10/06/2020, 10.04
BELARUS - RUSSIA
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Surrounded by icons, Lukashenko blesses an Orthodox church

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Belarusian president presents himself as the great defender of the Orthodox Church. Mikhail Gutseriev, an eminent member of the Writers' Union of Russia, supervised the construction of the church of St. John the Baptist. On the same day, over 300 people were detained by police in Minsk. Thanks from Orthodox Metropolitan Venjamin.

Minsk (AsiaNews) - Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko is trying to regain the trust of citizens, presenting himself as the great defender of the local Orthodox Church. On 4 October, together with the patriarchal exarch, Metropolitan Venjamin (Tupelo), the disputed batka went to the inauguration of a new church in an agricultural village near Minsk, dedicated to St. John the Baptist.

The church, which can hold 150 people, was built in the past two years in the Shershuny agricultural complex. As Lukashenko recalled, "in the past years we have built thousands of similar churches, I myself approve most of the projects ... when we are gone, our children will remember how much good we have done for future generations." The small temple in classic Byzantine style with two domes is completed by a parish house, an oratory courtyard for children and a park for all visitors.

The president first lit a candle in front of the icons, congratulating the villagers and his writer friend who led the construction of the church, Mikhail Gutseriev. Gutseriev IS an eminent member of the Union of Writers of Russia, an institution founded during Soviet times.

Addressing the "dear Mikhail", Lukashenko also congratulated him "for the schools and commercial premises that you have built in recent years for billions of dollars, ceaseless in this commitment in favour of our people". Intellectuals, especially Russian, are often hired by Lukashenko to oversee projects that bring prestige to his image.

Gutseriev said the decision to build the church was made during a trip to the area by the president and a Russian businessman, noting the ruins of local churches, which were destroyed in Soviet times. At the behest of Lukashenko, the new church was built in front of the village school, so that "the children are awakened and encouraged by the sound of the bells". The Russian patron then financed the monument to the Soviet soldiers who in 1944 stopped the Nazis in Belarus, right between the church and the school, "a place where you can see the meaning of our people's life".

Before entering politics, the head of state was president of a kolkhoz. He wanted to wish a long life to all the inhabitants of the village, observing that "the agricultural territories of Belarus are flourishing and developing more and more, and are fundamental for the stability of our state".

This was a negative allusion to the city protests, which continue unabated. On the same day of the consecration, in the umpteenth People’s March of protest, over 300 people were detained by police in Minsk. The peasants, on the contrary, represent the "hard core" of the consensus for Lukashenko.

Lukashenko donated an icon to the church, leaving there also the one given to him by Metropolitan Venjamin, who also intervened alongside the president at the consecration of the church, presiding over the religious ceremony. In turn, Venjamin thanked the president for the support that the state administration provides to the Orthodox Church in the construction and restoration of churches and shrines. “Much has been done, and much remains to be done. Today we have a splendid opportunity, here in this new church, to intensify our prayer for our Belarusian homeland, for our people and for our future”, said the metropolitan.

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