BISHOPS OF SAMOGITIA
Jurgis Petkevicius (Petkunas) (ca 1530-1574), bishop of Samogitia, born in Eisiskes, eastern Lithuania, his parents were of the nobility. Documents in the Vatican archives call him Petkoy; Polish texts refer to him as Pietkiewicz. He was educated in Italy at the Universities of Padua and Ferrari. In 1560-1561 he was raised to the rank of canon of the Samogitian diocese, and soon after that he was nominated canon of the diocesan chapter of Vilnius. On the recommendation of King Sigismund Augustus, he was consecrated bishop of Samogitia in 1567, where he was the first bishop to put into effect the decrees of the Ecumenical Council of Trent (1545-1563), convened for the purpose of stemming the tide of Protestantism. At the time Catholic churches in Lithuania were being expropriated and given over to Protestants; this was done mostly by those among the Lithuanian nobility who had adopted the new fait. However , the oft-quoted assertion that there were only 7 Catholic priests left in Samogitia is not accurate. It can be ascertained from documents of that period that there were about 20 Catholic priests active during the tenure of Bishop Petkunas. He also been falsely accused by one of his contemporaries of neglecting religious matters in favour of hunting. Not able to establish a seminary in his diocese, he bequeathed funds to the Jesuit seminary in Vilnius for the support of 12 seminarians who would work in Samogitia ; in 1581 some of the money was used to build a residence in Vilnius for students from Samogitia. Bishop Petkunas died at Varniai in July of 1574.
Nicholas Pac (ca 1570-1624), bishop of Samogitia; son of Paul Pac, castellan of Vilnius. He studied philosophy and theology at the Academies of Vilnius and Cracow. In 1602 he was consecrated titular bishop of Melton and auxiliary bishop of Vilnius. After the death of Merkelis Giedraitis bishop of Samogitia, he was appointed (1609) ordinary of the diocese , successfully continuing his predecessors work. Though in poor health, he was an energetic leader of his flock and a great patron of the Jesuit Order. During his tenure the Jesuit College in Kraziai was established and became known as a famous centre of learning in Samogitia. He willed his library and three of his estates to the Order, stipulating that their income be used to built and support a seminary at Varniai. The nobility were urged to contribute to building funds which resulted in new churches at Tryskiai (1611), Tirksliai (1612), Tverai (1614), Cekiske (1617) and Grinkiskis (1618). He is considered to be the author of a Lithuanian-language panegyric published in Vilnius in 1589. This panegyric, written in hexameter in honour of king Sigismund Vasa on the occasion of his arrival in Vilnius, is the first known Lithuanian text published in Lithuanian major. Nicholas Pac died on Sept. 6, 1624 in Padua, Italy, where he had been residing since 1614 at the camaldolese monastery; he resigned from his duties as bishop in 1618.
By Rapolas Krasauskas
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