HERALD FOCUS ON LITHUANIA
THE LITHUANIAN authorities seem to be attempting to bring control of Catholic clergy more firmly into their own hands, according to reports reaching Keston College, the Keth-based centre for study of religion in communist countries.
The chairman of the Council for Religious Affairs in Lithuania, Petras Anilionis, has been giving lectures to groups of leading Catholics, including deans, seminarians and parish committees, on the dangers of activity by "extremist" priests, according to the samizdat journal, Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church.
On May 27 1982, all the deans of Kaunas and Vilkavilkis dioceses were invited to the bishop's residence in Kaunas, where the Chairman of the CRA addressed them.
Bishop Povilonis and Vicar-General MaY.onaviCius were also present.
The Chairman began by praising Church leaders who insisted that priests abide by Soviet Laws and those members of the clergy who took no part in extremist movements, but went on to attack priests who spoke out against teachers, demanded a religious journal (there is no official Catholic journal in the UVR) and claimed to represent the clergy as a whole.
He assured the deans that a Catholic journal was being prepared, but that it would not resemble the Chronicle or serve the interests of imperialists abroad.
Anilionis claimed that 'the extremist priests wanted to incite conflict with the government and maintained contact with political activists in other countries. They were against Russians and only became internationalists when they sent greetings to Sakharov.
Their hopes had been aroused by events in Poland, where lists of communists to be liquidated had been drawn up.
The chairman of the CRA mentioned that extremist priests had attacked certain candidates for the post of bishop and that, because of their slanders, agreement had not been reached with Rome in some cases.
Bishop Sladkevieius had even written to some of the candidates, asking them to withdraw their candidature.
According to Anilionis, priests such as Juozas Zdebskis (of the Catholic Committee for the Defence of Believers' Rights), Antanas eflceivieius and Zenonas Navickas (brother of prisoner of conscience Gene Navickaite) had attacked the clergy's involvement in the official "peace movement" and had organised youth meetings under the guise of religious services, as well as processions to the shrine of Our Lady at Siluva in honour of persons imprisoned under Soviet law.
Despite the fact that Vicar-General MaYonavieius had asked the deans not to raise "unpleasant" subjects, a number of those present directed sharp questions at Chairman Anilionis after his speeech.
He was asked by Fr Vaidiulionis, Deputy Dean of §iauliai, why he had described as extremists those priests who brought facts into the open — facts about atheist offences against believers.
As an example of this, the Dean of Aleksotas — Monsignor Gustaitis — mentioned the church in Klaipeda, which was confiscated by the authorities in 1960.
In May, Chairman Anilionis also gave a talk to the graduating class of seminarians, advising them against visiting extremist priests. The 18 seminarians ordained this year in June was the largest number since 1963.