22 February 2018
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Remembering Lithuania’s Cardinal Sladkevicius 12th Anniversary 2012

Vincentas Sladkevičius, MIC (August 20, 1920—May 28, 2000) was a Lithuanian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Kaunas from 1989 to 1996, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1988.

Vincentas Sladkevičius was born in Žasliai, Kaišiadorys, to Mykolas Sladkevičius and his wife Uršule Kavaliauskaite. He was the youngest of five children, his siblings being named Ona, Emilija, Jonas and Marija. After studying at the Kaunas Priest Seminary and Theological Faculty in Kaunas, Sladkevičius was ordained to the priesthood on March 25, 1944. He then did pastoral work in Kaišiadorys until 1959, including serving as a professor and the prefect of studies and discipline at the Kaunas seminary.

On November 14, 1957, Sladkevičius was appointed Auxiliary Bishop sedi datus of Kaišiadorys and Titular Bishop of Abora. He received his episcopal consecration on the following December 25 from Bishop Teofilius Matulionis. However, Bishop Sladkevičius was impeded from performing his ministry by his country's Communist government, and he took up residence at Nemunėlio Radviliškis, where he was under virtual house arrest from 1963 to 1982. He was named Apostolic Administrator ad nutum Sanctae Sedis of Kaišiadorys on July 15, 1982, and became President of the Lithuanian Episcopal Conference on April 27, 1988.

Pope John Paul II created Sladkevičius Cardinal Priest of Spirito Santo alla Ferratella in the consistory of June 28, 1988, and later Archbishop of Kaunas on March 10, 1989. In 1993 the Cardinal entered the Congregation of the Marian Clerics of the Immaculate Conception. He resigned as Kaunas' archbishop on May 4, 1996, after seven years of service. He was awarded the Order of Vytautas the Great in 1998.

V. Sladkevičius died in Kaunas, at age 79. He was buried in the Cathedral-Basilica of Kaunas following a funeral Mass there on June 1, 2000.

An article by KR Slade

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August 20, 1920
Vincentas Sladkevicius, the youngest of five children, is born in the village of Guronys -- a village in the parish of the small town of Zasliai (in central Lithuania), which is equidistant from Vilnius and Kaunas, and close to the towns of Kaisiadorys and today's Electrenai).  His parents, and extended family all living in the same village for 200+ years, are peasant farmers.


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March 25, 1944
ordained a Catholic priest; pastoral work in Kaisiadorys until 1959, including serving at the Kaunas seminary as a professor and as the prefect of studies and discipline.


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November 14, 1957
appointed Titular Bishop of Abora, and appointed Auxiliary Bishop 'sedi datus' (i.e., to become bishop upon the death of the incumbent bishop) of Kaisiadorys; consecrated December 25, 1957.


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1959 to 1976
'Internal exile' and under virtual house arrest:  in the small town of Nemunelio Radviliskis (in Birzai district municipality, in Panevezys County, northern Lithuania on the border with Latvia; 2001 census, population 729). 


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July 15, 1982
appointed (by Pope John Paul II) Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Kaisiadorys.

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July 15, 1982
named Apostolic Administrator ad nutum Sanctae Sedis ("at the disposition of the Holy See" -- refers to any circumstance involving a conflict of ecclesiastical jurisdiction) of Kaisiadorys.


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April 27, 1988
became President of the Lithuanian Episcopal Conference.


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named ['in pectore' (i.e., 'in the breast', meaning 'heart'; secretly)] a cardinal by (and known only to) the Pope: to protect him or his congregation from reprisals if his identity were known.


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June 28, 1988
elevated publicly to the College of Cardinals, when it was made public that in 1979 he had been secretly named a cardinal 


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16 February 1989
Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevicius, for the first time, called for the independence of Lithuania in his sermon at the Kaunas Cathedral. After the services, 200,000 persons gathered in the centre of Kaunas to participate in the dedication of a new monument to freedom to replace the monument that had been torn down by the Soviet authorities after World War II.


[Note: March 11, 1990 The Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania was an independence declaration by the Supreme Soviet (i.e. Legislature) of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic It was the first time that a Union Republic declared independence from the dissolving Soviet Union.]

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March 10, 1989
named Archbishop of Kaunas on March 10, 1989; he resigned as Kaunas' archbishop on May 4, 1996, having reached the age of  mandatory retirement.


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the Cardinal joined the religious order, the Congregation of the Marian Clerics of the Immaculate Conception. Henceforth, the initials 'M.I.C.' appear after his name, indicating that he is a member of such religious order.


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1990 until his death on 28 May 2000
Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevicius lived in the Kaunas Palace of Bishops (M. Valanciaus g. 6, which is directly-beside the front of the Kaunas cathedral), where he died.


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The cardinal approved the establishment of the Sacral Art Museum in Birstonas
(Birutes Street 8, Birstonas, LT)
The Museum, near the parish church of Saint Anthony of Padova, is the former rectory where then-Bishop Sladkevicius lived during his decades-long 'internal exile' from his cathedral-seat in the town of Kaisiadorys (LT).   The museum presents two main memorial expositions;  one is dedicated to Vincentas Sladkevicius, who became Lithuania's second cardinal in history; the other is dedicated to Teofilis Matulionis, the martyred Archbishop.


