June of this year
was given a new saint when ARCHBISHOP
TEOFILIUS MATULIONIS was beatified. Lithuania
(Painting by the Polish artist Zbigniew Gierczak, shows him in his bishop's garb under his prison uniform.)
He suffered repeated imprisonment by Soviet communists during his lifetime. While residing in
St. Petersburg, he witnessed the horrors of
the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, but continued to live in the city then
In 1923 Father Teofilius was arrested and sentenced to three years imprisonment
for refusing to cooperate with the communist authorities. In 1929, Bishop Anton
Maleckis secretly consecrated Father Teofilius bishop. That year Bishop Matulionis
was arrested again and sentenced to 10 years in a concentration camp in the Leningrad Solovetsky Islands,
After four years of hard labor and subsisting on starvation rations, he was released as a part of a prisoner exchange between
and the Soviet Union. from 1933 until 1940, He
was appointed as ordinary of the Diocese of Kaišiadorys, from
1933 until 1940. During that time he also traveled abroad, visiting Lithuania Rome, the Holy Land, and the major Lithuanian parishes in
While in US Chicago, he blessed the monument to the
Lithuanian pilots, Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas, which was erected in Chicago’s and remains there to
this day. He spent 18 months in the Marquette
Park . USA
With the occupation of
by the Red Army in 1940, he faced further persecution. In December of 1946, he
was arrested and imprisoned in the notorious Vladimir Prison and later exiled
in Mordovia. He was eventually released in 1956 but was not allowed to resume
his duties or even to return to his own diocese. He took up residence in
In 1957, he secretly consecrated Vincentas Sladkevičius bishop. For this “transgression,” the Soviets further exiled him to the town of Šeduva.
XXIII bestowed the title of Archbishop to Teofilius Matulionis in 1962
and also extended to him an invitation to attend the Second Vatican Council.
That same year, after a police raid of his apartment, Archbishop Matulionis
died under suspicious circumstances. His remains were exhumed in 1999 and tests
confirmed that he had been poisoned with a lethal injection.
|1895 (right)- with brother|
Bl. Teofilius is characterized by his especial loyalty to the Church. Although he constantly faced persecution, he never compromised his faith. He trusted in God and persisted in following God’s will, regardless of the circumstances in which he was placed – prison, concentration camps, exile, his home diocese or abroad. He was a living example of the Christian faith for everyone.
In an April 13 pastoral message, the Lithuanian bishops' conference said Archbishop Matulionis had "lived the Easter message" and that he had consistently shown "peace, confidence and goodness," even to his persecutors.
Archbishop Grusas said the martyred prelate had "offered up his sufferings for the conversion of
while also "moving the church forward" by instructing clergy to
remain with their flock even if it meant persecution and exile. He
suggested that Archbishop Matulionis invitation from the pope to attend Vatican
II appeared to have been the "last straw" for Russia 's
Soviet rulers. Lithuania
The last Lithuanian to be beatified, Bishop Jerzy Matulewicz-Matulaitis, who lived from 1871 to 1927 and was the founder of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, was declared blessed in
by St. John Paul II in 1987. Rome
The church also is seeking the beatification of Bishop Vincentas Borisevicius, who was shot in 1946 for alleged links with underground fighters, and Archbishop Mecislovas Reinys who died in a Russian prison in 1953.
Archbishop Grusas said, however, that beatifications had been delayed by a lack of canonically trained experts in the Lithuanian church following Soviet rule. He said with recent funding and technical support he hoped the cases of other martyrs could be brought forward.
"We're dealing with recent history, but as we rebuild our church, we're gaining the resources and expertise we need.”