Police Disperse Participants of Prayer against Destruction of St. Joseph’s Church
About two dozens of people, mostly young, were disbanded by policemen near the former Bernardine monastery in Minsk. At 8 p.m. young people gathered for a prayer service, and in a few minutes policemen arrived, Radio Liberty informs. One of the policemen who presented himself as a district police officer of Tsentralny district of Minsk, and told to those present that to gather for prayer service is possible only on permission of city authorities.
Policemen demanded people to disband, threatening with arrests. Several persons were pushed away from the spot near the former St. Joseph church towards Bahdanovich Street.
For about two years people have been gathering in this place and prayed for the church to be returned to believers. Earlier policemen observed the events, but never disbanded them.
According to reports, the regime has a plan of reconstruction of the former monastery into a hotel complex. It is planned that a construction firm of one of Arab countries would finance and build the hotel. Belarusian Catholics are engaged in an active struggle for the church. Every day prayer services are held near the building. More than 10,000 signatures under a demand not to destroy the holy place, and to give it to believers, have been given to Aliaksandr Lukashenka. Not only Catholics, but Orthodox, Protestants and others take part in struggle for the church.
A group of Roman Catholics and Greek Catholics, public activists and workers of culture of Belarus have sent an open letter to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI with a request to help believers save St. Joseph’s church and return it to the Catholic community. In particular, the letter reads: ‘We, Belarusian Christians, public men and workers of culture, address You with a request for prayer against destroying the only closed church and a monastery complex of the 17th century in Minsk, Belarus, which Russian Tsarist and Soviet Atheistic regimes failed to destroy.’