True Lithuania

Teofilius Matulionis becomes the second beatified Lithuanian

2017 06 25. In a massive event in Vilnius that was attended by thousands of locals and pilgrims, the Roman Catholic Church has beatified the Lithuanian priest Teofilius Matulionis (1873-1962).

Beatification is the second-in-status show of respect by the Roman Catholic Church towards the deceased people after Canonization (Sainthood). From now on, Teofilius Matulionis will be referred to as "Blessed Teofilius Matulionis". He is only the second Lithuanian person honored this way (after Jurgis Matulaitis). Furthermore, Lithuania also has one saint (St. Casimir).

Teofilius Matulionis was one of the numerous priests persecuted by the Soviet regime. Before the communist revolution in Russia, he served as a Catholic priest and then bishop in St. Petersburg. As such, he suffered the communist atheism well before the Lithuania itself was occupied. He was imprisoned in 1923-1925 and again 1930-1933. In 1933, he was released in a Soviet-Lithuanian prisoner exchange on the condition that he returns to Lithuania. However, once the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania as well, he has been arrested again. Afterward, he spent ten years in prisons and various exile locations in Russia (1946-1956) and was not allowed to perform his religious duties afterward as well.

The beatification event at Vilnius Cathedral square. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

During the times he was not arrested, Teofilius Matulionis sought to help the people who suffered under the totalitarian regimes and genocides. While most of this suffering was due to the religious and ethnic persecution by the Soviet Union against the Catholics and Lithuanians, Teofilius Matulionis did not limit his help to his own kin as he has also saved Jews from the Holocaust, hiding them in monasteries of his diocese during the Nazi German occupation of Lithuania. Even while imprisoned and suffering tortures, he sought to be useful, secretly performing priest duties for fellow prisoners.

Teofilius Matulionis was poisoned by the Soviet secret services in 1962. As his persecutions and death happened because of his religious beliefs, he is held to be a martyr.

Year 2017 have been officially declared by the Lithuanian parliament to be the "year of Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis".

The beatification ceremony in Vilnius was attended by over 100 priests, Lithuanian luminaries and highest-ranking politicians (including the President). The mass was led by a cardinal from Vatican and included parts in the language of every location where Teofilius Matulionis lived at while alive, namely Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Belarusian, Latvian and English, in addition to Latin which was the liturgical language of the Roman Catholic Church in Matulionis's times. Additioanl events took place before and after the main beatification event, including the procession that transported his relics from his church of Kaišiadorys to Vilnius and back.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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