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Archbishop to become Lithuania's first beatified Soviet-era martyr


Lithuanian Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis is pictured in a prison camp in 1955. Archbishop Matulionis, who was murdered in 1962 with a lethal injection after 16 years in prisons and labor camps, was to become the first Catholic martyr from the country's communist era to be declared blessed June 25 in Vilnius. (CNS photo/courtesy Diocese Kaisiadorys)

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WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- A Lithuanian archbishop who was murdered with a lethal injection after 16 years in prisons and labor camps was to become the first Catholic martyr from the country's communist era to be declared blessed.

The beatification ceremony for Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis, who died in 1962, was planned for June 25 in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. About 30,000 people including bishops and priests from abroad were expected to attend.

"Besides being our first Soviet-era martyr recognized by the universal church, he'll also be the first Lithuanian beatified on native soil," said Archbishop Gintaras Grusas of Vilnius, president of Lithuania's bishops' conference.

Archbishop Matulionis' "radical belief" in "seeking the truth at any cost" offered an attractive message, especially for young people, who will take part in a two-day youth festival before the ceremony, the prelate told Catholic News Service June 8.

"Given current tensions in our part of the world, his call to remain at peace and follow the divine will, knowing God always gives us the gifts we need, remains highly relevant," Archbishop Grusas said.

"Witnessing to one's faith doesn't necessarily mean going as far as death. There are also lighter forms of persecution happening daily in our societies, which it also requires courage to face," he said.

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