They were arrested on December 8 with vague accusations, part of a campaign to intimidate the Catholic Church.
by Daniela Bovolenta
Father Viktar Zhuk, a Jesuit, pastor of the parish of St. Vladislav, and Father Alyaksei Varanko, vicar of the Greek Catholic parish of the Resurrection of Christ, were arrested in Vitsebsk, Belarus, on December 8, and taken to the city’s Pervomaiskoye District Police Station, where they were detained.
Relatives reported that accusations against them were vague. They mentioned the illegal organization of events. They were released to the custody of the court on December 9, and committed to speedy trial for December 11.
Zhuk is a well-known priest in Belarus, and the author of the Sunday sermons published every week in the main Belarusian Catholic portal.
The incident is part of a campaign to intimidate the Belarusian Catholic Church, after the support offered by several priests to the popular protests against President Alexander Lukashenko. The Catholic Metropolitan of Minsk, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, was prevented from returning to Belarus from Poland on August 30, 2020, despite the fact that he is a Belarusian citizen, after he had in turn criticized Lukashenko.
He remains in Warsaw, and has urged Belarusian Catholic to promote a peaceful solution of the crisis. He asked that on December 8, Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, priests in all churches read an Act of Consecration of Belarus to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which he deemed appropriate to overcome both the coronavirus and the political crisis.
Lukashenko is under heavy criticism by several countries in the world, but is strongly supported by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who regards Belarus as the Eastern European country most loyal to his Socialist past.