The priest has talked to people and conducted services in the Belarusian language.
The Bishop of Vitsebsk informed the parishioners of the Vitsebsk roman catholic cathedral church that the authorities had completely denied the priest Pavel Knurek a ministry in Belarus.
Knurek has worked in Belarus for 16 years: first in Lyntupy in Paaziorje, then in the Church of Jesus the Merciful in Vitsebsk.
In November 2018, the head priest was forced to leave the country, as he did not get permission to continue his ministry in Belarus. He still hoped that the separation was temporary and that within a few months the issue could be resolved and he would return to the flock.
Vitsebsk believers appealed with a protest petition to the Commissioner for Religious Affairs in Belarus, Leanid Huliaka, the Vitsebsk Viasna’s website writes.
“The decision not to extend the ministry permission for priest Pavel set us wondering, especially taking into account the fact that in recent years our state has clearly demonstrated openness to the world. In 2018, by a presidential decree, the period of visa-free stay of foreign citizens was increased to one month in our country. And it is completely incomprehensible how, at the same time, a person, who has worked in Belarus for more than fifteen years in the field of the spiritual rebirth of our Motherland, loses the right to stay and minister in its territory. We are confident that such bans harm the image of the whole country,” – the address to Huliaka says.
Vitsebsk residents do not perceive Pavel Knurek as a foreigner, since he “says a service, delivers sermons and speaks to people in a good Belarusian language,” knows Belarusian culture in every way and contributes to its development.
“We are convinced that for people who sow good, love and true faith, Belarus should always keep the door open. If it’s suddenly closed in front of someone, then, in our opinion, only harm and tension in society occurs,” – the address to Huliaka says.
At the pre-Christmas press conference, Bishop of Vitsebsk Aleh Butkevich drew attention to “certain difficulties in inviting clergymen from abroad, not only from Poland.”
Vacancies for priests in the Vitsebsk diocese cannot be taken by the Belarusian priests. Only two people from the diocese are currently studying at the preparatory courses in the seminary.
At the same time, over the past three years (2016–2018), the authorities have not given a single permission to foreigners, Catholic priests or nuns, to serve in the Vitsebsk diocese.
Previously, a similar refusal was received by priest Sobeslav Tomal from Salihorsk. The desire of the authorities to reduce the number of priests, Polish citizens, in the country is seen behind such steps. At the same time, for example, the citizen of Russia, Pavel (Ponomarev), is an Orthodox metropolitan, although, under the law, he has to be a citizen of Belarus.