Archbishop Matulionis - Martyr of Communist Occupation in Lithuania - to be Beatified

Source: FSSPX News

Archbishop Teofilio Matulionis

Lithuania is jubilant: a bishop martyr of Communism – Archbishop Teofilio Matulionis – will be beatified on Sunday, June 25.

The beatification will take place in the Cathedral Square of Vilnius, the capital of a country whose history was greatly marked by the persecution of the Catholic Church.

The celebrations will begin on the evening of June 24: the cathedral of Vilnius will remain open all night for a prayer vigil. The next day, the beatification ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. and be presided over by Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The sarcophagus containing the mortal remains of Archbishop Matulionis will then be presented for the faithful to venerate in the cathedral until late in the night.

Like the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania, Bishop Teofilio Matulionis, born in 1873 and martyred in 1962, was branded by the red-hot iron of Communism.

In 1909, nine years after his ordination, then Fr. Matulionis was condemned for baptizing a child from a mixed Orthodox and Catholic family. He was imprisoned in a Dominican convent at the request of the Russian imperial authorities. At the time, the Baltic countries still belonged to the Russian Empire and the Catholic Church, considered a foreign agent, was under strict surveillance.

The situation did not improve with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917: in 1923, Fr. Matulionis was imprisoned for two years in Moscow for refusing to sign over the Church’s goods to the State. In 1929, he was secretly consecrated a bishop in Leningrad. Arrested once again, he was sent to the gulag on the Solovetsky Islands in Russian Karelia.

He underwent very harsh prison conditions including confinement, forced labor, and malnutrition. Condemned without trial for ten years, he ended up being released after four years of imprisonment.

A Papal Visit


During the few years of freedom that followed, the prelate was able to visit Pope Pius XI, who refused to let him kneel before him when he received him for an audience. The pope – who solemnly condemned Communism in 1937 in the encyclical Divini Redemptoris – said to him: “You are a martyr! You must bless me first!” After being appointed bishop of Kaišiadorys in 1943, in the middle of World War II, Bishop Matulionis spoke out first against the Nazi persecutions and then against Communist persecutions. This earned him another stay in prison in 1946.

Repeated imprisonments, surveillance, and phone-tapping were part of the archbishop’s daily life. At the age of 84, new rumors of arrest came to his ears, but without ever shaking his determination.

At the age of 89, he underwent one last police search, during which the political police injected him with a poison disguised as a sedative. He died three days later, on August 20, 1962.

Ever faithful to the image of the Good Shepherd of the Gospel, Archbishop Matulionis is an example for the clergy. During one of his stays in prison, the martyr wrote, “Just think how good and merciful the Lord is: He finds His flock in the woods, in the tundra, at midnight…I am thankful to Him with all my heart! Providence will lead us, brother priests, wherever believers are. The shepherds follow their flock”.