THE Soviet authorities have refused to permit the Catholic bishops and diocesan administrators of Lithuania to attend the 1987 celebrations in Rome of the 600th anniversary of Christianity in Lithaunia. The Lithuanian clergy as a whole have been banned from leaving the country in 1987. This announcement was made to the recent Conference of Lithuanian Bishops by Petras Anilionis, Commissioner for Religious Affairs in the Lithuanian SSR.
This represents a reversal of Soviet policy with regard to the Lithuanian Catholic Church: for over ten years the Catholic bishops (with the exception of exiled Bishop Steponavicius) have been allowed to pay regular visits to the Vatican.
The reason for the reversal, observers fear, is revealed in the most recent Chronicle of the Lithuanian Catholic Church to reach the West. The journal includes a detailed account of a summer meeting between Commissioner Anilionis and the Lithuanian Catholic hierarchy. Anilionis angrily reproached the bishops and diocesan administrators for not responding to certain concessions recently made to the Church by the Soviet authorities. For example, permission had been given for various churches to be restored and church-bells to be recast and building materials had been provided from state shops.