Belarus Expels Catholic Priests and Nuns

By The Universe: Just a week after a Catholic priest was hauled before a court in Belarus, authorities in the communist former Soviet state have refused to renew work visas for a dozen priests and nuns working in the country.

The 7 priests and 5 nuns, who had been working in different parishes of the Grodno diocese for the better part of a decade, were ordered to leave Belarus by 2007.

No official reason has been given by Belarusian authorities as to why the 12, all from Poland, had their requests to renew their visas turned down.

Last week Fr Antoni Kochko escaped punishment from authorities after he was accused of saying Mass without state permission in Minsk.

Although there is no official state religion in Belarus, a 2003 concordat between the state and the Belarus Orthodox Church recognised the Belarus Church as the only recognised religion.

And the recent restrictions on Catholics are leading to fears that President Aleksandr Lukashenko could be reneging on an agreement made in 2005 with the former Archbishop of Minsk Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek to ease restrictions on the nations Catholics.