Leaders of churches ignored address of political prisoners’ families


Only a pastor of Minsk charismatic church “New Life” has answered the open letter of wives and mothers of the prisoners of conscience in Belarus, published on the eve of Christmas.

The requests of the women to come to the defence of their husbands were also addressed to the leader of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, a representative of the Pope in Belarus and priests of other denominations, “Salidarnasts” writes.

In their address the wives and mothers made an appeal for help.

“Please contribute to immediate release of our loved ones,” they wrote. “The holiday of the Nativity is a family holiday, and as all ordinary people we want to celebrate it with our family members.”

Among the authors of the letter were Natsa Palazhanka, Alla Sannikova, Maryna Adamovich, Tatsyana Sevyarynets, Volha Bandarebka, Natallya Pinchuk and Maryna Lobava.

However no Christmas miracle was accomplished. Neither Metropolitan Filaret, nor Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, nor Metropolitan Tadeush Kandrusevich has answered the letter. The leader of the Greek Catholics in Belarus Archimandrite Sergei Hajek, bishops Serhei Homich, Majsej Astrouski and Leanid Biryuk have paid no attention to the address as well.

The only person who had the guts to say the words of support and appointed a meeting with the families of the political prisoners was New Life church pastor Vyachaslau Hancharenka.

“As a believer , it is hard for me to comprehend the fact that the church fears to pronounce on this situation,” Volha Bandarenka said. “I am a Catholic, and I know how the Roma Catholic church act in the times of Polish “Solidarity”. That is why it hurts me, but I hope on. I understand what crackdown the position of the Catholic Church may cause. It can result in losing the places where believers can pray.”

Alla Sannikova believes that by ignoring their address the clergy do not act in a Christian way.

“I deplore that the Orthodox Church keeps silent,” said the mother of the former presidential candidate. “It is hoped that they would share our grief, as our loved ones who are suffering in prisons now, have done that for the sake of their nation. If not the church, who else should answer our call?”

Meanwhile, as it turned out, not all addressee of the letter sent to spiritual leaders by Nasta Palazhanka, have read it.

The acting spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops Conference, a Roman Catholic priest Yury Sanka confirmed that Tadeush Kandrusevich had received the letter, but he has not given an official answer yet.

In the office of the Embassy of Vatican in Minsk, a secretary of Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti stated that there were no letter from wives and mothers of the political prisoners. This church institution does not have a practice of answering open letters published in mass media.

Such a practice exists in the Belarusian Orthodox Church as well. The spokesperson of Metropolitan Filaret, archpriest Sergei Lepin, does not have information about whether the head of the BOC had received such a letter, so he denied comments.

As said by Yauhen Sviderski, a media authorized representative of the Belarusian Exarchate, Metropolitan answers letters personally to addressees.

“We do not turn it into a PR action,” the interlocutor said.

It is not known whether the issue of political prisoners was brought up during the Christmas meeting of Metropolitan Filaret with Alyaksandr Lukashenka. According to informational agencies, they discussed cooperation of the state and the Orthodox church and about spiritual renewal of the society.

It is curious that a year ago after the brutal disband of the protest rally on the Square Lukashenka did not attend the Christmas service with participation of Filaret. Before that the official newspaper of the Belarusian Orthodox church “Tsarkounae slova” published letters with a call to release the persons arrested on December 19. Then the church stressed its inalterable hands-off attitude to the political affairs, and made a call for the innocent people not to suffer unjust punishment.