12/05/2020, 10.54
BELARUS - RUSSIA
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Minsk, two Catholic priests arrested

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Fr Vjačeslav Barok published an image of a work of art with a swastika and the inscription: "Stop Lukashism". Fr Vitalij Bystrov, a Greek Catholic, married with three children, only stopped in front of a protest. The bishop of Minsk: "Repression of Catholic Church in our country increasing."

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The prosecutor of Vitebsk (Belarus) yesterday decreed the arrest and detention for 10 days of the Catholic priest Vjačeslav Barok. He is charged with having published the work of an artist, Vladimir Tsezler, entitled "Stop to Lukashism" on his Facebook page. It depicts a swastika with the colours of the "official" flag, established by President Lukashenko (photo 1 ). Radio Svoboda claims that the priest was accused of public demonstration and propaganda of Nazi symbols, breaking Article 17.10 of the criminal code. The priest will serve his term in the Novopolotsk prison.

On his website, Tsezler himself defined the interpretation of his work absurd and deviant: the use of the Nazi symbol has exactly the opposite purpose, that of denouncing the dictatorship. Father Barok (photo 2) considers his arrest political persecution. A policeman had noticed his post last November 25; the priest explained to him that it was the work of an artist, and that he is "absolutely opposed to fascism of all kinds, to communism and to any totalitarian regime, and I had put up that manifesto as a protest against violence in the country". In any case, the priest concluded, "I have had my suitcase packed for a long time, in case they came to pick me up".

A few days earlier, on November 30, in Ivatsevichak, a Greek-Catholic priest, Father Vitalij Bystrov (photo 3), received the same sentence of 10 days in prison. According to Tut.by website, Father Vitalij was charged under to article 23.34, for taking part in a protest action in the city of Brest, where he went for a celebration on 25 October.

 However, the Belarusian Greek-Catholics’ Tsarkva magazine explains that in reality Father Vitalij had simply stopped at the side of the road, at the passage of an unauthorized protest march. Before the judge, the same priest declared that "next to me a cyclist with a white-red-white flag had stopped, and he was immediately surrounded by policemen ... I didn't move, and a few minutes later I went to the station to go home”, but was later accused and arrested. Father Vitalij is a married priest with three children, who also works as a labour protection engineer on a large farm.

The Catholic bishop of Minsk Jurij Kosobutskij (photo 4), regent of the archdiocese in the absence of the exiled metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, has publically condemned these arrests on his social pages: "We see that repression against the Catholic Church in our Country. We denounce all sin, all violence, we are against all lies and falsehoods, all forms of repression and any attempt to throw the population into terror, we are against the humiliation of human dignity, since every man is created in the image and likeness of God. We pray in particular for the harmony, social peace, solidarity and unity of the Belarusian people. Unfortunately, some believe that all this is a form of extremism and incitement to conflict”.

The bishop made yet another appeal to "listen to our prayers for the homeland, for our people, for those people who are behind bars for political reasons, for those who are fired for their opinions, for those who are intimidated and blackmailed, for all those who suffer, and for all those who are particularly in need of our spiritual support, especially for the priests Vjačeslav Barok and Vitalij Bystrov ”.

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