CATHOLIC priests in Lithuania are far more outspoken than their counterparts in Russia. This is a view put forward by Marite Sapiets of Keston College, the study centre for religion in Communists lands.
The majority of Lithuanian priests have signed a document refusing to accept the State's restrictions on religious practices. But according to Sapiets. the Soviet authorities have been relatively lenient to Lithuanians.
No Catholic priests have received prison sentences in Lithuania for over three years. When, last year, the State held a "week of atheism", 300 Secondary school pupils held a public demonstration against it.
Three girls were given "official warnings" but nothing further was done.
Sapiets says that in another part of the USSR. by contrast, troops and police broke up a Pentecostal wedding.
She attributes the softer line taken in Lithuania to the mass support there For the Catholic Church, coupled with the Lithuanian believer's sense of patriotism.
In Russia, on the other hand, believers are more isolated from the mass of the people, and any anti-government action on their part is regarded by the authorities as unpatriotic.
In Lithuania, says Sapiets; "The Soviet authorities may be afraid of stirring up a hornet's nest by over-reacting against an already hostile population." However, in the light of the clamp-down on dissidents, she does not rule out the possibility of action against Lithuanian Catholics in the future.