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Cardinal Swiatek, survivor of Stalin's gulags, dead at 96

Catholic World News - July 21, 2011

Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek, the retired Archbishop of Minsk, Belarus, died in Pinsk on July 21 at the age of 96.

Born in 1914 in what is now Estonia, Kazimierz Swiatek was ordained to the priesthood in 1939. That same year he was accused of espionage, found guilty in Stalinist show trial, and sentenced to death. He escaped execution when German troops temporarily gained control of the territory, but in 1944, with the Soviet Union again controlling Belarus, he was deported to a prison camp in Siberia, where he endured 9 years at hard labor.

After the fall of the Soviet empire, when the Catholic Church emerged from decades of repression, Father Swiatek was named Archbishop of Minsk in 1991. Three years later, he was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II. He continued to lead the Minsk archdiocese until finally retiring in 2006 at the age of 91.

Cardinal Swiatek had been the 2nd-oldest living cardinal—surpassed in age only by Cardinal Ersilio Tonini, the former Archbishop of Ravenna, Italy, who is 97.

With the death of Cardinal Swiatek there are now 196 members of the College of Cardinals, of whom 114 are below the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote in a papal conclave.

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