11/03/2020, 13.29
BELARUS - RUSSIA
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Lukašenko applauds the Orthodox and charges Kondrusiewicz

by Vladimir Rozanskij

In an official meeting with Venjamin, the new Orthodox Metropolitan of Minsk, the Belarusian president expresses his appreciation for the contribution of the Orthodox Church. He also denounced the Catholic metropolitan in exile, charging him with going to Poland "for consultations on how to destroy our country". No to foreign (Catholic) priests in Belarus. On a possible invitation to Pope Francis to visit the country, "the invitation must come from the head of state together with the Orthodox Church". The president "defender of the faith" has always declared himself an "Orthodox atheist".

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Despite the state violence, the avalanche of protests and strikes in the country is unstoppable. This has propelled the disputed Belarusian president Aleksandr  Lukašenko to appeal to the Orthodox Church as the last anchor of salvation, accusing the Catholic Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz instead.

Lukašenko declared that he "has great respect for the country's confessional world", and that he is proud of having been the head of state in the period of the "religious renaissance" of these decades. "We will not cede our interfaith world to anyone, we will always be ready to defend it," said the head of state, adding that he had guaranteed the confessional balance, despite "some mistakes that have been made". But his relations with the various confessions depend on the support he receives.

Yesterday, 2 November, the president met the new Orthodox Metropolitan of Minsk Venjamin (Tupeko), patriarchal exarch for all of Belarus. The meeting took place in official form at the Independence Palace, where the new metropolitan was welcomed for the first time. The meeting had been decided since the beginning of October, when Lukashenko and Venjamin met for the inauguration of a church in an agricultural village on the outskirts of Minsk.

In a threatening tone, Lukashenko declared that "if even one organization in Belarus, both social and religious, tries to destroy the state, I will obviously be forced to react". And he explicitly referred to the Catholic metropolitan, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, whom he exiled to Poland, where, according to Lukashenko, he "went for consultations on how to destroy our country".

The president then compared the behaviour of Catholics and Muslims, “who have never created problems; in all elections, Muslims have always supported the authorities, practically 100% expressing themselves in my favour as president… we will not be like Macron in France, because we will not allow anyone to offend the sentiments of believers”.

The president promised to help the Churches even during the pandemic: "The parishes have become rather impoverished, because few people go to church, even if we have not closed them and we will not close them, because in the face of any misfortune we must go there to pray, to be helped by the Lord ... even during the war churches were kept open”.

While appreciating all the churches and religious confessions, Lukashenko observed that "the foundation of religious peace in the country remains the Orthodox Church, due to its gigantic dimensions compared to other religions". The Orthodox, with over 1,700 communities, make up about half of the country's religious associations. The Catholic Church, present mainly in the western regions, has about 700 parishes for four dioceses and over one and a half million faithful.

 

For Lukašenko, the particular merit of the Orthodox Church, compared to other confessions, lies in "not inviting ministers of worship from foreign countries, even if there are no priests ... I have also pointed out this problem to the Pope of Rome on several occasions, current than to its predecessor. How can we accept the priests from Poland when Catholic Poland takes a stand against Belarus? This is not normal”, Lukašenko insisted; in his opinion, "it is necessary to prepare one's Catholic priests more intensely in Belarus".

The president also hinted at a possible invitation to Pope Francis for a visit to Belarus: "There is much discussion on the possible visit of the Pope of Rome, and I want my position to be known: the Pope is the head of a state and of a Church, so if he wants to visit our country, the invitation must come from the head of state together with the Orthodox Church, which has a lot of problems with Catholics ... the Pope cannot come incognito, around him there is always a crowd from half of Europe, one hundred or two hundred thousand people. We cannot allow for him to comes and our patriarch is not invited, we will never be schismatic”.  Lukašenko has recently taken on the role of "defender of the faith". The reality however is the Belarusian president, up until now, had always called himself an "Orthodox atheist".

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