- February 13, 2013
Will the monastery buildings go back to the order?
After 19 years of disputes and 9 years of litigation, the Supreme Court of Lithuania ended the case of Franciscan monastery buildings in Vilnius, located at the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary the Virgin on Sands on Trocka Street in Vilnius. By the decision of the court the buildings have been returned to the state. Fathers of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual (Franciscans) are hoping that the next step will be to make over the ownership of the monastery buildings to the Order (as part of a restitution of the church property in Lithuania).
“I am grateful to God and to Lithuanian courts for the restoring the justice” – said, in an interview with “Wilnoteka”, Father Marek Dettlaff, the guardian of the monastery and the rector of the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Vilnius.
The Franciscans have been waiting 19 years for this moment.
The church and the adjacent monastery buildings are the property of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual. The presence of the Franciscans in Vilnius dates back to the fourteenth century, and the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is probably the oldest church in Vilnius.
Priestly ministry of the Franciscans in Lithuania is associated with many tragic moments, including the first brothers executed in Vilnius, which is commemorated by the crosses on Trzykrzyska Mount. The twentieth century, which affected the whole Church of the East painfully, was equally tragic for the Franciscans from Vilnius.
After Soviet Russia annexed the territories of eastern Poland, the Franciscans were forced to leave Vilnius. However, one Conventual Franciscan remained in Lithuania. Father Kamil Wełymański was one of the five Franciscans in the East, who remained in their temples. Father Kamil was appointed the rector of the Franciscan church in Vilnius. He paid for his presence with persecution, imprisonment in Vilnius and Lubyanka in Moscow and with ten years of work in the camps in Vorkuta and Kazakhstan. He returned to Lithuania, but with a ban on working in Vilnius, he settled in Miedniki. After Lithuania regained its independence, he immediately solicited for the regaining of the Franciscan monastery and church to the state and church authorities. He lived to see the arrival of the young Lithuanian Franciscans from the province of Gdansk (in 1995). In May 1998, the Lithuanian authorities have returned and made over the church to the Franciscans, 15th August, 1999 the bishop Jonas Boruta, the then Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Vilnius, consecrated a temple. Less than a year later, on 14th March, 1999 Father Kamil died in Vilnius at the age of 89.
Unfortunately, despite the efforts to return to the order the adjacent buildings of the monastery, the monastery was not returned to the Franciscan fathers simultaneously with the return of the temple. The monastery already had the new owners…
The history of the appropriation of the monastery buildings began when, nationalized in the Soviet times, monastery property has been made over to the Board of Trade Unions, and the board has permitted the Associations of Technical Sciences of Lithuania to use the property. During the so-called revival (lit.Atgimimas), which was during the years before regaining the independence, during the next congress of Associations of Technical Sciences of Lithuania, the organization was renamed the Lithuanian Association of Science and Technology Associations (LASNT), and thus it waived its submission to the Soviet organizations.
In 1991 LASNT – along with other legal entities – has signed the founding agreement of the company Mokslo ir technikos rūmai (The Chamber of Science and Technology). Under this agreement, the shares of the established company were paid with non-cash contribution – monastic buildings, which the association couldn’t formally have at its disposal, because the property belonged to the state.
In July 2004, the Order of Friars Minor Conventual requested the court to cancel the registration of the monastery buildings on the name of the Pranciškonų rūmai (Palace of the Franciscans), which was made in 1994 and to make over the buildings to the Lithuanian government. Last week, after many extremely cumbersome court vicissitudes, the Supreme Court of Lithuania has announced the final and indisputable verdict: the buildings must return to the state.
“According to the restitution of property, the Lithuanian government should give the buildings back to the order. We have to hope and wait” – said Father Marek Dettlaff to “Wilnoteka”.
Father Dettlaff did not want to talk about the plans of the Order concerning the monastic buildings. “It is too soon to talk about it. If the buildings are made over, we’ll talk about our plans”. For now, the Franciscans are renovating the temple, which was one of the most devastated by the Soviets religious buildings in Vilnius, laboriously and with extraordinary commitment.
The Franciscan monastery has an area of about 6 thousand square meters. Currently, more than half of the building is renovated, the rest needs renovating. In Soviet times, monastery buildings, alike other church buildings, functioned as warehouses.
Tłumaczenie Agnieszka Wiecheć w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Agnieszka Wiecheć the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.