Kishinev — Belt'sy
This is not the first year that Catholics of the city of Belt'sy have urgently asked Moscow and the local government to register their parish council and their house of worship. Finally, the long-awaited day of victory arrived. On November 27, 1979, the Catholics of the city of Belt'sy received an official notice stating that they were being granted permission to have a house of worship and that their community and its council have been registered. According to the document, the council and the house of worship were legalized as of September 6, but the local government had continued to torment the people, keeping them in suspense for some three months.
The happy news spread quickly throughout the republic. Father Vladislav Zavalniuk for the first time openly ministered to the Catholics on Sunday, December 2, 1979; the joy was boundless.
On December 5, however, the Religious Affairs Commissioner summoned the chairman of the Kishinev Parish Council and informed him that Father Zavalniuk would no longer be able to work in Moldavia.
On December 6 Religious Affairs Deputy Commissioner Raneta demanded that Father Zavalniuk return his registration certificate, for he had violated the law; he had ministered to sick and dying Catholics outside the boundaries of Kishinev without getting the government's permission. The priest was also required to condemn in writing the German Catholics who, after having left Moldavia and gone back to their homeland, had told everyone over the radio ("German Airwaves") about the persecution of Catholics in Moldavia.
On December 7 three city executive committee employees came to the church and, seeing the priest in the churchyard, viciously confronted him, asking how he still dared to be on church property. Furthermore, they demanded the names of the Catholics present even though they did not dare to give their own names when asked.
Later other city executive committee employees arrived and, without producing any identification, conducted an inspection in the church rectory.
On December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, people began to assemble at the church from various parts of Moldavia. (They did not yet know they did not have a priest.)
The church was already surrounded by police and security agents. Chairman Kravchiuk of the Kishinev City Executive Committee personally walked around the church watching the people. On December 5 Religious Affairs Deputy Commissioner Raneta had threatened the parish council chairman: "If the people complain about the priest's removal, we'll seal the church."
The arriving Catholics, seeing the church surrounded, began to ask the police what had happened. One policeman explained to Valentina Oleinik that they were on duty to prevent trouble. Two priests had been appointed, he told her, one old, the other young, but the people could not agree among themselves whom they wanted. This lie was quickly unmasked: they had surrounded the church to intimidate the Catholics and keep them from seeking their rights.
The distressing news that their only priest was being ousted sped through the republic at lightning speed. On December 9 (Sunday) not only the church but the churchyard was overflowing with people. Everyone wanted to hear their pastor's final words of farewell and attend mass. Unfortunately, the priest could only hear confessions in secret, and while the acolytes read the mass prayers at .he main altar, the priest celebrated mass in secret.
The grief suffered by the Catholics who were deprived of their only priest can only be fully understood by those who attended that painful Sunday service.
Is it possible to ridicule and discriminate to a greater extent than is being done against believers in Moldavia? The priest is punished because he ministered to the sick and dying! But that is his sacred duty. He is obligated to do so at the risk of not only losing the Soviet registration certificate but his own life.
The persecuted Catholics of Moldavia will not remain forgotten at the Belgrade Conference.