KESTON NEWS SERVICE
Issue 4, Article 18, 17 April 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES REFUSE TO RETURN CONFISCATED
VESTMENTS

II. CORRECTION


BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES REFUSE TO RETURN CONFISCATED
VESTMENTS

by David Goldman, Keston News Service

Despite attempts by a priest of the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church
(BAOC) to recover liturgical items confiscated during a raid on a private home
in Minsk, procuracy officials have resolutely refused to return them. Keston
News Service has learnt that no criminal case exists against the head of the
BAOC, Bishop PYOTR (HUSHCHA) of Polotsk and Novogrudek, and that
therefore the seizure of the liturgical items was therefore illegal.

On 6 April, Father LEONID AKALOVICH, a priest of the BAOC, went to the
Minsk Military Procuracy in an attempt to reclaim the liturgical items seized in
the militia raid on 19 March on Hushcha�s home (see KNS 13 April 2000).
However, procuracy official ANDREI KENIK, who met Father Leonid, rudely
refused to return the vestments. At the same time Kenik accused the BAOC and
Hushcha personally of �destroying Slavic unity�. Kenik stated that the vestments
would be passed on to the Orthodox Exarchate (which is subject to the Moscow
Patriarchate), which he described as �the only legitimate Orthodox entity in
Belarus�.

Keston contacted Kenik, but he refused to comment on this case. However,
Keston has learned that no criminal case, which would allow the removal of
material evidence, has been initiated. Sources who wish to remain anonymous
have told Keston that Kenik, whose brother is the Minister for Chernobyl in the
present Belarusian government, has a reputation for disregarding procedural
norms in the investigation of cases entrusted to him.

At 9 o�clock in the evening of 19 March, a group of militia headed by chief
investigator at the Minsk Intergarrison Military Procuracy, SERGEI ZAIKIN,
forced their way into Hushcha�s home in the Belarusian capital, which is now
occupied by the bishop�s brother. After a careful search of the flat, Zaikin
confiscated priest�s and bishop�s vestments belonging to Bishop Pyotr, without
taking an inventory or a signature. The items confiscated were three priest�s
stoles of various colours, one set of black priest�s vestments, one black cassock,
one deacon�s surplice, one priest�s girdle and one set of archbishop�s vestments,
yellow with gold stitching (without a mitre). All of these vestments - worth
some 8000 US dollars - had been a gift from Patriarch YURY RYZHY-
RIZHSKY of the United States. (END)


CORRECTION

Two Keston News Service stories published on 13 April 2000 were wrongly
attributed. BELARUS: POLICE RAID FLAT AND ILLEGALLY TAKE
ITEMS FROM ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP was by David Goldman, while
BELARUS: CATHOLIC PARISH DEFENDS ITS PRIEST was by David
Goldman and Felix Corley. (END).


Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.