: S. Sotnichenko, B. Matuliauskas, P. Milius, A. Mačys.
The group: (Mrs.) A. Gudaitienė, (Miss) J. Bernotaitė, (Mrs.) V. Jonaitienė, V. Valeikis, (Mrs.) O. Tamašauskienė, (Mrs.) A. Juodeikienė, G. Gudanavičius, P. Kačiušis, (Mrs.) S. Kaplanienė, (Mrs.) E. Matonienė, J. Plitnikas, (Miss) L. Rudžionytė, (Mrs.) J. Bagdonienė, (Mrs.) S. Sadauskienė, (Miss) B. Kulpinskaitė, N. Mizaras, Z. Kubilius, Z. Kamarūnas, S. Kebleris, (Mrs.) R. Znamenskienė, and V. Cu-kuras. Circumstances established by their statements can be checked against other sources.
Witnesses A. Keina, J. Kauneckas, V. Velavičius, V. Stakėnas, L. Kalinauskas and (Miss) Gavėnaitė failed to provide evidence about the facts in connection with the accusations brought against A. Svarinskas; hence, these witnesses are not invited to the trial either. There were twenty-one witnesses to testify regarding his sermons: three did not appear, eleven were Party members, four were members of the Communist Youth League and four were not Party members.
Vilnius. On May 24, 1983, Jonas Sadūnas was tried in the Peoples' Court of the Rayon of Vilnius. The judge was G. Leonov; the prosecutor, S. Pumputis; Associates, (Mrs.) V. Klimkienė and V. Korkut; Secretary (Mrs.) S. Burokienė.
At the beginning of the trial, Sadūnas stated that he did not agree that his wife, who knew nothing about his case, be summoned as a witness, (Marytė Sadūnienė was supposed to be the last to testify so that she might not hear the testimony of witnesses.) The judge rejected Sadūnas' demand, and to the refusal of the accused to speak during the trial until his wife was present in the courtroom, he stated that the trial could continue without the participation of Sadūnas.
At the beginning of the trial, the Judge read the indictment, prepared by the Assistant Prosecutor for the Vilnius Rayon, (Miss) R. Juciūtė. In response to the judge's questions, Sadūnas did not admit that he was guilty of libel. He indicated that he had written two reports on Petras Dūkštas, Director of the Vokė Experimental Farm, one of which is contained in the file and the second which has disappeared. He said that he had not written the other seventeen reports in the files, but that they were written in a hand more or less similar to his.
After the arrest of Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, a whole series of investigations erupted. The subjects of the investigation are priests, faithful, youth and even children. The KGB is particularly interested in the following questions:
a. Do you know Father Sigitas Tamkevičius? How would you describe him?
b. What did he speak about during sermon time?
c. Did the person under investigation deliberately sign statements about discrimination against young people and petitions for the release of Father Alfonsas Svarinskas and Father Sigitas Tamkevičius?
d. Did the priest read the text of the petition from the pulpit about the terrorizing of youngsters in school?
e. Who solicited signatures?
After the interrogation, the KGB agents hastened to prove that Father Tamkevičius and Father Svarinskas had been justly arrested, that they are justly accused of consciously denigrating and smearing the Soviet system; that in the USSR there is complete freedom of conscience and no one is persecuted or terrorized on account of religious beliefs.
Father Alfonsas Svarinskas writes: "For to love is to sacrifice,
To love is to take the heavier part of the burden,
To love is carry the lamp and light the way.
To love is to believe ..."
I wrote a brief letter in February, but I guess you didn't receive it. This week or next, I shall leave Vilnius, our capital, and Lithuania, for a long, long time, perhaps forever. Only the Lord knows, but in this regard, I repeat with Job from the bible, "God gives and God takes away . . . May His will be done!"
I'll be writing from camp, it appears, twice a month. I'll write either to you, or to my brother and sister. My health (both physical and spiritual) is good. I have no complaints. It's true that my lip has not healed yet, and I've broken my dental plate. 1 suppose that I'll be able to receive competent help in camp.
I'm not hungry. Thank you and thank everyone for the money and for the food packages.
On June 5, in the church in Kybartai, Fathers' Day was being celebrated as usual. Children and youth gathered in great numbers greeted their fathers with verses of poetry and flowers, thanking them for their fatherly love and concern.
Although it is customary to celebrate Fathers' Day in the church of Kybartai, this year, the day had a completely different tone. It was painful to look at the tears rolling down cheeks of parents and children, when in the name of the entire parish, with the most beautiful verses and prayers, gratitude was expressed and Divine assistance was requested for Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, the spiritual father of Kybartai parish, suffering in the KGB cellars. Even more heartrending was the sight when the fathers brought the flowers presented by their children and placed them at their beloved pastor's confessional. Before fifteen minutes had passed, the confessional was covered with flowers. This is a clear testimony of the great love of the faithful of Kybartai, and of their solidarity with their beloved spiritual father in his suffering.
On June 6, in the church of Kybartai, a commemoration took place marking one month since the arrest of Father Sigitas Tamkevičius. On that occasion, three priests concelebrated Mass. The church was hardly able to contain the faithful who convened. After Mass, all present went in procession, praying the rosary on their knees, around the church, requesting the help of the Mother of God for Father Tamkevičius, and for the entire parish to bear patiently the trials to come.
On July 6, once again, a crowd of the faithful gathered in the church of Kybartai to pray for the imprisoned Father Sigitas Tamkevičius. From 7:00 PM on, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed for adoration. The faithful gathered in great numbers and prayed for an entire hour to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. At 8:00 PM, a solemn Mass began for the imprisoned Father Tamkevičius. Six priests concelebrated Mass; two sermons were preached. During one sermon, the priest encouraged the dismayed people of Kybartai: "Do not be saddened that they have arrested two of the best priests in Lithuania. We must be proud of them and rejoice. It would be strange and incomprehensible if in a nation persecuted for the Faith, the priests did not suffer. Then one might think that in that nation there are no good priests, but today, we have two priest-martyrs. Let us be proud and rejoice!"
On June 6, 1983, one month after the arrest of Father Sigitas Tamkevičius, the parishioners of Kybartai went in kneeling procession, praying for their beloved pastor.
Josvainiai (Kėdainiai Rayon)
From June 20 - 24, 1983, (Miss)Genutė Brigytė and (Miss) Regina Augaitė who had just finished the 8th Class of Josvainiai Middle School, were summoned to the Kėdainiai KGB for interrogation. From Kėdainiai they summoned Ona Tunaitytė's mother. Regina and Genutė were accompanied to the KGB by their mothers. Vilnius investigator Vidzėnas was anxious to find out how the girls had appeared in the underground publication, the Chronicle, two years earlier. He asked whether Father Leonas Kalinauskas gave them the aforesaid publication to read, what he says in his sermons, whether he treats them to candy, and so forth. The girls explained that they go to church to pray; how news made the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, they did not know. During his sermons, Father Kalinauskas explains the Gospel of Christ.