May 30, 2000
volume 11, no. 100

NEWS for Tuesday, May 30, 2000

VATICAN (CWNews.com)
    Cardinal Vicentas Sladkevicius, the retired archbishop of Kaunas, Lithuania, died on May 28 at the age of 79.

    Born into a farming family of modest means, and ordained to the priesthood in 1944, Vicentas Sladkevicius was consecrated a bishop on Christmas Day in 1957-- although the Communist government refused to recognize his status. He became apostolic administrator of the Kaisiadorys diocese in 1982, and in 1988 Pope John Paul II raised him to the College of Cardinals. In 1989 he became the Archbishop of Kaunas, retiring from that post in May 1996.

    In a message of condolence to Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius, the new head of the Kaunas archdiocese, Pope John Paul spoke of Cardinal Sladkevicius as "a heroic priest," and a "very dear brother." The Pope said: "Although he was impeded for years from exercising his episcopal mission, and forced to live under surveillance, he never was intimidated; he offered a shining example of unshakable confidence in divine providence and loyalty to the See of Peter."

    With the death of the Lithuanian prelate, the College of Cardinals now has just 100 members who are under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote in a papal election.

20th Century Witness of Faith

    Lithuanian Cardinal Vincentas Saldkevicius, Archbishop Emeritus of Kaunas, died in that city last night, as the result of long term illness. He was shortly to have celebrated his 80th birthday.

    John Paul II sent a telegram to Lithuania, calling the Cardinal a "priest of integral faith and fervid piety, despite the fact that for long years he was confined and denied the practice of his episcopal mission. But he never allowed himself to be intimidated, and always gave a luminous example of indomitable confidence in Divine Providence and loyal fidelity to the See of Peter."

    On November 14, 1957, Pius XII named Vincentas Saldkevicius Auxiliary Bishop of Kaisiadorys without the approval of the Soviet authorities who annexed the country in 1940. Thus he was impeded from assuming his episcopal ministry and deported from his diocese. He remained in a rural parish until 1982, when John Paul II appointed him Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Kaisiadorys; in 1988 he was created Cardinal. A year later, he was made Archbishop of Kaunas, a post he held until 1996.

    "I thank God for this heroic presbyter and bishop that he gave the Church," the papal telegram states.

    The Lithuanian Cardinal's funeral will be held on June 1 in the Kaunas Cathedral. His mortals remains will lie in the Cathedral's crypt, next to those of other Archbishops of that city.

    Sources of the Church in Lithuania stated that everything possible will be done to begin his process of beatification. ZE00052908

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Profile on Cardinal Vincentas Saldkevicius, M.I.C.

    Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevicius, a priest of the Congregation of Mary Immaculate is the Archbishop emeritus of Kaunas in Lithuania. He was born in Zaslai, Lithuania in the township of Guroniai on August 20, 1920. He attended a Jesuit high school in the Diocese of Kaunas which prompted him to follow his heart in studying for the priesthood with the M.I.C.'s He was ordained a priest on March 25, 1944 and assigned various pastoral duties for his Order while attaining his Doctorate. Eight years after ordination, his studies complete, he was assigned as professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Major Seminary in Kaunas.

    On November 14, 1957 Pope Pius XII named him Titular Bishop of Abora and Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Kaisiadorys, being installed on Christmas Day the same year. Two years later the local communist authorities refused to recognize his episcopal appointment, forcing him to retire to a remote parish under house arrest for thirteen long years until the Consistory of June 28, 1982 when Pope John Paul II elevated him to the cardinalate and three weeks later made him Apostolic Administrator to the Diocese of Kaisiadorys. Cardinal Sladkevicius received the tiutlar church of the Holy Spirit alla Ferratella. In April 1988 his fellow bishops elected him President of the Lithuanian Episcopal Conference and the Holy Father tabbed him as Archbishop of Kaunas on March 10, 1989. On May 4, 1996 at the age of 76 he resigned his post because of age, retiring in his home diocese at Valanciaus 7, 30000 in Kaunas, Lithuania.

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