A Catholic archbishop who was murdered by Soviet police to prevent him attending the Second Vatican Council became the first communist-era martyr beatified in Lithuania.
“Long, hard years of prison, labour camp and house arrest may have gradually impoverished this strong, courageous witness of the Gospel, but persecution and torture never broke his will,” Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said at the 25th June beatification Mass for Archbishop Teofil Matulionis. Beatification is a step toward sainthood.
“We could ask why a man who spent so many years of life in prisons and labour camps and wore prison clothes until retirement never felt hostility for his enemy. The answer lies in God’s grace, which ennobles the soul, enabling it to see God’s goodness and providence in others, where some see only hatred and evil,” he said at the Mass in Cathedral Square.
The cardinal said Blessed Matulionis, who was murdered in his apartment with a lethal injection in 1962 after 16 years of Soviet incarceration, had remained a “humble, generous, gentle and loyal man,” despite “relentless dictatorship.” He said one Soviet official had predicted the archbishop, would be proclaimed a saint and attract pilgrims to his graveside.
Picture: Prelates concelebrate the beatification Mass of Lithuanian Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis outside Vilnius Cathedral on 25th June. Archbishop Matulionis, who was murdered in 1962 with a lethal injection after 16 years in prisons and labour camps, became the first Catholic martyr from the country’s communist era to be declared blessed. (CNS photo/Gedminas Savickis, EPA).