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Religion

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Belarusans/Madeline Ziniak

Religion has played an intrinsic role in retention of the Belarusan language and culture. The pre-1914 immigrants were influenced in their identity by the clergy and joined either Polish (Roman Catholic) or Russian (Orthodox) churches in Canada. The shortage of Belarusan clergy hampered the emergence of organized groups. Families in Lethbridge, Rouyn, Toronto, Windsor, and Winnipeg were absorbed by Russian Orthodox or by Catholic churches, and many soon lost whatever Belarusan national consciousness they had. In the homeland, the Orthodox archeparchy in Belarus was part of the Russian Orthodox Church under the patriarch in Moscow. Those Belarusan Orthodox who were opposed to jurisdictional subordination to Moscow formed in 1922 the Belarusan Autocephalic Orthodox Church. The Soviet regime destroyed the autocephalous church in the 1930s, although it was restored in 1942 during Nazi German rule and it later continued its existence abroad.

In Canada, the Belarusan Orthodox were organized under two jurisdictions. The Belarusan Canadian Alliance initiated in 1954 the establishment of its St Cyril of Turov parish in Toronto as part of the Belarusan Autocephalic Orthodox church. The year before, and also in Toronto, the Belarusan National Association established the church of St Euphrosinia of Polatsk under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. The parish complex, housed in a new building after 1957, included the church as well as the headquarters of the Belarusan Canadian Alliance, its Social Assistance branch, and Saturday Belarusan-language classes.

Between 1910 and 1912 Belarusan members of evangelical religious groups fled tsarist oppression and arrived in groups to settle in the prairie provinces. They organized churches in Biggar, Saskatchewan, Benito and Russell, Manitoba, and Garth, Alberta. Because of the tsarist government’s restrictions against the Belarusan language, many pastors could not speak fluently and so delivered sermons in Russian. Nevertheless, the church was the key to Belarusan identity in Canada, and Belarusan-speaking clergymen were later found in England and Belarusan territories in Poland.

Immigration of Belarusan Adventists, Baptists, and Pentecostals continued after the Russian Revolution. The leader of the Slavic Pentecostal Assemblies, Protopresbyter Eugene Potipko, settled in Toronto. Members of these Protestant churches consisted not only of Belarusans but of Russians and Ukrainians (especially from Volhynia) as well. The Slavic Evangelical Alliance in Canada was led by a Belarusan from Toronto, Presbyter Ivan Huk, who edited the monthly tabloid Khristianyn (The Christian; Toronto, 1951- ), printed in Russian and Belarusan. In 1952 in Toronto the Slavic Evangelical and Baptist Church in Canada was formed.

Belarusan Roman Catholics and Greek (Byzantinerite) Catholics do not have their own churches; rather they attend parishes which have a significant number of other Slavic peoples, such as Poles in Roman Catholic churches and Ukrainians in Byzantine-rite Catholic churches. For the most part Belarusan Catholics in these parishes have lost their ethnic distinctiveness and have adapted to the more dominant Polish or Ukrainian groups.