KESTON NEWS SERVICE, 11.00, 30 October 2000

I. YUGOSLAVIA: NEW RELIGION MINISTER SIGNALS NEW
RELIGIOUS POLICY. In her first policy statement, made exclusively to
Keston News Service, the newly-appointed acting religion minister in the
interim Serbian government has signalled a markedly different approach to that
of the previous government.

II. BELARUS: COURT REJECTS POLISH CATHOLIC PRIEST'S
DEPORTATION APPEAL. A Polish Catholic priest who was expelled from
Belarus has had his appeal against the legality of the deportation rejected.

I. YUGOSLAVIA: NEW RELIGION MINISTER SIGNALS NEW
RELIGIOUS POLICY

by Branko Bjelajac, Keston News Service

The newly-appointed acting religion minister in the interim Serbian
government has signalled a new departure in the Balkan state's religious policy.
In an exclusive statement faxed to Keston News Service in Belgrade on 27
October, three days after she and the rest of the new government were sworn
in, Gordana Misic-Anicic signalled that she would reverse a decade of Serbian
government refusal to hand back religious property confiscated from the
Orthodox Church in the communist period as a move `to start to urgently
correct all the historical injustice done to our Church'. She also signalled that
she would look favourably on the Orthodox Church's desire for religion to be
taught in schools. However, she also stressed that she intends to improve the
government's relations with other faiths in the country, of which she singled
out the Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Reformed and Lutheran communities `and
other religious communities which legally operate in the Republic of Serbia'.

Rejecting the `ideological state' which for 55 years `systematically and without
mercy broke the connection between the Serbian people and its spiritual base -
the Serbian Orthodox Church', Dr Misic-Anicic declared that it was right for
the state to help the Orthodox Church which, in turn, would help Serbia `stand
up and proudly move toward the community of the Christian nations of Europe,
where it always belonged'.

Recognising that as interim minister `my office will be rather short', she was
keen to set her new policy in motion. `As our first priority we should consider
the return of church property confiscated and nationalised on various pretexts
after the Second World War,' she told Keston. `We will also carefully consider
all the modalities of the return of the Orthodox Theological Faculty to the
University of Belgrade.' She also rejected the policy of the previous
government in the area of religious education within the state system. `I believe
that now we have the conditions to carefully examine the great and important
question of the religious education of our youngest generations. The
ideological hurdles are removed and now we have the conditions for this
legitimate request of the Serbian Orthodox Church to be resolved.'

Dr Misic-Anicic pledged that the Serbian Orthodox Church would receive back
the right to maintain registers of births, deaths and marriages, something
removed from it after 1945. She also expressed her support for priests as
chaplains in hospitals, prisons and military institutions. She also believed that
the Orthodox Church should be an `equal partner' with the state in bringing
together the Serbs within Yugoslavia and the diaspora.

While maintaining that her `greatest attention' will have to be paid to solving
the problems of the Orthodox Church, she stressed that `this does not mean that
I will in any way neglect cooperation with other religious communities'. `We
will also contact the humanitarian religious organisations, for I believe that
their activity in helping our population is very important and useful.'

Previous governments in Belgrade largely failed to respond to the Orthodox
Church's demands. Two years ago the government allowed the Church to have
its own FM radio station, the Voice of the Church, in the city of Valjevo, 60
miles south of the Serbian capital, although the station is now encountering
financial problems. Bishop Filaret of the Diocese of Milesevo, a supporter of
former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, received a former police
building in the town of Prokuplje to be his residence, as well as finance to
restore it. Some Church property was returned in Kosovo. But these were
exceptions.

In her statement to Keston, the new minister put the return of confiscated
Orthodox property in first place - implying the importance of the issue. The
Orthodox Church has been trying for many years to receive back its confiscated
monasteries, lands, forests, foundations and other properties. Despite the
limited success in recent years, most requests have not been met. The Orthodox
Faculty was expelled from Belgrade University in 1950 and since then its
degrees and diplomas have not been recognised by the state. The Orthodox
Church has been preparing for the re-establishment of religious education in
schools for the last ten years, and at the Belgrade faculty there is an institute
providing two-year courses for religious education teachers, but up till now the
Church has failed to persuade the government to allow religious education in
schools.

Misic-Anicic, who described herself in the statement as a `humanist', is a
medical doctor and specialist obstetrician by training. She is a deputy in the
Federal Yugoslav Assembly and a member of the presidency of the Serbian
Renewal Movement, which is led by Vuk Drascovic. She serves in the three-
party coalition which will run Serbia until elections scheduled for 23
December. (END)

II. BELARUS: COURT REJECTS POLISH CATHOLIC PRIEST'S
DEPORTATION APPEAL

by Felix Corley, Keston News Service

Polish Catholic priest, Zbigniew Karolak, who returned to his native country in
May following an expulsion order issued by the Belarusian authorities, has had
his appeal against the legality of the deportation rejected. Invited by the Pinsk
diocese, Father Karolak served as parish priest of the Church of the Exaltation
of the Holy Cross in the western Belarusian town of Brest for nine years, but
was forced to leave the country after encountering increasing opposition from
the Brest office of the government's Committee for Religious Affairs and the
prosecutor's office (see KNS 30 May 2000). Father Karolak's lawyer has
lodged an appeal against the court's ruling, continuing to maintain that the
expulsion order was `unlawful'.

At the 20 October hearing of the court of the Leninsky district of Brest,
presided over by judge Yuri Verenich, Father Karolak's lawyer Igor Kabalik
appealed against the local procurator's expulsion order. Kabalik told Keston by
telephone from Brest on 27 October that he had argued in court that the
expulsion order had been issued illegally. `I referred to the law on the legal
position of foreign citizens and people without citizenship, as well as to a
decree of the Cabinet of Ministers which declare that only the body that
originally invited the foreign citizen is empowered to revoke the invitation,'
Kabalik reported. `Father Karolak was invited by the Pinsk diocese, and
therefore it should decide whether he should leave the country or not. The
procurator and the police are not allowed to rule on deportations, including in
the case of a priest.' However, the court rejected Kabalik's appeal, upholding it
only in one respect. Article 22 of the immigration law declares that a deported
citizen cannot apply to enter the country again for ten years, while point 2 of
the deportation order declared that the police had instructed that Father Karolak
should be refused re-entry for ten years. The court therefore struck this
provision from the deportation order.

Kabalik told Keston that he had sent off an appeal against the court ruling to
the Brest regional court earlier that day. However, he also expressed concern
that as Father Karolak had left Belarus voluntarily ahead of the expulsion order
and had not been deported, the expulsion order remained in force and that
should Father Karolak ever return he would still be subject to instant seizure
and deportation.

In the wake of Father Karolak's deportation, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
parish had no resident priest for three months. However, the parish once again
has resident clergy. Speaking to Keston by telephone on 26 October, Father
Viktor Borisevich declared that the parish is functioning `normally' and that
there are no problems. He reported that Bishop Kazimierz Wielikosielec,
assistant bishop of Pinsk, took up permanent residence in the parish on 15
August, adding that he himself arrived to serve the parish a month ago. He
stressed that both he and bishop Wielikosielec are Belarusian citizens. (END)