The Church in Lithuania proclaimed the Year of Blessed George Matulaitis-Matulewicz. The ceremony took place at the Vilnius Cathedral with the entire Lithuanian Episcopate in attendance. Although the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is normally a workday in Lithuania, many priests, religious sisters, and the faithful gathered at the cathedral. The solemn Eucharist was presided over by Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, the Apostolic Nuncio to Lithuania. The following is Fr. Jan M. Rokosz, MIC’s correspondence from Vilnius.
The timeliness of Blessed George’s life and teachings was presented by Fr. Kestutis Brilius, MIC, prior to the Mass, at the beginning of which was read a decree of the Lithuanian Episcopate proclaiming the Year of Blessed George in the entire Lithuanian Church. “Therefore, because of his saintliness and pastoral wisdom, Blessed George is shown to the whole of Lithuania as an inspirer and a patron of the New Evangelization, which is a great need, opportunity, and hope of the Church in the country.” Such was the main topic of the homily delivered by Cardinal Audrys Juozas Backis during the Mass inaugurating the Year of Blessed George. This Year will be celebrated not only by the Church in Lithuania, but also by the Congregation of Marian Fathers. On this occasion, the General Superior of the Congregation, Fr. Andrzej Pakuła, MIC, wrote in his special letter: “There is no doubt that in our history Blessed George played a providential role. Not only did he rescue our community from annihilation, but also, thanks to his personal sanctity, introduced into it enlivening inspirations: an authentic love of Christ, a spirit of service to the Church wherever the need is greatest, and total dedication to God’s cause, all this in the spirit of Mary and the mystery of her Immaculate Conception.”
George Matulaitis-Matulewicz was born in 1871, in the village of Lugine near Marijampole, Lithuania. Being in his 20th year of age, he entered the seminary in Kielce, Poland. Later he studied in Warsaw and St. Petersburg (Russia), where he also received his priestly ordination. He obtained his Doctoral degree in Theology at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). While working in Warsaw, Blessed George engaged in intensive social work, was a youth minister, and co-creator of the Christian democracy. In 1909, unbeknown to the Czarist authorities, he secretly entered the Congregation of Marian Fathers, which he saved from extermination and then contributed to its growth. In 1918-1925, he was the Bishop of Vilnius and in the following two years – as Apostolic Visitator to Lithuania. Blessed George worked on improving relations between the Vatican and Lithuania, by organizing there a new ecclesial province and preparing the concordat.
He also founded two female religious institutes: the Congregation of Handmaids of Jesus in the Eucharist and the Sisters of the Poor of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Blessed George died in Kaunas in 1927. On June 28, 1987, Pope John Paul II beatified Archbishop George Matulaitis-Matulewicz.
Blessed George is considered a patron of the Polish-Lithuanian reconciliation and a special model to follow by the religious, bishops, and diplomats.
After the Radio Vatican
In light of 2012 being the 25th anniversary of his beatification