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Believers Suspend Signature Collection in Defense of Bernardine Monastery for Tactical Reasons

2007 2007-03-16T10:00:00+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

The Secretariat of the Organizing Committee of Belarusian Christian Democracy Party made a decision to suspend collection of signatures under petition to defend Bernardine monastery for tactical reasons. The Party spread a statement on March 15 which says that “new initiatives, local churches, and Christian denominations joined the campaign. In conjunction with that we agreed that we needed time for determining the forms of our cooperation and working out a common plan of joint actions and mass signature collection”.

The believers plan to launch a mass campaign in a new format on April 22. “It is most important now to spread information about the law which violates the right to freedom of consciousness and its effect on the religious life of the country”, -- reads the statement.

Earlier it was reported that over 800 signatures of believers and well-known public figures under the demand to return the long-suffering buildings to Catholics were sent to the Belarusian president. Recently the Belarusian language Society joined the signature collection campaign. That is why the proposal of the Organizing Committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party is quite fair.

Let us remind the readers, that believers started to collect signatures on March 7, when they learned about the plans of Minsk administration to hand the baroque building of the 17th century over to investors for reconstruction and turning it into a hotel with a swimming pool and an entertainment and shopping center.

Unfortunately, at present very few buildings of the 17th and 18th centuries remain in Minsk. Many of them were significantly reconstructed or destroyed. The complex of Bernaridne monasteries and the former Jesuit church – the Cathedral are among those few which are left. The Bernardine monastery, built with the help of people’s donations, was illegally confiscated in 1864 by the authorities of the Russian Empire after they had suppressed the national liberation rebellion led by Kastus Kalinouski. The construction of the stone church began in the end of 1640’. Vilnius governor Krysztaf Chadkevicz and his wife Safia provided 20,000 Polish zlotys to build the Church for Benedictine Sisters.

Since 19 March 2004 the Catholic believers hold services near the building of the former church twice a day. That is why on this day (the day of St. Joseph) they plan to mark the second anniversary of the prayers for the return of the church.

We are sorry to admit, but during the last 15 years only one new Catholic Church has been built in Minsk. Meanwhile, Orthodox churches are being built everywhere. Obviously, the plans of the city authorities are barbaric not only because of destroying the architecture heritage of Belarus, but also because it limits the believers in their right to freedom of consciousness, which, by the way, is declared by the country’s constitution.

“A temple should serve as a temple”, -- priest Andrei Ablameika says laconically, -- “the very architecture of the building demonstrates that it should serve the religious purposes. It is a great nonsense to adjust it to secular needs”.

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