The Cathedral of the Holy Name of Mary in Minsk, Belarus. Credit: A.Savin/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).
A Mass broadcast to Catholics across Belarus has disappeared from the airwaves amid political upheaval following a disputed presidential election.
The Sunday morning Mass was broadcast from the Cathedral of the Holy Name of Mary in the capital, Minsk, by the largest nationwide radio channel in Belarus.
Fr. Anthony Klimantovich, the cathedral rector, said that the Mass did not appear on the radio schedule for September, the website of the Catholic Church in Belarus reported today.
“Why is there no Mass on the radio? This is definitely not our fault and not for technical reasons,” he said.
“Holy Mass is still celebrated in the cathedral at 8.15 a.m. every Sunday, the equipment is working properly and the signal goes, but there is no broadcast.”
The website urged Catholics to contact the radio channel to seek an explanation for the disappearance of the Mass. It noted that Catholics across the country, especially the elderly and sick, had benefited from the service.
In a 1 September interview with the Catholic Church’s website, Bishop Yuri Kasabutsky, an auxiliary bishop of Minsk-Mogilev archdiocese, said that the sudden cessation of the broadcasts showed that the authorities were attempting to “put pressure” on the Catholic Church.
The day before, 31 August, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mohilev was turned back by border guards when he attempted to return to Belarus following a trip to Poland.
Kondrusiewicz, a Belarusian citizen and president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Belarus, was given no explanation for the decision.
The archbishop had spoken out in defence of protesters following the 9 August election, in which the incumbent Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory with 80% of the vote.
Electoral officials said that the opposition candidate, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, earned 10% of the vote. She was detained for several hours after complaining to the electoral committee, and has fled to Lithuania.
Police arrested thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets demanding a recount. Despite a severe crackdown, protests have continued across the country.
This morning, Maxim Znak, a prominent opposition figure, was detained by masked men in plain clothes, reported the BBC.
Maria Kolesnikova, another high-profile opposition leader, was detained the day before after reportedly resisting efforts to deport her to Ukraine.