Overcome Evil with Good: Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis (1871–1927)

In 2018, the centenary of the consecration of Servant of God Jurgis Matulaitis (Matulevičius) as Bishop of Vilnius is commemorated. The first Blessed of Lithuanian descent in the twentieth century, Bishop Jurgis always was a pastor of people of all nationalities, religions and social classes, both uniting and renewing the Church. He followed and called other believers to follow Saint Paul’s dictum: Overcome evil with good.

The bishop-to-be was born in the village of Lūginė, Suvalkija region. Orphaned at an early age and incapacitated by Pott’s disease, he was not deterred from studying at the Kielce and Warsaw theological seminaries, completing Master’s studies at the Saint Petersburg Imperial Roman Catholic Theological Academy, defending a doctoral dissertation at Freiburg University (Switzerland) and becoming the first professor of sociology at the Saint Petersburg Theological Academy.

From the very beginning of his priesthood, Jurgis Matulaitis took constant care of religious orders, their spiritual progress and bringing them up to date. He revised the rule of secret Catholic orders, ensured the continuation and renewal of the Marian congregation that was on the verge of extinction in Marijampolė by taking monastic vows, and founded women’s religious congregations in Lithuanian and Belarusian lands.

The new Marian general wished to dedicate himself to the affairs of the congregation, but accepting God’s will, he became Bishop of Vilnius. He served during one of the most difficult periods for the diocese. Working to strengthen Christian spirit, he hoped that he could lessen political and national hatred, but society’s moods and the conditions of pastoral work remained unchanged during the seven years of his service. When Poland signed a concordat with the Holy See in 1925, Bishop Jurgis resigned from office.

Dreaming of finally dedicating himself to the Marians, Bishop Jurgis left the Vilnius diocese and arrived in Rome. Yet God led him to his homeland again, as the Pope appointed him Titular Archbishop of Adulis and apostolic visitator to Lithuania. He managed to prepare the draft of the Lithuanian ecclesiastical province in a very short time. On 4 April 1926, Holy Father Pius XI announced the establishment of the Lithuanian ecclesiastical province with the metropolitan capital Kaunas by the apostolic constitution Lithuanorum gente.

Archbishop Jurgis did not have time to see the last result of his mission, Lithuania’s concordat with the Holy See. After an operation for ruptured appendicitis, he finished his earthly journey in odore sanctitatis (in the odour of sanctity). Archbishop Jurgis was raised to the glory of the altar on 29 June 1987, on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of Lithuania’s Baptism. In the words of Pope John Paul II who beatified Jurgis Matulaitis, he was “a foresighted and mindful pastor in Vilnius”, “a man after God’s heart”.

Curator: Kamilė Jagėlienė
Organiser: Church Heritage Museum
Partners: Archdiocese of Vilnius, Archdiocese of Kaunas, Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Museum of Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis in Marijampolė


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