Belarusian authorities have barred Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz from entering the country, a day after he warned that the nation’s political crisis could lead to civil war.
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz was on his way home from Poland for a business trip when he was intercepted at the crossing between the Polish village of Kuznica and the Belarusian village of Bruzgi. “I am at the crossing point in Kuznitsa, I was denied entry. There will be a statement. So for I can say nothing else,” he said. (Read: Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Anti-Corruption Activist, Dies of COVID-19)
According to reports, the 74-year-old archbishop of Minsk and Mohilev has been a vocal critic of the brutal crackdown on protesters in the wake of the country’s contested August 9 elections. He has been denied entry on August 31, despite him being a citizen of Belarus.
Belarus, a country of 9.5 million bordering Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, has been in a state of chaos the past weeks. Widespread protests have been happening ever since incumbent president Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner with 80% of the vote.
Opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya earned 10% of the vote, electoral officials said. She was detained for several hours after complaining to the electoral committee and has been fled to Lithuania. (Read: 5 Religious People Who Were Detained in Their Fight for Human Rights)
Thousands of demonstrators who have taken to the streets to demand a recount have since been arrested.
Defender of the Protesters
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, who is also the president of the Belarusian bishops’ conference, has been a staunch defender of protesters following the disputed presidential election on August 9. (Read: PH Church, Catholic Groups Decry Reimposition of Death Penalty)
Last week, he demanded an investigation when it was reported that the riot police blocked the doors of the Church of Saints Symon and Alena in Minsk while clearing away protesters from a nearby square. The archbishop even prayed outside of a prison where detained protesters were reported to have been tortured.
“The beating of peaceful demonstrators who want to know the truth, their cruel treatment and inhumane detention, is a grave sin on the conscience of those who give criminal orders and commit violence,” Archbishop Kondrusiewicz wrote in a message to Belarusian state officials on August 14. (Read: Pope John Paul II’s 1981 message to Filipinos remains relevant today)
Earlier, Pope Francis has appealed for justice and dialogue in Belarus in his Angelus address. “I carefully follow the post-electoral situation in this country and appeal for dialogue, the rejection of violence and respect for justice and law. I entrust all Belarusians to the protection of Our Lady, Queen of Peace,” he said.
Catholics are the second-largest religious community in Belarus after Orthodox Christians.