Lithuania’s first Soviet-era martyr beatified

Lithuania’s first Soviet-era martyr, Blessed Archbishop Teofilius Matulioni, was beatified yesterday.

Thirty-thousand people gathered in Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, to attend the official beautification ceremony, which was broadcast live on Facebook.

Pope Francis recognised Blessed Teofilius as a martyr in December last year.

At the beatification Mass, Vatican Representative Cardinal Angelo Amato spoke of Blessed Teofilius’s “heroism” under “ruthless dictatorships which strove to annihilate the Church.”

At the time Lithuania was ruled by Moscow-based atheists.

Blessed Teofilius’s public dedication to Christ and the Church led to his suffering for many years in prisons and labour camps.

The Soviet regime imprisoned him for a decade in 1946 after he refused to condemn armed Lithuanian resistance against Moscow’s rule and criticised its repression of Catholics.

He was eventually released and managed to keep secretly in contact with the Vatican from behind the Iron Curtain despite being spied on for years.

“Torture did not bend his will. He did not give in to hatred,”Amato said.

Another speaker at the beatification Mass was Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskait.

He said Blessed Teofilius remained steadfast in his commitment to the truth during his many years behind bars.

In 1962, soon after being made an archbishop by Pope John XXIII, Blessed Teofilius died. He was 89.

Many suspect he was executed by lethal injection on orders of the Soviet KGB secret police although there has never been any proof of this.


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