Posted by: Fr Chris | July 25, 2011

A Hero Goes to New Life

One of the greatest and most unsung heroes of Catholic resistance to Communism passed away at the age of 96. His story is translated below from the Belarusian Catholic news agency. I met him in 1995, to my great delight as I had read about him from the Keston News Agency which reported on believers under communism. He escaped death at the hands of the Stalinists and Nazis alike, barely surviving the death trap in the Arctic.

My favorite stories of him:

1. During 1953, an NKVD agent was interviewing him at the church steps.  Father Swiatek pointed at the statue of Stalin and said “The day will come when he too will disappear – God is eternal.” Sure enough, Stalin not only died but the statue was pulled down. The police agent came back to him, white in the face, and asked who did he know in Moscow who could predict such a thing? No one in Moscow, put up there – he pointed. I think that agent gave up his job eventually.

2. Aid to the Church in Need sent money to him to use for his living quarters. but when the representative came from West Germany, he found the now -bishop Swiatek in a small one room house with outdoor toilet up against a chicken coop. What did you do with the money we sent you?

I don’t need it – I gave it to my priests who live worse off than me.

When he gave me his blessing after we spoke, it was unlike any other priestly blessing I have ever received. Read now this life of a great son of the Church and servant of Christ.  Enjoy and be inspired.

The life of Cardinal Kazimir Sventku, unflinching witness of faith – an era, it lasted nearly a century. For 72 years, He carried the priestly ministry. For 15 years he was archpastor of the Minsk-Mogilev Roman Catholic archdiocese and 20 years – Apostolic Administrator of Pinsk.
He has witnessed many momentous events in the life of the Church and society: a terrible war, Stalin’s repressions, policy of militant atheism, destruction of shrines and religious structures, revival of faith, dissolution of the USSR and independence of Belarus. Kazimierz Swiatek was behind the revival of the Catholic Church in Belarus, was the first Cardinal in the history of Belarus . “I was kept in life, and God is my strong, unwavering faith,” – said  Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek at the time.

For services to the Church of the Holy Father John Paul II said Casimir Sventka, the oldest cardinal in the world, a special award – “Fidei testis “(Witness of Faith).

Kazimierz Swiatek was born on October 21, 1914 in Estonia, Valga [a parish founded by Polish workers and which has been reborn in modern Estonia], and  christened in Riga. When he was 3, his family was deported to Siberia [forced movement of ethnic Poles by tsarist regime].

Exactly 70 years ago, in 1941, the life of the future Cardinal was in the balance. Rescued by the beginning of the war, which the priest had met on death row in a prison in Brest.
[Soviet annexation of eastern Poland in 1939 saw many arrests of Catholics].
In 1941, Soviet authorities arrested Casimir Swiatek – a young priest from Pruzhany, who had only two years since graduated from seminary in Pinsk, as USSR saw in him an “enemy of the people.” For two months he spent on death row in the NKVD prison in Brygidkay fortress, in the daily expectation of death. On the night hours of questioning, as later recalled the Cardinal, even with the oversight of interrogator holding a pistol to his temple, he did not lose faith and hope …And the verdict, he had not had time to perform. [Nazi invasion of USSR saved him from execution and he was released]

After the war, Casimir Swiatek was again arrested and sent to 10 years in the camp. Had to work first in Siberia, and then the Arctic Circle in Intse around Vorkuta. After going through the horror of Stalin’s camps, Kazimierz Swiatek, in 1954 he returned to Belarus. Not broken, not broken down, without being bitter. After his release, he had not abandoned his flock, not left for the West, like many, went to Pinsk – a place where I first heard and accepted God’s call to the clergy, which rested its guardian and patron Bishop Lozinski. As long prior in Pinsk, Kazimierz Swiatek was able to keep from closing the old cathedral, he worked selflessly for his recovery. There was a time when he was the only Catholic priest to hundreds of kilometers.

