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Gorbachev's Perestroika is a Hoax

The Testimony of Cardinal Sladkevicius

"The West has committed a serious error: It is trusting Gorbachev," stated Vincentas Cardinal Sladkevicius, chairman of the Lithuanian Bishops Conference, who arrived in Rome on January 25. The courageous Cardinal has personally experienced the religious persecution of peoples subjected to the Soviet communist regime. He was ordained bishop by Theophilius Matulionis, Bishop of Kaisiadrys, who was jailed for 16 years in concentration camps and later died a martyr's death in exile, far from his diocese.

Recently Sladkevicius was named by the Pope (without the permission of the communist government), as chairman of the Lithuanian Bishops Conference, and in this capacity he came to Rome to discuss with Pope John Paul II nominations of new bishops. Cardinal Sladkevicius, who finds the idyll that seems to characterize today's relations between the Holy See and the Kremlin to be alien, voiced very negative judgments on Gorbachev's "new course." He said, "Behind the openings of perestroika, a sham can be hidden: I am truly scandalized by the enormous and gratuitous credit which is given to the Kremlin outside the U.S.S.R." On the thorny problem of a possible trip by the Pope to Lithuania, the Cardinal said, "The real problem is in Moscow, where they are still making a lot of difficulties against the Pope's visit. Even if we were to invite him, the last word would always be up to the Kremlin. Moscow's Council on Religious Affairs told me that now the Church is the one that has to take steps toward the U.S.S.R., after the concessions made in recent years to the Catholics."

Father Svarinskas Was Interviewed in Rome by Maria Cristina Fiocchi

In the context of the Cardinal's statements, we interviewed Rev. Alfonsas Svarinskas, a great pastor of the Lithuanian Catholic Church who has spent more than 20 years in Communist concentration camps and was finally released last year.

Q: How do you comment on the Cardinal's statements?

Svarinskas: All Lithuanians think the same as he does. There is a lot of talk, but facts are what count. We should not listen to talk but to reality. The facts say that unfortunately the laws and the nature of the system have not changed. The Ukrainian Catholic Church with the Eastern rite is still outlawed.

The Belorussian Catholics have no rights, they have no bishops, no seminaries, no religious center. Only some old and sick priests are left. In the Baltic countries there are many limitations on the activities of believers. Article 52 of the Constitution, which discriminates against believing citizens, has not yet changed.

Q: The Lithuanian Catholics have denounced the Minister of Religion Konstantin Kharchev, for canceling six aspiring youths from the list of candidates for the seminary of Kaunas, without giving any explanation, while others were terrorized by the KGB to push them into collaborating with the espionage services.

Svarinskas: Fortunately, the Cardinal did not respect the prohibition and he took those seminarians. He also assumed for Church offices some priests who had been persecuted and hindered from their religious functions.

'Liberal' Words; Harsh Deeds

Q: How is the situation in the places of worship; are new churches being opened?

Svarinskas: In the rural areas, the government has imposed very high taxes on the churches, three times as high as those in the city. This was justified by the danger of fires and lack of firemen. Now almost everywhere there are fire stations, but the taxes have been kept high anyway.

Metropolitan Filaret (of the Russian Orthodox Church) of Minsk announced the opening of hundreds of churches, but unfortunately these are not new buildings: The old Byzantine Rite Catholic churches which had been closed for a long time have been given to the Orthodox Church.

In short, for the believers, for the Catholics who suffer under the Soviet dictatorship, the liberalizing programs of Gorbachev toward religion are just words right now and there are no guarantees. They would have to recognize the Catholic Church as having the rights of a juridical person throughout Soviet territory and allow the Church to freely carry out its mission.

'Human Rights' Charade

Q: You denounced the Soviet proposal to hold an international conference in Moscow in 1991 on human rights, which would be an important meeting which would follow up the 1975 Helsinki conference. Western leaders, headed up by the United States, have already accepted the prospect of an nth effort at rapprochement between East and West.

Svarinskas: It would be a total capitulation to the Empire of Evil. The Soviet leaders are deceiving public opinion in the Free World about presumed changes in policies of the U.S.S.R. toward believers. Konstantin Kharchev stated that the times of Stalinist repression are over ... but we must not forget that the culprit in the case of so many millions of victims was not just Stalin, but the whole system which is still in power since the death of Stalin. Nonetheless, the question (of the conference on human rights) is not yet definitive, and I trust in your help to stop the perpetration of such an infamous offense to all the victims of the Communist regime.