Page 7, 19th February 1971

19th February 1971
Page 7
Page 7, 19th February 1971 — Lithuania Church clamp-down

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Locations: Vilnius, New York, Moscow


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Lithuania Church clamp-down


CHURCHES in Lithuania are now subject to a new set of decrees which leave them very little freedom of worship. according to th Supreme Committee for Liberation of Lithuania, in New York.

These decrees were published in Vilnius by "The Commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs at the USSR Ministers Council for the Procedure of Application of Cult Laws." It appears, says the committee, that the control of religions affairs in Lithuania is administered from Moscow, and not by the Government of Soviet Lithuania.

Religious communities arid their priests have, for instance, no right to engage in charitable activities, and may not even organise excursions, establish playgrounds or athletic fields, nor open libraries. No organisations nor bodies which are not directly connected with religious rites may be formed, according to the committee.

Even more important, "cults" (as the decrees call them) are forbidden to organise special prayer services or instructional classes for young people and children. Nor may they organise gatherings of believers in "holy places." And special permits issued by the regional or city executive committee are required before open air services, or services in the apartment of a believer, are allowed.

The committee says that the decrees state that permits are required before the "cult" can hold a meeting on the handling of its property, or before it can dispose of such property. And although the decrees state that a religious community may receive a special prayer house for its use "free of charge," the Liberation Committee says that in fact high rentals are charged even for churches which parishioners have built themselves.

Bishoprics and other religious centres may not use property at their disposal for charitable purposes, nor to supTiort churches and monasteries. Moreover, "religious communities" may be closed down at any time. in which case "all objects made of precious metals, rugs, furniture, are handed over to local financial offices." Works of art go to museums.

The final paragraph of the decrees reserves to the State the right to cancel the registration of "the servants of the cult" — i.e. priests — or to apply more severe measures. This, the Liberation Committee says, means that priests may be deprived off the right to perform their duties, and punished by imprisorument.

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