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Nijmegen Byzantine Choir, conducted by Svetlana van Wielink.

Celebrant: Father Ivan Moiseitsiik (Иван Моисеитийк)

Ivan Moiseitsiik is married and a priest for the Belarusian Greek Catholics

Anyone who believes that married Catholic priests is something for the future is mistaken. Ivan Moiseitsiik is married to Alina, father of four and formally belongs to the clergy of the diocese of Antwerp, although he serves as a priest in the small Belarusian Greek-Catholic community in Belgium. Moiseitsiik was born in 1972 in western Belarus (Belarus), a country east of Poland and then part of the Soviet Union. So he grew up in the tight, atheistic Soviet traditions. The Greek Catholic Church – ‘Catholics of Greek law’, is said in Poland – had been excluded from the law by the Czars and the Soviets, but in the fall of communism they rose from its ashes. Ivan Moiseitsiik: “With the disappearance of communism in 1989, openness, independence and freedom grew in my country. I was happy about that, but then came the economic crisis and poverty. I never thought we would end up in a dictatorship again, but that is exactly what happened. ”

Moiseitsiik studied with the Capuchins, married, and was ordained a priest in the Greek Catholic Church. The canonical law of the Eastern Churches allows that, in that order. He had to deal with odd jobs and jobs, to the toil of construction. In 2003, he established a Greek Catholic community based in the Holy-Heart Church in Antwerp. A fairly large diaspora of emigrants from Belarus lived in Western Europe after 1945,” continues Moiseitsiik, “but none of them were left when I arrived in Belgium. We gathered newcomers from the Soviet Union who were often not brought up religiously. For Westerners, our history is hard to understand. Say that we are Orthodox who came to the Catholic Church long ago, in the sixteenth century, while preserving our traditions and liturgy. The Belarusian Greek Catholics do not have a bishop or seminary, but are directly supervised by Rome. We are not numerous, we are like a bird in God’s hands.”

The Byzantine liturgy dedicated by Ivan Moiseitsiik takes a long time, is particularly sacred and takes place in front of and behind an impressive icon wall. “I create the Byzantine liturgy not only in Antwerp, but also in Drongen and in Zelzate, or everywhere else in Belgium or the Netherlands where I am asked. Belgians are also fascinated by our liturgy. I celebrate in Belarusian, Slavic or Dutch. I always pray the litany in several languages. Westerners do not understand much of our tradition, even though it is essentially Catholic. Many also do not understand that a priest can be married. Sometimes I keep silent so as not to confuse people.” The majority of the twenty Greek Catholic priests in Belarus must work as a laborer or servant for his livelihood. Their believers are usually poor. To assist them, Moiseitsiik founded the non-profit organization Martyria, also because in Western Europe hardly any attention is paid to that population group in Belarus. In the meantime, Ivan Moiseitsiik and his family have been living in rural Wachtebeke for several years and are registered as a parish officer, although the modest wage is tight for a family with four growing and studying children. “Sometimes something needs to be added,” he says.