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Priest From Lithuania Reported Freed

October 20, 1987

MOSCOW (AP) _ A secretly ordained Roman Catholic priest who was sent to a labor camp for holding a religious service was released in poor health, weighing only 88 pounds, a religious activist said Monday.

Alexander Ogorodnikov of Moscow said he received word by telephone from the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, that the Rev. Jonas Matulionis was recently freed from a Siberian labor camp.

Matulionis was arrested in 1984 for holding an unsanctioned service and sentenced to three years in prison, Ogorodnikov said in an interview.

The Lithuanian clergyman was freed this summer from a camp in the Urals but was rearrested after spending only two days in his native republic, Ogorodnikov said.

″Officials claimed he had been released incorrectly under an amnesty,″ said Ogorodnikov.

Matulionis then was sent to a Siberian camp, where Ogorodnikov said he was badly treated.

″He has become terribly thin and weighs only 40 kilograms (88 pounds),″ he said. ″He has been very ill.″

According to the Lithuanian information center of Brooklym, N.Y., an organization of emigres from the Baltic republic, Matulionis had been warned by Soviet authorities against functioning as a ″false priest without registration papers.″

Soviet authorities refused to recognize him as assistant pastor at a church in Kybartai, Lithuania, after he took his priestly vows at an underground seminary, the organization said.

The seminary has ordained Catholic priests in secret and sent them to churches lacking priests. Matulionis entered the secret seminary after being denied entry to the officially sanctioned seminary in Kaunas, the organization said.

The Catholic Church in Lithuania, like all religious bodies in the Soviet Union, is under state supervision. The church has often served as a channel of Lithuanian nationalist and anti-Soviet sentiment.