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In the first decade of the 21st century

1)  The Kaisiadorys bishop's office, at Kestucio gatve 44 (in Kaisiadorys), has maintained a room, open to the public, and dedicated to the memory of Cardinal Sladkevicius.

2)  The diocese of Kaisiadorys has built the 'Cardinal Sladkevicius Memorial Park' -- a rosary park, conference centre, and monastery -- in his native village of Guronys, near the small town of Zasliai. 
          The Park is about one/two km from the 'Zasliai train station' (which is actually in Guronys village, and not in Zasliai);  Zasliai train station to the Zasliai (St. Jurgis) church is 3.6 km; Vilnius-Kaunas highway to Zasliai train station is 4 km.
From the Zasliai train station to the Park, the narrow road passes a wooden-cross monument dedicated to the birthplace of Cardinal Sladkevicius.  However, his actual birthplace (and where he lived until his father died) is one of a group of three or four houses (on both sides of the road), only a few meters past this cross-monument.
Some 800 meters further is the Park -- on the exact location of the land of the 200+ years former farmstead of the Sladkevicius family, where the cardinal lived from when he was about nine years old, after his father died.  In addition to the monastery and conference centre, there is the rosary park:  a circle of five (5) small structures / 'chapels' in a circle. These structures, with ~4 m2 walls,  have no doors or windows. In the centre of the circle is a larger chapel.  On the exterior walls of the small chapels, are murals:  on the top of each wall are biblical scenes, and on the bottom are scenes from the history of Catholicism in Lithuania. 

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4 February 2005
I [together with Fr. J. Farrell Peternal, of Vilnius] visited the Kaunas arch-cathedral, where in the main chapel (to the right of the altar) he is buried in the floor.

          To the left of the front of the arch-cathedral is the 'bishop's palace' where the cardinal lived from when he was archbishop and until his death. 

Since his death, his former residence has become the 'Cardinal Sladkevicius Museum' (of Kaunas) V. Sladkevičiaus muziejus
The museum exhibition (in 2005) consisted of memorial and literary sections.  The memorial section contains three authentically restored rooms of the Cardinal's apartment. Restored pieces of memorial furniture are exposed in his office/study and in his bedroom.  In the library, visitors can see restored bookcases.  The large parlour is also furnished with restored memorial furniture.  On the occasion of the Museum’s opening, the Kaunas Archdiocese had a portrait of the Cardinal made by the painter A. Vaitkunas. The decor and furnishings were not luxurious.
At the museum, we met with the director, Irena Petraitiene. She has written two books about the cardinal. The first book, Kardinolas: Jo Eminencijos Vincento Sladkeviciaus Laikas ir Asmenybe, was published in 2000, a couple of months before his death. When he saw the book, he asked her, "Why did you do that?"  Her second book, Padaryk Mane Gerumo Zenklu -- Prisiminimai apie kardinola Vincenta Sladkeviciu, was published in 2003, in Kaunas by: Kardinolo V Sladkeviciaus memorialinis butas-muziejus (i.e. the museum).
          She related to us: ". . . (she) arrived here, to write a story about him, the summer before he died" . . .  "(she) was present at the time of his death" . . .  (about his childhood, in poverty) "two months a year, they ate bread and strawberry jam" . . . "when he was a child, he had problems with his legs; rickets" . . . 
"When he was in 'internal exile', his mother (i.e. Ursule Sladkeviciene 1885 to 1970) was living with him; she died, and he found a farmer to transport him and her body back to their hometown of Zasliai, where she is buried -- directly in front of and facing the parish church of St. George" . . . 
"He was sick for six to seven years before his death"  . . .  "prostate cancer" . . .  "he would not take conventional medicines, or medical treatments" . . . "he took homeopathic medicines" . . .  he said, "I will suffer like Christ on the cross" . . . 
"He died in his bed; the same bed that is in the other room, here" . . . "the priest giving the last rites, said, 'Lord, open the gates of heaven, for your servant' . . .  " that is when he passed away."

Category : Lithuania today
  • Dianne Manning

    Good luck with your grandmother's family search. Does Lithuania have a website like "Ancestry" or Heritage Quest"? Hope so!
    My father is 93 and needs a new heart valve. They will decide on July 6th if the will do the operation or if he is to old. It is a genetic problem and I had mine done about 9 years ago!! Newton Hlds has changed so much and so many people have grown old, died or moved away. I guess we will age gracefully as God allows!

    June 25 2012
    • KR Slade

      Hello Dianne,

      Thanx for your comment.

      I count 40 years (!) since we were graduate-school students at alma mater, and worked together in community/youth services …

      Yes, the entire family is very proud of Cardinal Sladkevicius; of course, we are just like any other family: his special qualities are not inheritable . . .

      Learning — after my arrival in LT 8+ years ago — of my relationship to him was somewhat of a 'relief' … returning to 'the old country' 9 decades after my grandparents left can be potentially somewhat disconcerting . . . subsequent WWI, WWII (Nazi-Bolshevik-Soviet), and Cold War periods and their events could make for learning of some unpleasant/unwanted family history . . . thankfully, I found 'goodness' . . . although, I have yet to find my grandmother's family — so the journey-mystery continues . . .

      June 22 2012
      • Dianne B Manning

        That was extremely interesting, Ken. I'll bet you are very proud to be part of his legacy.

        May 29 2012


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