18 June 2019, Tuesday, 9:12
We are in the same boat

Belarusian Authorities Expel Polish Catholic Priest From Vitsebsk


Parishioners of the Catholic Church of Jesus the Merciful are unhappy.

Commissioner for Religious and National Affairs Leanid Huliaka found no reason to extend permission for priest Pawel Knurek to serve in Belarus. This is stated in the response to the appeal of the parishioners of the Church of Jesus the Merciful in Vitsebsk, in which the priest served. The letter has been published by the website Vitsebsk Spring.

Polish citizen, priest Pawel Knurek, worked in Belarus for 16 years: first in Lyntupy in the Pastavy district, then as head of the Church of Jesus the Merciful in Vitsebsk.

In November 2018, Knurek was forced to leave the country, as he did not receive permission to continue his ministry in Belarus. He hoped that the separation was temporary and that within a few months the issue could be resolved and he would return to the parish.

Vitsebsk believers appealed with a protest petition to the Commissioner for Religious and National Affairs Leanid Huliaka.

In his reply to the parishioners, Huliaka said that on October 18, 2018, he had not agreed to an invitation of the priest Knurek to serve in the religious community “Roman Catholic Parish of Jesus the Merciful in Vitsebsk”. “There are no grounds for revising the earlier decision,” the Commissioner for Religious Affairs and Nationalities noted.

“Additionally, we inform that under the current legislation, the ombudsman has the right not to indicate in the notification the reason for the refusal to agree on the invitation of a priest,” notes Leanid Huliaka.

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”.

Jobs of priests in the Vitsebsk diocese can not be compensated by the Belarusian priests. Only two people from the diocese are now studying at the preparatory courses at the seminary.

At the same time, over the past three years (2016–2018), the authorities have not given any permission to foreigners to serve in the Vitsebsk diocese - Catholic priests or nuns.

Previously, a similar refusal was received by the priest Sobieslaw Tomal from Salihorsk.