20 years ago, is in independent Belarus Kazimierz Swiatek was archpastor Catholic community in the country, began work on the development and revival of the structures of the Catholic Church. Here he writes about it in service during this period the Catholic portal

Pastoral Activity of. Casimir Sventku prelate, his devotion to the Church, extraordinary organizational skills, credibility and respect among the priests were not ignored the Holy See.The Holy Father John Paul II in 1991, appointed him the first of the newly formed Metropolitan of Minsk-Mogilev Archdiocese and Apostolic Administrator of Pinsk.

At the age of 77 years of the new Metropolitan began his episcopal m inistry. He visits the parishes, deaneries sets, creates the necessary structures for the Church, protect the rights of believers, and active participation in the Synod of Bishops in 1991, meetings of the Council of Europe Conference of Bishops and other church organizations, in international forums, conferences, etc. He is a witness and hero of the  Catholic faith and its revival in Belarus.

In 1994, the Holy Father John Paul II gives him the title of cardinal – the highest title that can be in the Church. This is recognition for not only a talented priest and bishop, but also a courageous witness of faith. This is also a recognition of the position of the Church in Belarus and its role in the global Church.

Cardinal Swiatek with even greater vigor and courage of a program of spiritual revival and training of the Catholic Church in Belarus for the great Jubilee of 2000. In this program, a special place devoted to various pastoral programs, the restoration of sacred sites and especially the Minsk Cathedral, as well as the work of the Synod of the Archdiocese of Minsk-Mogilev, Pinsk and Vitebsk (which joined the Synod after its formation) dioceses, which Cardinal began in 1996. Significant motto of the Synod: “Update all things in Christ.”

February 11, 1999, Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek, was elected first President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Belarus – it underscores his leadership in the Church and in the country.

September 27, 2004 the Holy Father John Paul II gave the cardinal Casimiro Sventku, Archbishop Metropolitan of Minsk and Mogilev, a special award “Fidei testis” (Witness of Faith), awarded by the Institute of Paul VI.

June 14, 2006 the Holy Father Benedict XVI received the petition for exemption from the pastoral leadership of the Minsk-Mogilev served by His Eminence Cardinal Kazimir Swiatek in accordance with the Code of Canon Law, con. 401, § 1.

July 21, 2011, and 9 o’clock in the Pinsk Central Hospital, Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek where was the last few months, he walked away into eternity.

give him eternal rest, O Lord. Let light eternal shine to him.


Born on 21 October 1914, the son of a Polish family in Valga, Estonia, Kazimierz Swiatek experienced at first hand the sufferings of the 20th Century. His father died in 1920 in the Polish-Russian war, while defending the city of Vilnius against the Bolsheviks; his mother was deported, along with her children, to Siberia and did not return until 1922. At the age of 18, Kazimierz Swiatek entered the seminary of Pinsk, which at that time was still in Poland, and was ordained to the priesthood on 8th April 1939, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. In April 1941, as a young assistant priest, he was arrested by the NKVD (Soviet secret police) and sentenced to death. For two months he sat in the death cell in a prison camp in Brest, where some 7,000 Poles were imprisoned. As a result of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, however, he was released and so escaped execution. Up until the end of the German occupation he worked as a parish priest in Pruzana, not far from Brest. Afterwards, although the area was now occupied by the Red Army and he knew that this would result in a fresh persecution of the Church, he remained at his post. In December 1944 he was once again arrested and in July 1945 he was sentenced to 10 years forced labour for his fidelity to the Church. He spent this in the notorious labour camps of Maryinsk and Vorkuta. In 1954, after the death of Stalin, he was released and went to work as a parish priest in Pinsk. In 1991, after the political changes, Kazimierz Swiatek was appointed by Pope John Paul II as Archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev and Apostolic Administrator of Pinsk. Then in 1994 he was made a cardinal. It was not until the year 2006, at the age of 92, that Cardinal Swiatek finally retired as Archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev.


  1. […] Kazimir Swiatek in accordance with the Code of Canon Law,…Read the whole article here:A Hero Goes to New Life « Father Christopher ZuggerJuly 26th,2011 | Tags:books,church […]

  2. […] the whole article here:A Hero Goes to New Life « Father Christopher Zugger Category: Feeds | Tags: pastoral […]

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