Belarus' New Law Worries Cardinal

KONIGSTEIN, Germany, NOV. 18, 2002 ( The Catholic Church in Belarus is concerned about the new law on religion which is one of the most repressive in the world.

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Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek, archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev, expressed that concern in statements to directors of Aid to the Church in Need.

The law, signed Oct. 31 by President Aleksandr Lukashenko, prohibits activities of religious associations that are not registered with government authorities, and provides for the censure of religious literature.

The Church in Belarus endured decades of persecution during the Soviet era. Swiatek himself was sentenced to death in 1945, but then sent to Siberia to do forced labor until 1954.

«I cannot see life getting any better for Catholics in Belarus,» the cardinal said. «But let us at least hope that it will not get any worse.»

Cardinal Swiatek stressed that Catholics were not the main target of the new restrictions. «Many groups, among them the Protestants, will be hardest hit, for they are not yet very well established,» he said.

According to a recent study quoted by Aid to the Church in Need, around 2 million of Belarus’ 10 million inhabitants are Catholics.

President Lukashenko has been carrying out a nationalist policy that, among other things, gave a privileged place to the Orthodox Church.

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