Issue 6, Articles 2-3, 30 May 2000

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



Tuesday 30 May 2000

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

In mid-May, officers of the Russian tax police raided the Jesuit-run Inigo
Centre in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, during which they held all the
Jesuits at the centre and their lay collaborators in detention in a room for four
hours. The centre includes a television studio with programme-making
facilities. Keston News Service has learnt that the raid took place on 11 May,
exactly the same day that the tax police in Moscow launched a high-profile
armed raid on the Media-Most company, which has extensive media holdings
including NTV. It is not clear whether this is a coincidence.

The Catholic Apostolic Administration for Western Siberia, which is headed by
Bishop JOSEPH WERTH and based in Novosibirsk, has reportedly
complained about the raid on the Jesuit centre to the procuracy and to President
VLADIMIR PUTIN but, contacted by Keston, Jesuit and diocesan officials in
Novosibirsk declined to add anything to the report of the raid that was
broadcast on Vatican radio and republished by the Rome-based Catholic news
agency Zenit on 25 May. `There is nothing to be added to that report,' Father
JOZEF MACHA, director of the Centrum Spiritualitatis Inigo, told Keston
from Novosibirsk on 30 May.

During the Novosibirsk raid, four of the policemen were armed. They searched
the premises and paid special attention to the Kana television studio and
programmes prepared by Brother DAMIAN WOJCIECHOWSKI, religious
affairs correspondent for Polish television, who is accredited at the Russian
Federation Foreign Ministry. The police confiscated documents from the
administration of the television studio, as well as 104 videocassettes, a
computer and a video-recorder. So far, none of the material has been returned,
Vatican radio added.

Vatican radio reported the Centre's lawyer as complaining that the search was a
total abuse, because the tax police have no right to enter the properties of
religious organisations. Father Macha declined to give Keston the name or
contact telephone number of the lawyer.

In his capacity as a member of the Inter-religious Council, which reports to the
Russian President, Bishop Werth sent an official letter to President Putin
requesting clarification of the incident.

According to information reaching Keston, the Jesuits in Novosibirsk sought an
explanation for the raid from the tax police, but they refused to talk to the
Jesuits. The Russian tax police routinely refuse to answer questions from
journalists about their activity. (END)

Tuesday 30 May 2000

by David Goldman, Keston News Service

Father ZBIGNIEW KAROLYAK, who has fallen into disfavour with the
Belarusian authorities, faces a new deadline of 1 June to leave Belarus. The
Catholic priest, who is a Polish citizen, has been working in the western
Belarusian town of Brest for the past decade and has been priest of the Church
of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross since 1991. Although the leader of the
Catholic Church in Belarus, Cardinal KAZIMIERZ SWIATEK, has declined
all interviews on Father Karolyak's case, sources close to Cardinal Swiatek
have told Keston News Service that Father Karolyak has received no order
from the Cardinal to leave the parish. When Keston asked whether the priest
would leave the country in the period designated by the authorities, the answer
was negative.

The latest deadline for Father Karolyak to leave the country was made public in
an interview with the news agency Belapan by ARKADI KOSTYUCHITS,
head of the police department in the Leninsky district of Brest, where the
church is located. If he fails to comply, Father Karolyak will be thrown out of
the country by force.

The Brest authorities have established dates more than once before for the
possible deportation of Father Karolyak (see KNS 9 May 2000). They first
named 14 April, then 20 May. However, the law enforcement agencies took no
active steps either in the first or the second instance, possibly because of the
active support offered to Father Karolyak by his parishioners.

This time, the head of the police department cited an order to Karolyak from a
church authority - Cardinal Swiatek. Kostyuchits maintained that the date for
the Polish priest's departure was decided back in April during a meeting
between the cardinal and the vice-president of the Belarus government,
VLADIMIR ZAMETALIN. However, members of the church committee deny
this. They claim that they have talked to Cardinal Swiatek on the telephone,
and he declared that no `agreement' had been reached that Father Karolyak
would leave Belarus.

Keston has learnt that Cardinal Swiatek did indeed meet vice-president
Zametalin on 29 April in the presence of the chairman of the State Committee
for Religious and Ethnic Affairs, ALEKSANDR BILYK. Neither Bilyk nor the
Cardinal has made any comment on this meeting. Keston was unable to obtain
any information by telephone from Zametalin. However, according to
information obtained by Keston, discussions centred on a possible visit to
Belarus by Pope JOHN PAUL II. In the course of the meeting the question of
Father Karolyak was touched upon, but the two sides did not reach an

Attempts to clarify the Cardinal's views failed - Cardinal Swiatek does not give
interviews to the non-Catholic media on principle. As for Father Karolyak
himself, he too does not wish to speak to journalists. At the beginning of May
IGOR KABALIK, the lawyer who has been advising the church committee for
many years, told Keston that he had advised Father Karolyak to stop
commenting on the increasingly complex situation in which he finds himself so
as not to provoke the authorities.

In a telephone interview with Keston, the plenipotentiary for religious affairs in
the Brest regional executive committee, BORIS LEPESHKO, confirmed that
Father Karolyak must leave Belarus on 1 June. However, he said that the
authorities are doing all they can to avoid using force, such as deportation.
Lepeshko confirmed that members of the church committee had appealed to
him `a thousand times', but they had failed to reach an agreement. In his
interview with Keston, Lepeshko emphasised several times that the conflict
with the priest was not of a religious nature. The entire case related to Father
Karolyak's infringement of the law on residence of foreigners and the activity
of foreign clergy, Lepeshko stressed. He added that there was no anticipation
that he should have any future involvement in his capacity as plenipotentiary
for religious affairs - all potential measures to remove Father Karolyak from
the parish and from the country were under the jurisdiction of the Department
for Internal Affairs. (END)

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