Roman Catholic priests at KGB’s gunpoint

Priest Uladzislau Lazar arrested by the State Security Committee (KGB) has not had any problems with the authorities, parishioner Natallia Darashkevich said. They got acquainted when the priest was working at the Minsk Cathedral.

“He is an excellent priest and good man. He has never been engaged in political activity; his being accused of espionage is totally absurdal. He does not take an opposition stance but he always said what he really thought. I have never heard him speaking against the authorities but he has always stood for the truth, not only ex catedra. However, he has never called for some action,” Natallia says. She does not know whether priest Lazar experienced any problems with the KGB earlier but adds that the Belarusian secret service is taking a great interest in catholic priests’ activities.

“The Roman Catholic Church in Belarus is not subject to the authorities. As it is known to influence public opinion’s forming its priests often turn out to be at the KGB’s gunpoint,” Natallia explains.

Her words are confirmed by a Polish priest who has been recently withdrawn from Belarus for alleged violation of law and banned from entering our country. He asked not to mention his name in order not to trigger repressions on his colleagues who remained in Belarus.

“The KGB wants to remove all the priests who work a bit differently than men in uniform would like them to. My predecessor was also withdrawn for ‘political activity’, as they define it. The KGB Chief told me plainly that there had been too much breadth in my behaviour. If I had been engaged solely in old people’s matters without leaving my parish I would not have got into trouble,” he said.

In cases of conflicts with the authorities priests who come from abroad may count on diplomatic assistance. As priest Lazar is a citizen of Belarus his one recourse is the Vatican.

Parishioners and friends are trying to help him calling Belarusian catholics for pray for the arrested priest on August 4. Signatures are being collected under two petitions: one is the address to Bishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz and the other is to be sent to the Head of the Belarusian Supreme Court.