12 October 2022
On 6 October 2022, it became known that the Minsk Spadchyna Municipal Unitary Enterprise, the owner for the purpose of operational management of the buildings of the church (known as the Red Church) and rectory on the Niezaliežnasci square in Minsk, sent a notification letter to the leadership of the parish community about termination of the contract with the Roman Catholic Parish of St Simon and St Helena community for the gratuitous use of the Red Church. It also sent a notification to the church authorities requesting to remove all movable property from the premises before 12 October 2022. The authorities motivated this decision by the need to carry out repairs to eliminate the consequences of a fire that occurred on the territory of the Red Church on the night of 26 September 2022.
Authorities claim that allegedly due to an electrical wiring fault a fire broke out inside the church and affected a total area of 20 square meters. As a result of extinguishing the fire, the building was completely flooded. Consequently, the Commission for Emergency Situations of the Administration of the Maskoŭski district of Minsk (Act no. 5 of 26 September 2022) decided to close the church for visiting “until full restoration and bringing all fire extinguishing systems and electrical equipment into working condition.”
The fire incident and its consequences, however, raise many questions, see the statement.
We express our solidarity with the community of St Simon and St Helena parish. We believe that on the part of the authorities the fairest and most adequate solution to the situation would be to restitute the Red Church and return ownership rights to it either to the local Roman Catholic community or to the Minsk-Mahilioŭ Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus.
We express our strong disagreement with the arbitrary and unjustified termination of the contract for the gratuitous use of the Red Church with the Roman Catholic Parish of St Simon and St Helena religious community. We consider such a decision to be pressure on the religious community, gross interference in the life of religious organisations, and an act of intimidation of all communities and religious organisations in the Republic of Belarus.
We insist on an immediate investigation into the fire incident in the church on the night of 26 September; the public must be fully informed about the progress of the investigation and its conclusions. We also demand access to the Red Church for representatives of the Roman Catholic parish of St Simon and St Helena religious community, as well as authorised representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, to record the fire damage, as well as the general condition of the premises.
We call on the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus, as well as the Holy See, to provide the necessary support to the community of St Simon and St Elena parish to resume the regular parish activities and return the Red Church to believers.
We call on the Belarusian and world Christian community to solidarity with the community of St Simon and St Helena parish.