Staunton, August 29 – Yury Sanko, the official representative of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Belarus, says that Roman Catholics, clergy and laity, have been “somewhat braver” than Orthodox believers in taking part in the demonstrations against Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s dictatorship and falsification of the elections.
“We say that we do not get involved in politics,” Sanko tells the Meduza news agency; “but Jesus says: ‘Go and evangelize.’ If a parishioner comes and says her husband cannot come to church because he has been beaten, I as pastor cannot ignore this, and together with them, I take part in peaceful actions” (meduza.io/feature/2020/08/29/my-nemnogo-bolee-smelye-chem-pravoslavnaya-tserkov).
In no country is the church responsible for changing the political authorities, he says. “This is what the people do. But the church will never leave the people and always will be for truth. Our task is not to make a revolution but to pray and bear the burdens of the world,” the Roman Catholic priest says.
Lukashenka’s attacks on the church and his suggestion that religious must stay out of politics has infuriated many Catholics in Belarus and not only Catholics. The church doesn’t want to get involved in politics, but it must never stand aside when injustice and violence is being inflicted on people.
The church and its leaders demand an end to violence, but it is up to citizens to advance br4eoader demands. “We are only against force. We even cannot give an assessment as a church whether the elections were falsified or not. We only give an assessment of the subsequent actions of the powers that be.
Sanko says that “we want that everyone calm down and begin to speak with one another and that a dialogue will begin between the existing powers and the people. Without dialogue it is difficult to speak about changes” because more than one side much be heard for progress to be possible.
The priest says that the position he and his congregation have adopted is the position of the Catholic church as a whole. And he says that his contacts with Orthodox priests and the representatives of other confessions shows that they have similar views, although the Catholics may be somewhat more active and visible.