Through the Cross to the Stars! Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis

The opening of the exhibition “Through the Cross to the Stars! Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis” will take place at the Church Heritage Museum on June 15 at 5.00 p.m.
The exhibition is built on the contrast principle: the martyrdom and pastor’s dignity of the Blessed Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis is revealed as if in a mirror, through objects that accompanied the archbishop in different periods of his life, reflecting one another. Prisoner’s clothes, a rosary made from bread, a handwritten prayer book, the KGB penal case and other objects testifying to his martyrdom are placed opposite to other “reflections” – the pastor’s magnificent vestments, bishop’s insignia, a sumptuous liturgical chalice created by Saint Petersburg goldsmiths and a book of documents of the beatification process. These contrasting attributes of suffering, faith, obedience, simplicity, total trust in God and spiritual strength, merging in one person, encourage us to rethink the painful experience of twentieth-century Lithuanian history anew, sensitively and with pride. The histories of the objects that accompanied the bishop in various periods of his life, arranged in different poles of the exhibition, blend into an authentic and heroic testimony of the superiority of humanity over evil.
Photographs and letters that can be found in the exhibition’s computer terminal clearly show that the unbreakably firm stance of the bishop who found himself facing the brutal Soviet atheist regime, repressions, deportations and tortures, became the history of heroism of not only the Catholic church, but also the entire nation, the history of a Lithuanian who managed to preserve humanity and the ideal of love for one’s neighbour in the intricate pathways of history.
Short biography
Teofilius Matulionis was born in the village of Kudoriškis, Anykščiai district, in 1873. In 1891, he entered the Saint Petersburg Theological Seminary, and having finished it, was ordained a priest in 1900. He started his pastoral service in Latvia, and immediately won fame as an extraordinary pastor and an active dean. The authorities kept him under surveillance, and already in 1909, he received his first sentence. In 1923, Teofilius with his associates was again put on trial in Moscow and imprisoned in the Butyrki and Sokolniki prisons. Having returned from imprisonment, in 1928 he was secretly consecrated as a bishop. In 1929, Teofilius was arrested for the second time. The ten-year sentence was delivered without court – the Solovki high-security prison and compulsory labour in the Svirsk prison camp. In 1933, during an exchange of political prisoners, Bishop Matulionis was released from prison together with another nine priests. Upon the death of the bishop of Kaišiadorys, Juozapas Kukta, in 1943 Teofilius was appointed to substitute him. He boldly protested, both in word and in writing, against the closure of churches and the theological seminary, the destruction of chapels and the restriction of the rights of believers. For these brave moves, in 1946 the bishop was arrested once again and sentenced to seven years of imprisonment. Having served the larger part of his sentence in the high-security Vladimir prison, after five years the emaciated Teofilius was transferred to a home for the disabled in Mordovia.
Having returned from deportation after ten years, the bishop continued to live under the constant “care” of the authorities – he was put under surveillance, and searches were regularly performed in his residences in Birštonas and Šeduva. In 1962, the bishop received a telegram informing him about his promotion to the rank of archbishop, and an invitation to take part in the Second Vatican Council. Unfortunately, Teofilius was not destined to go to Rome. During the last search, the bishop was administered a shot of “sedatives”, which shattered the health of the already ailing servant of God. The venerable archbishop died three days later, on 20 August 1962, in Šeduva.
The process of beatification of Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis started in 1989. In the period from 1990 to 2015, the committee of the beatification case collected all the necessary documents, and the Positio document summarizing the life and virtues of the Servant of God was prepared. In 2015, it was presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. On 1 December 2016, Pope Francis enabled the Congregation to proclaim a decree recognizing the martyrdom of the Servant of God, Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis, thus opening a way to his beatification.
The exhibition will be open until 16 September 2017
Curators: Alina Pavasarytė, Roma Zajančkauskienė
Organizers: Violeta Indriūnienė, Indraja Kubilytė, Sigita Maslauskaitė-Mažylienė, Rita Pauliukevičiūtė, Birutė Valečkaitė
Architect: Ieva Cicėnaitė
Designer: Gedas Čiuželis
Photos and exhibits: Birštonas Sacral Museum, Teofilius Pilka’s archives, Kaišiadorys Diocese, Lithuanian Special Archives
Sponsors: Vilnius Archdiocese, Lithuanian Council for Culture, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania

Event date and time

2017 06 15 17:00



Informational sponsors