Minsk prosecutor accuses Catholics and Orthodox for fomenting national discord
by Vladimir Rozanskij

Archbishop Jurij Kosobutskij and protoierej Sergej Lepin criticized the destruction of a memorial for Roman Bondarenko, who was killed by the police. The prosecutor - invited by Lukashenko to take a stand - accuses them of going against the constitution. The Catholic Bishop: Let us also pray for the conversion of those whose hands are soiled with the people’s blood.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Yesterday, 19 November, the Prosecutor General of Minsk accused the Catholic auxiliary bishop Jurij Kosobutsky (regent of the archdiocese in the absence of Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, in exile in Poland) and the press officer of the Orthodox diocese, the protoierej Sergej Lepin, of having broken the law, due to some statements published on social networks.

The appeals of the two church representatives concerned the brutal destruction of the memorial erected in honour of one of the victims of police violence, Roman Bondarenko. On November 11, the 31-year-old Roman went out into the courtyard in front of his house, to ask the masked police why they were tearing down the white-red-white flags (symbol of democratic Belarus) hanging from the windows and corners of the courtyard. According to witnesses, some plainclothes men, also masked, seized Roman and forcibly loaded into an avtozak, a police van. A few hours later Roman was found in the hospital in very serious condition, after being savagely beaten, and shortly thereafter he died.

A memorial was built in Bondarenko's courtyard a with the victim's photo, surrounded by flowers, icons and lamps, where people stopped to pray. On November 15, the policemen destroyed the memorial altar, smashing and trampling the exhibits, including icons, hence the expressions of dismay expressed on Facebook, in which Msgr. Kosobutsky and Father Lepin accused the police of "trying to destroy all that is worthy of veneration, pure and bright in our people".

In the published text there were also some expressions, judged “illegal” by the prosecutor's office, where they speak of “insult to the memory of the dead” and the “satanic dance of the policemen on candels and icons”.

The charges claim that these phrases "fuel hatred of law enforcement officers, and therefore hostility between different social groups of people in society". This would be "inadmissible for the role of the Churches, which should help mutual understanding and harmony in society", reads the press release from the prosecutor's office. The magistrates propose to "take adequate measures" against what they consider "violations of the Belarusian law on religious freedom and of the constitution itself".

On 17 November it was President Lukashenko himself who urged the prosecutor to intervene against what he considers to be "unworthy and derisory" expressions, which "do not correspond to reality, only to accuse the authorities of barbarism". The president would have arranged to transfer the memorial "to the only place it should be, that is, in the cemetery".

Msgr. Kosobutsky maintains that "the behavior of the police demonstrates the growing fears of the authorities towards the Belarusian people. We know well and see what is happening in our beloved Belarus: violence, torture, humiliation of human dignity, attacks by state structures of force against the peaceful citizens of our country”.

According to the bishop regent, “all these repressions only strengthen us. I invite everyone to pray for our people, to strengthen their spirit, courage and dignity in the face of these trials. I also ask you not to forget to join in your prayers the intention for the conversion of those whose hands are soiled by the blood of the people ".

After being questioned by the prosecutor together with Father Lepin, Msgr. Kosobutsky reassured the faithful on his Facebook page, explaining that “it was a conversation of a high cultural content, which does not often happen in our state institutions. After the explanations, we received an official written warning ... Thanks to all those who support us as they can, for me it is very important and necessary ", he concluded, promising to keep everyone informed about the evolution of the situation.