A Lithuanian archbishop who was martyred during the country’s Soviet occupation has been declared blessed, making him the country’s first martyr from the Communist era to be beatified.
Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis died in 1962 from a lethal injection. A KGB police nurse most likely administered the injection after police beat Archbishop Matulionis in his apartment.
The beatification ceremony is planned for June 25 in Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, a location that makes the beatification all the more historic.
“Besides being our first Soviet-era martyr recognised by the universal church,” Archbishop Gintaras Grusas of Vilnius, president of Lithuania’s bishops’ conference, said in an interview with the Catholic News Service, “he’ll also be the first Lithuanian beatified on native soil.”
Archbishop Grusas also said that Archbishop Matulionis’ beatification “remains highly relevant today” considering the “current tensions” in the areas around Lithuania.
Archbishop Matulionis, who was jailed and beaten for his faith throughout his life, dealt with his persecutors peacefully and instructed his followers to do the same.
A two-day youth festival will be held prior to the beatification ceremony to honour the mission of Archbishop Matulionis.