Two Greek-Catholic (Uniate) priests were detained in Vitebsk region, their homes were searched. It looks like we can speak about a new wave of repressions against the Uniate Church in Belarus.
At the end of May, 2023, for three days in a row, enforcers conducted searches at the places of different activists of Polotsk district. In particular, a search in the framework of a criminal investigation into “extremism” was conducted at the place of a Greek-Catholic priest, Aliaksandr Shautsou: all office equipment was seized from his home. So far, the substance of the criminal case is unknown. Most probably, it was launched against “an unidentified circle of people” – that way the investigators get grounds for limitless number of searches.
Aliaksandr Shautsou is an abbot of the parish of Saint Jehoshaphat, he’s been heading the Uniate community in Polotsk for over 10 years. Thanks to him, different Greek-Catholic parishes have established good, friendly relations between them. According to one of the versions, they are going to charge the priest with “unsanctioned picket” through social media. The thing is, his photo on Facebook is decorated with a frame with inscription “Pray for Belarus” made with red letters on white background. The Belarusian regime considers white and red colours in Belarus to be “protest colours”, i.e., “extremist colours”.
Besides that, on May 25, 2023, the Abbot of the Greek-Catholic parish of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin in Miory, priest Andrei Kulik, was detained. The reasons for the detention are unknown, but few people doubt that his case is somehow connected to the case of the “extremist” priest, Aliaksandr Shautsou.
Rev. Andrei has been the Abbot of the parish of the town of Miory since June 23, 2019; he also used to be the pastor of the parish in Disna (till September 6, 2020). He was born in Grodno region, but has spent the significant part of his service in Vitebsk region since his first assignment to Gorodok received after priestly ordination. From April 21, 2005, till May 31, 2012, he was an administrator in Podsvilye. During his service in the parish, the priest occupied himself with finishing construction of a new church and conducting interior works there; the church was then consecrated on July 30, 2011. Later followed the work in the parish of St. Uladzislau in Vitebsk (microdistrict Bilevo), and then in the parish of Saint Jehoshaphat Kuntsevich in Kanstantsinau (Glybotsky district).
From September 28, 2014, till June 22, 2019, he was in the care of the parish of the Ascension of the Lord in the village of Zerkashchyna. During his pastoral work, the priest devoted a lot of attention to the work with children and youth. During the recent years, he has been working in Miory.
Believers of the Greek-Catholic (Uniate) Church are one of the most vulnerable religious categories in Belarus. They almost have no churches of their own.
At the same time, it was the Uniate Church that the prominent figures of the Belarusian renaissance relied on in 1980-90s. That is one of the reasons, why the regime’s attitude to Greek-Catholics is so negative: it considers them to be the source of the protest movement of all the believers.