Belarus Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek Dies at 96

Posted July 21st, 2011 at 10:05 am (UTC-5)
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The former leader of the Catholic Church in Belarus, Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek, has died in a Pinsk hospital at the age of 96.

In a statement the Catholic Church of Belarus said he died early Thursday. The cause of death was not specified.

After entering the priesthood in 1939, Swiatek was sentenced to death for spying by Soviet authorities. But he escaped when Nazi Germany's forces occupied the city of Brest.

When the Soviet army took control of Belarus in 1944, Swiatek was re-arrested and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor in the Gulag prison system. He served more than nine years before being released and returning to the church.

Swiatek became archbishop of the Minsk diocese in 1991,and was named a cardinal in 1994. He headed the church in Belarus until 2006.