Amid Protests, Belarus Catholics Face Additional Government Scrutiny
Entry banned: Belarusian Catholics remain without a primate for two months&# 160;
In the comments for the Russian service &# 171; Voices of America&# 187; experts ponder why Archbishop Tadeusz&# 160; Kondrusevich&# 160; are not allowed to the flock&# 160;
The Vatican expressed concern over the ban on entry to Belarus for the head of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Belarus, Metropolitan of Minsk and Mogilev Tadeush Kondrusevich. According to the statement of the Roman Catholic Church of Belarus, “The Holy See is making every effort to correct the situation as soon as possible and hopes that the problem will be resolved positively”.
On August 31, the holder of Belarusian citizenship, Kondrusiewicz, was banned from entering Belarus during his return to Poland without explanation. A day later, Alexander Lukashenko said that the archbishop was banned from entering Belarus, since he allegedly was engaged in activities against the Belarusian state and its authorities, and also received a certain assignment in Warsaw. Two weeks later, the Department of Citizenship and Migration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus announced that Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz’s passport was invalidated due to his dual citizenship, while he was not deprived of Belarusian citizenship.
“Lukashenka wants to force bishops to be obedient”
Lithuanian Cardinal, Archbishop – Metropolitan of Kaunas Sigitas Tamkevicius (Sigitas Tamkevičius) noted in this regard: “The situation of Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz is close to the situations that we had in Lithuania during the Soviet era. Some bishops were tried during Stalin’s time, and later removed from office and sent into exile in the north of Lithuania. “.
In a commentary for the Russian Service of the Voice of America, Cardinal Tamkevicius explained that the matter concerns Bishops Julionas Steponavicius and Vincentas Sladkevicius. The first was sent under house arrest to the town of agare, and the second to the village of Nemunelio Radviliskis. Both priests had no right to leave the places of exile without the permission of the authorities. “I am sure that President Lukashenka wants to force the bishops to be obedient in this way,” says the Archbishop-Metropolitan of Kaunas..
“I do not exclude that Kondrusevich will still be allowed to return”
Petersburg Catholic priest Vadim Shaykevich believes that the ban on entry to Belarus for Metropolitan Kondrusiewicz was quite predictable, given the unprecedented scale of protests for the country after the presidential elections on August 9. “Archbishop Kondrusiewicz behaved very well and very correctly in this situation, and we are proud of him. He is a cautious person by nature, not inclined to scandal and aggravation of relations with the authorities, he has a lot of experience, and he has been a bishop for over 30 years..
And then he unequivocally spoke out for the observance of civil rights and defended the victims, including those who were in Akrestino, “Father Vadim said in an interview with the Voice of America Russian Service..
He explains the situation with the ban on entry to Belarus for Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz by the fact that the Belarusian authorities have always disapproved of dual citizenship. And Kondrusevich has Russian citizenship, since he spent quite a lot of time in Moscow – since 1995 he was a member of the Council for Interaction with Religious Associations under the President of the Russian Federation, from 1999 to 2005 he was the chairman of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Russian Federation.
Vadim Shaikevich is inclined to view what happened on August 31 in the context of political events. At the same time, he notes: “Lukashenka is an eccentric person, unpredictable, but capable of maneuvers. It can be assumed that he wants to show, for example, the Chinese comrades that he shares their attitude towards the Catholic Church. But at the same time he is a multipolar politician, and I do not exclude the possibility that for all the eccentricity of Lukashenka, Kondrusevich will still be allowed to return, and Lukashenka will blame everything on an error in the databases of his aides ”.
“This is something incredible, it just shouldn’t be!”
From the Polish side, the situation was commented on by an employee of the VISTULA Academy of Business and Finance in Warsaw, Dr. Piotr Kosciński (Piotr Koscinski), whose professional interests include political processes in the post-Soviet space.
First of all, he expressed bewilderment: “Yes, it is known that Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz is a Pole by nationality. But he was born on the territory of the BSSR, has Belarusian citizenship and all the rights of a citizen of his country. And why he is forbidden to return to it is absolutely incomprehensible. Because in Poland there is a law: a citizen of the country, even if he does not have a passport, can return to Poland.
Second, there are about 1.5 million Catholics in Belarus. There are both Poles and Belarusians among them. Therefore, the situation in which the chairman of the Conference of Catholic Bishops cannot return to his country is something incredible, this simply should not be! “.
Dr. Kosciński noted that Orthodox priests in Belarus behave more cautiously, while Catholic priests often directly say what they think. “We remember the situation with Yuri Kosobutsky, who is also Bishop of Minsk-Mogilev and works with Kondrusiewicz. And he spoke about the problems in the relationship between the authorities and the Roman Catholic Church, “- recalled the interlocutor of the” Voice of America “.
By the way, during a prayer in the Red Church of Minsk on September 5, the Vicar General of the Minsk-Mogilev Archdiocese Bishop Yuri Kosobutsky said: “We are going to pray for people who wanted our Motherland to be happy. For all people who wanted us to live in a free country, who wanted us to have no blackmail, intimidation, repression, pressure in our country, since it is on these foundations that our life is based. But we would like to be free, peaceful – Belarusians who are building a happy future ”. At the same time, he recalled the dramatic fate of the Belarusians, who were “beaten, maimed and taken to Akrestsin Street, to Zhodino, where they were bullied and tortured for participating in a peaceful protest against the falsification of the presidential election results.”.
Assessing the possible political consequences of the incident with the Metropolitan of Minsk and Mogilev, the professor at the VISTULA Academy believes: “This will not help Lukashenka. Belarusian Catholics will not have pro-presidential sentiments. Most likely, they will all support the protest “.
“Everything that was voiced by Archbishop Kondrusiewicz is an absolutely normal position”
One of these Belarusian Catholics is a civic activist Artem Tkachuk – in the summer he initiated the information campaign “Falsification is a grave sin” (the second name is “Catholic is not falsified”).
In an interview with the correspondent of the Russian service of the Voice of America, he said that the reason why Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz was not allowed to enter Belarus is Alexander Lukashenko’s complete rejection of everything that the head of the Belarusian Catholics says and does. “There is a good comment from Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary of State for Relations of the State Secretariat of the Holy See. He came here, conducted negotiations here, and two weeks later gave an interview in which he said something like the following: “I tried to explain to the Belarusian authorities that all the statements of Kondrusevich are absolutely normal. And that for Catholics, life is not limited to religion. This is also a public position ”. Further, Gallagher said that for the Belarusian authorities – and he spoke with Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei – such a position is unacceptable and incomprehensible even in the most minimal form, ”noted Artem Tkachuk.
Following Dr. Kosciński, the Belarusian civic activist believes that by their actions the authorities “added fuel to the fire.” “The voice of the Catholic Church has not changed here, and everything that was voiced by Archbishop Kondrusiewicz is an absolutely normal position. He opposed violence, said that people should not be called renegades, maintained a dialogue between the authorities and society. Therefore, after what happened in the eyes of many people, the Catholic Church of Belarus became a victim of the regime. As a result, many positive steps taken by the Orthodox Church have become almost invisible. That is, a stereotype emerged: Catholics are against the regime, and Orthodox are for it, although it cannot be said that this is so in reality. In every church there are circles that are more loyal to the government and less loyal. For example, the head of the KGB of Belarus (Ivan Tertel – A.P.) is also a Catholic. Nominally, 15% of our population are Catholics, but there are two hundred or three hundred who are really churchgoers. On the other hand, not all nominally Orthodox Christians are also in fact such. So this is how things stand now, “he concludes..