Belarus persecutes Catholics. The nuncio met with Alejnik

The papal representative in Minsk, Archbishop Ante Jozic, met with Foreign Minister Siarhei Alejnik last night.

According to a ministry statement, the meeting discussed current bilateral issues and “efforts to resolve regional conflicts.” The Catholic Church in Belarus did not comment on this meeting.

Arrest of priests

On November 17, Belarusian authorities arrested Father Henryk Okotowicz (63), a pastor from Volozhyn in the Minsk region. According to the human rights organization Christian Vision for Belarus, they accuse the priest of “high treason”, which carries a penalty of seven to fifteen years in prison. A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Minsk confirmed the arrest. “The circumstances of the case are under investigation,” he said on Friday evening.

According to Christian Vision for Belarus, another Catholic priest, Father Fr. Vyacheslav Pyalinak serves in the parish of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Brest. The police confiscated his mobile phone and laptop. The reasons are not yet known. According to unofficial sources, the priest was accused of “extremism”. Such accusation is a broad concept in Belarus and means any actions or statements in public or on social media that are considered critical of the current regime. In the years 2011-2015, Fr. Pialinak was the personal secretary of the then Apostolic Nuncio to Belarus, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, who is currently Cardinal and Prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches.

“Extremists” in Belarus

There are currently 3,520 names on the ‘extremist list’ (as of November 17, 2023). The list of people described as ‘extremists’ includes the names of both those currently serving a sentence and those who have already been released.

People placed on the ‘extremist list’ are subject to various restrictions for five years after their criminal record expires.

“Such persons cannot, among other things, engage in educational activities, hold public office or perform military service. In addition, if a person on the list receives money into the account, the bank will be obliged to report this fact to the competent state authorities,” said Belsat, which itself was recognized as an “extremist formation” in 2021.

Source: Do Rzeczy