Friendship with Holy See
Belarus eager to strengthen co-operation with Vatican
By Lilia Osipova
Thousands of kilometres separate Minsk from the Vatican but this is no obstacle to establishing constructive dialogue and kind relations. On recently meeting the Apostolic Nuncio to Belarus, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, President Lukashenko expressed his gratitude for the Vatican’s support of our country, saying, “I cannot but thank you for your kind attitude towards Belarus. I’m thankful to the Vatican and to the Catholic Church for the support rendered within the international arena — primarily, in establishing dialogue with the European Union. It doesn’t matter whether this generates a result or not, although I know that you are keen to see this realised.”
Catholicism is the second largest confession (in the number of its followers) in Belarus so it’s no surprise that we desire stronger relations with the Vatican. Over the past 20 years (since diplomatic ties between Belarus and the Holy See were established), the number of Catholic parishioners has quadrupled. The state has passed around 300 buildings to believers, also assisting in restoring ancient Roman Catholic churches.
While chatting with Mr. Gugerotti, the President stressed that the Catholic Church behaves very properly in Belarus, working closely with the community: an approach supported by the state. Mr. Lukashenko noted, “We’ve never experienced such great understanding and support as from those representing the Vatican — regarding personnel recruitment and the problems facing the Catholic Church in Belarus. I’d like to assure you that we’ll do everything possible — and more — for the Catholic Church in Belarus. There are no problems which we may fail to solve.”
Addressing his guest, the President asked, “I know that many Vatican heads follow your position — supporting Belarus. Some have expressed a desire to visit our country. When you return to the Vatican, please tell them that we’ll always be delighted to welcome them here. Please pass the kindest wishes from Belarusian Catholics and Belarusians as a whole to Pope Francis. From what we read in the media and learn from you, we like his stance on particular issues; he’s an interesting person.” Mr. Lukashenko also requested that his best wishes be passed to Benedict XVI, noting that good interpersonal contacts already exist.
Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti stressed the great honour of working in Belarus, “This country deserves respect and a positive attitude and should receive such.” He views the forthcoming visit of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran — the most influential diplomat in the Vatican — as a clear indication of the Vatican’s desire to promote relations with our country.