Friday, April 29, 2011

Catholics In Eastern Belarus Want Cathedral Returned

Catholics in the eastern Belarusian city of Mahileu are collecting signatures for a petition asking city officials to give them the St. Stanislaus Cathedral, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

The Holy Mother Mary and St. Stanislaus parish claims the cathedral, which is currently owned by the city, should become the property of the church congregation.

The church originally belonged to the Catholic community but was confiscated when the communists came to power in the Soviet era.

Parish representatives told RFE/RL that local authorities are demanding that rent be paid by the congregation.

Parish officials say that if the cathedral is officially transferred to the parish's ownership it will be able to find money for badly needed repairs and renovations.

St. Stanislaus Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Mahileu, having been built in 1740. 

The parish of the Holy Mother Mary and St. Stanislaus has been operating in Mahileu since 1614.

The cathedral resumed operating as a church for Catholics in Mahileu in 1990. During the Soviet era the cathedral was used for storage by the city's maintenance departments.

Many of Belarus's Catholics are ethnic Poles who live in the western part of Belarus along the border with Poland. The overwhelming majority of Belarusian citizens are Orthodox Christians.

With some 367,000 people, Mahileu is the third-largest city in Belarus.