Archd., 2; dioc., 5; mil. ord., 1; card., 2; abp., 2; bp., 11; parishes, 677; priests, 782 (678 dioc., 104 rel.); p.d., 3; sem., 229; bros., 45; srs., 758; catechists, 2,235; bap., 27,689; Caths., 2,880,000 (82%); tot. pop., 3,490,000.
Baltic republic forcibly absorbed and under Soviet domination from 1940; regained independence,1991; capital, Vilnius. Catholicism was introduced in 1251 and a short-lived diocese was established by 1260. Effective evangelization took place between 1387 and 1417, when Catholicism became the state religion. Losses to Lutheranism in the 16th century were over come. Efforts of czars to "russify" the Church between 1795 and 1918 were strongly resisted. Concordat relations with the Vatican were established in 1927, nine years after independence from Russia and 13 years before Russia annexed Lithuania. The Russians closed convents and seminaries; in Kaunas, men needed government approval to attend the seminary. Priest were restricted in pastoral ministry and subject to appointment by government officials; no religious services were allowed outside churches; religious press and instruction were banned. Two bishops-Vincentas Sladkevicius and Julijonas Steponavicius-were forbidden to act as bishops and relegated to remote parishes in1957 and1961, respectively. Some bishops and hundreds of priests and laity were imprisoned or detained in Siberia between 1945 and 1955. Despite such conditions, a vigorous underground Church flourished in Lithuania.
In the 1980s, government pressure eased, and some bishops were allowed to return to their dioceses. In 1989 Pope John Paul II appointed bishops in all six Lithuanian dioceses. The Church strongly supported the 1990 independence movement, and Lithuanian independence leaders urged to desert the Russian army and seek sanctuary in churches. However, communist rule nearly destroyed the Church's infrastructure. In 2000 the Church and government signed a series of agreements regularizing the Church's position.
(The above exert comes from Our Sunday Visitor's 2004 Catholic Almanac and is used on this web site with the publisher's permission.)