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An estimated 400 Lithuanians gathered on June 13 to protest the Archdiocesan decision to close St. Peter Lithuanian Church in South Boston. In a symbolic gesture of solidarity with its 100 years of history, the parishioners embraced their church with woven Lithuanian sashes and floated 100 white balloons, joining their 16-member church choir in a hymn to Mary, the patroness of Lithuania.

Greater Boston Lithuanians (numbering roughly 3000) are in an uproar over the recent announcement that the Archdiocese intends to close St. Peter Lithuanian Parish. Lithuanians believe closing St. Peter Parish will terminate Lithuanian ministry in Greater Boston. This is especially painful now, as new immigrants come from Lithuania fresh from an environment of religious oppression by Communists. Their right to worship in their own language taken away by church leadership, the immigrants cannot help but make comparisons with Soviet rule.

City Councilor Jim Kelly believes it is not just Lithuanians who need St. Peter Lithuanian Church. Joining the rally to show his support, Councilor Kelly pointed out that Poles, Italians, Irish, and all the communities of South Boston need a stable and vibrant Lithuania community, with St. Peter Parish at its center. A long-time supporter of Lithuanian action in South Boston, including St. Peter Lithuanian Parish, the South Boston Lithuanian Citizens’ Club and the Lithuanian Saturday School, he pledged his support to this highly visible and critical Lithuanian cause.

Meantime, the world-wide Lithuanian community is also aghast at the recent announcement by Archbishop O’Malley. The Boston area is a very active hub in the far-flung Lithuanian community, providing leaders and representatives for numerous Lithuanian organizations. The parish closing made front-page news in “Lietuvos Rytas”, the largest daily newspaper in Lithuania, and continues to be tracked in daily articles and television programs across the ocean.

A “Friends of St. Peter Parish” movement has been started, lead by Gloria Adomkaitis and supported by a growing number of community members (currently, registration is at an estimated 600 supporters). Additional actions to gain sympathy for this Lithuanian cause are being planned. Will they succeed? Based on official reconfiguration criteria, St. Peter Parish should remain open: it is financially stable with beautifully renovated buldings, an energetic young pastor, and a tightly-knit supportive community of about 300. “We’re not thinking of losing yet,” says Aldona Turauskyte, who came from Lithuanian with her husband and 2 children 4 years ago. “Lithuanians are fighters.”