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(Forum 18) reports that after ten years’ service as a parish priest Fr Robert Maciejewski was forced to return to his native Poland because Belarus’ senior state religious affairs official refused the Catholic bishop’s request to extend state permission for him to continue religious work.
Another foreign Catholic priest has been forced to leave Belarus after the authorities refused to extend permission for him to continue to serve in the country. Polish citizen Fr Robert Maciejewski – who served as parish priest in Mstislav in Mogilev [Mahilyow] Region for almost ten years – had to leave Belarus on 25 April.
Fr Maciejewski left Belarus because the authorities had not extended his permit to carry out religious activities, the spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Fr Yuri Sanko, confirmed to Forum 18 from the capital Minsk on 23 May. Fr Sanko did not explain the reasons for the denial.
Fr Maciejewski’s enforced departure from Belarus came two weeks after the diocesan head, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, had called for the state to end the requirement that foreign citizens need permission to conduct any religious activity (see below).
Another Polish Catholic priest who left Belarus at the end of May after 28 years’ service had seen his application for Belarusian citizenship rejected five years ago.
Meanwhile, organisers of a bike ride in mid-May to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the publication of the first translation of books of the Bible into Belarusian were told both the ride and meetings they had planned in several towns along the route were banned.
And court bailiffs visited New Life Full Gospel Church in Minsk in late April in a renewed attempt to force it to vacate the building it bought and has used for worship for 14 years. Church leaders hope that negotiations with the authorities will resolve the dispute. Read full article.
Kidnapped in November, his hostage ordeal over! Catholic priest Georges Vandenbeusch is heading home from Cameroon’s capital to France after over a month in captivity.
Four and a half months after Belarus’ KGB secret police arrested Catholic priest Fr Vladislav Lazar on 31 May, it is still unclear why he was arrested or what specific acts he is accused of having committed, Forum 18 News Service notes. Fr Lazar is being held in a KGB detention centre under conditions which have been described as designed to crush the spirit. He has – against international human rights law – been denied visits from his family, friends and fellow-clergy, including Papal Nuncio Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti. Fr Lazar has been charged with treason, which carries a punishment of between seven and 15 years in jail, but the authorities have refused to reveal details of their allegations. Curiously, the charges were first revealed by the Catholic Church three and half months after the arrest, not by the authorities. The KGB secret police has bullied Fr Lazar’s family, but campaigns for him continue. Pope Francis has also expressed his concern, and many in Belarus are convinced the priest is innocent. “The case is falling apart and everyone understands that the charges sound funny”, journalist and family friend Lyubov Lunyova told Forum 18.
Read more at Forum 18
Claims that a recently murdered Catholic priest, Fr. Francois Murad was beheaded in a violent video that has gone viral across the internet are false!
Priest ‘beheaded’ in Syria video actually ‘shot dead’
A Catholic priest, Father Francois Murad has been shot and killed in northern Syria
By Ruth Sherlock, Beirut
The footage, said to show Father Francois Murad, 49, as the victim in a brutal summary execution by foreign jihadists is likely to be an older video that bares no relation to the death of the Catholic priest.
Father Murad “died when he was shot inside his church” in the northern Syrian Christian village of Ghassaniyeh on June 23, three separate local sources told the Telegraph, who did not wish to be named.
Claims that Father Murad was one of two men to be decapitated by a foreign jihadist group went viral, the outrage expressed in blogs and articles worldwide.
The footage posted on YouTube shows three men kneeling on the ground surrounded by a group of foreign jihadists, now thought to be a group of Chechen rebels. The crowd whips itself into frenzy and screaming “God is great” some of the rebels slaughter two of the prisoners.
The film is too grainy to be able to confirm the identity of either of the victims as Father Francois. While the video’s title refers to the killing of a priest and a bishop, none of the participants in the actual video refer to any such actions, and accuse the victims of being collaborators and ‘shabiha’, a reference to pro-government militia members.
Father Pizzaballa, a colleague in the Franciscan Friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, to which Father Francois belonged, told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that none of their priests were the victims in the video.
“None of our priests have died in this manner. All our priests are alive. Reading the reports circulating in the media I conclude that they have mixed up events,” he said.
Peter Bouckaert, Emergencies Director for Human Rights Watch said: “Confusion may have arisen because of the appearance of this video around the same time that the news came out that Father Francois had been killed.
“Human Rights Watch has been conducting an in-depth investigation into this video, and it looks like it may have been filmed in a different location several months ago, long before Father Francois was reportedly killed.”
Yasser, a Syrian activist who has been researching the killings in the video said that the incident took place “months” before the priest’s death.
Several other Syrian sources, that asked not to be named, confirmed this account.
The Vatican news agency confirmed that Father Francois was killed on June 23 but said the “circumstances of the death are not fully understood”.
Two days after Father Francois was killed in Ghassaniyeh, the Custody of the Holy Land issued a press release saying Islamist groups on the Sant Antonio church shot the father dead. The press release said he had been given a funeral and buried.
“Islamists attacked the monastery, ransacking it and destroying everything.
When Father Francois tried to resist, defending the nuns, rebels shot him,” the release stated.
The resort town of Ghassaniyeh, in Syria’s Latakia province, which was visited by the Telegraph, has fallen under the control of the extremist jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra.
Father Francois was thought to be one of the last remaining Christian inhabitants.
Two months ago four Italian journalists were kidnapped by Jabhat al-Nusra as they filmed inside Father Francois’ church, which had recently been desecrated. Susan Dabbous, one of the kidnapped journalists, reported that Jabhat al-Nusra had referred to Father Francois as “a spy”.
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