08/13/2020, 09.03
BELARUS - RUSSIA
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Minsk, Msgr. Kondrusiewicz: Dialogue for peace. Kirill and the Orthodox bishops applaud Lukashenko

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Catholic bishops are calling for an end to the violence and negotiations between the government and the opposition. Kirill says Lukashenko's victory "exalts attention to the spiritual and moral issues of people's lives". For some Orthodox priests, their bishops’ applause is a "humiliation of human dignity". Demonstrations and clashes continue.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The crude fabrication of the presidential elections of 9 August have pushed the head of the Catholic Church in Belarus, Metropolitan Archbishop of Minsk-Mogilev Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz (formerly bishop in Moscow), to launch an appeal to national authorities and opposition representatives. Broadcast on 11 August by the Catholic Telegram channel Religija segodnja, in his statement the Metropolitan noted that it is the first conflict of such magnitude in the recent history of Belarus and he called all sides to launch negotiations.

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz (photo 1) appeals: "At this crucial moment in our history, in the name of God and his infinite mercy, love and peace, I address all the parties in conflict, with the appeal to stop all violence. May your hands, created for peaceful work and fraternal harmony, not be raised with weapons or stones. May the strength of arguments based on dialogue in truth and mutual love reign in place of the force of arms ". Based on the "secular traditions of the Slavs", he proposes to quickly gather a round table, so that behind it, and "not behind the barricades", we can look for ways out of the crisis.

The Catholic Church in Belarus has a majority in the western regions of the country, on the border with Poland; it is significantly present in the other regions with an Orthodox majority. Msgr. Oleg Budkevič, Catholic bishop of Vitebsk (photo 2), a city close to the border with Russia, has also appealed in favor of national pacification, underlining that "the only way out is the search for truth, and the truth is never on the side of violence… it is clear that we do not live in an ideal world, but there is always the possibility of using common sense, always! ”. Archbishop Budkevič invited believers to use the only effective weapon, that of praying the Holy Rosary.

The Orthodox Metropolitan of Minsk Pavel (Ponomarev, photo 3), patriarchal exarch of all Belarus, instead followed the example of the patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev) and congratulated President Lukashenko "for the election to the high office of the President of the Republic of Belarus”. The congratulations, however, came with some delay compared to the official results communicated by the authorities. Metropolitan Pavel, unlike Kondrusiewicz, is a Russian citizen and not a Belarusian, and Lukashenko said he trusted him "for the defense of the sovereignty of Belarus, the custody of the spiritual and cultural heritage and the strengthening of social and economic stability of our homeland”, sending an indirect message of friendship to the Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

The patriarch of Moscow Kirill in turn stressed that Lukashenko's victory "enhances attention to the spiritual and moral issues of people's lives, as evidenced by the fruitful collaboration between the organs of state power and the Orthodox exarchate in Belarus". The status of Metropolitan Pavel is comparable to that of Metropolitan Onufryj (Berezovskij) of Kiev, head of an autonomous Church, but at the same time subject to the Moscow Synod. Kirill's and Pavel’s appeals certainly did not have a favorable impact on Belarusian public opinion, which is very angry at the electoral fabrications. Some Orthodox priests have even declared that such actions by the authorities are a "humiliation of human dignity".

Belarusian Orthodox theologian Natalia Vasilievich wrote on Facebook that "the authorities put pressure on the Orthodox priests who participated in the protests", even curbing the support they show on social media.

In the end, four days after the elections, the protests show no sign of stopping, after the "exile" in Lithuania of the opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaja. In Minsk several hundred women in white dresses formed a human chain with flowers in their hands, in solidarity with Tikhanovskaya and with the victims of the protests.

One of the excluded candidates, Valerij Tsepkalo, announced on Telegram that he wanted to found a "National Salvation Front" for the defense of democracy in Belarus, and that he wanted to turn to the European Union for support.

Tsepkalo asked all Belarusians to recognize Tikhanovskaja as the legitimate president of the country. Lukashenko himself has decided to convene a "special consultation" on the situation, although he believes that "the riots are orchestrated from abroad".

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