Meeting accentuates generous, warm wishes
“Being aware that you’re going to the Holy See, I’d like you to convey my warmest wishes and congratulations on the Easter holiday to Pope Benedict 16th. I recollect our meeting with great warmth. My words have acute meaning, as I’ve been monitoring the media both inside Belarus and abroad. Some wish to drive a wedge in our relations with the Pope of Rome but I say it won’t work. We’ve taken a course of co-operation with the Catholic Church and have done much to aid relations between the state and the Catholic Church,” the President stated, adding, “All the plans outlined during my conversation with the Pope of Rome have been practically implemented. Only one step remains: preparation for the signing of an agreement is currently underway and we aim to reach this goal.
I’d like to stress again that we’ve always counted on active support and assistance from the Catholic Church. I see how some media, especially in Poland and other countries, have responded to my appeal to the Catholic Church to more actively protect the interests of the hundreds of thousands of Catholics who reside here. Some have taken this as a rebuke from the President towards the Pope of Rome. Believe me, I have no desire to reproach anyone. Nor have I sought to make demands or requests. I’m aware that the Pope of Rome — who is familiar with politics — knows what’s going on in Belarus and understands that the thousands of Catholics who live here need his daily support and protection. I want you and the Pope of Rome to know that the President of Belarus and the entire Belarusian power structure will follow the course we’ve agreed upon.
Today, we’ve given Catholic and Orthodox believers, as well as other confessions, the opportunity to construct as many churches as those living in Belarus need. We’ll be solving all issues in this direction. This is the essence of our policy and there are absolutely no requirements being set. If the Catholic Church protects the interests of justice, the Belarusian authorities will always be able to find a common language; this is our major postulate. Everything should be fair.”
Mr. Lukashenko also spoke of how to develop dialogue in the wider sense, saying, “I think that the Pope of Rome may soon be able to meet the faithful of Belarus. We’ll be glad to meet him and should work in this direction with our Patriarch; we’re working to see this happen. We can work on effective ways of strengthening not only Catholicism, but the abilities of all to observe their religion in Belarus: Orthodox, Catholic, and others.”
In turn, Claudio Gugerotti assured the President, “The Pope of Rome has a deep love and commitment to Belarus. I’m very pleased that you’re aware of the daily work conducted by the Catholic Church in promoting peace, justice and contacts.”