01/03/2021, 09.36
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Archbishop Kondrusiewicz retires, Lukashenko prepares his departure from the scene

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Pope Francis accepted his resignation yesterday, the day the prelate turned 75. The Belarusian archbishop was one of the main engines of the Catholic revival in the ex-Soviet world. For February 11-12, Lukashenko called a "Pan-Belarusian" Assembly with the aim of changing the constitution. The opposition: a show.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The Archbishop of Minsk-Mogilev, Msgr. Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, who returned home at Christmas after four months of exile, has retired. Pope Francis accepted his canonical resignation on the day of his 75th birthday, yesterday January 3.

The negotiations between the Vatican and the Belarusian authorities for his return obviously presupposed the immediate departure of the prelate. The Dominican bishop Kazimierz Wielikoselec, auxiliary of the diocese of Grodno, will administer the archdiocese of Minsk for now.

Kondrusiewicz had led the archdiocese of the Belarusian capital since 2007. He had returned from a 16-year service at the head of the Catholic diocese in Moscow, immediately after the end of communism. His episcopal consecration even took place in 1989, even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, as bishop of the diocese of Grodno, his hometown. His transfer to Moscow was decided in late 1990, only to be announced in April 1991 after unsuccessful attempts to agree on his appointment with the leaders of the Moscow patriarchate.

In these 30 years, the Belarusian Archbishop has been one of the main engines of the Catholic revival in the ex-Soviet world, reopening over 100 parishes, rebuilding dozens of Catholic churches and structures, including the seminary of St. Petersburg and that of Grodno, and finally becoming the symbol of popular protest against the last Soviet satrap, the Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko.

Lukashenko is also trying to save his presidency, in view of a less canonical exit than the Catholic one, but foreseen by the Moscow "supreme seat". The president has in fact convened a "Pan-Belarusian" Assembly for February 11-12 in order to change the constitution, imitating Vladimir Putin. This would secure the system of power, while Lukashenko could retire to the dacha on the outskirts of Moscow, where his children already live. 

The opposition to the contested president, led by the exile of the excluded candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaja, has made it known that she does not want to participate in the assembly, which she considers similar "to a 21st century Communist Party congress", as stated by the spokeswoman for Tikhanovskaja, Anna Krasulina (photo 2).

She added that "no one has seen any reform project, and it is not clear what Lukashenko wants to achieve from this assembly, nor who should take part in it. It is not a discussion on the constitution, which should take place in parliamentary committees open to citizen participation… We have nothing to discuss with Mr. Lukashenko, in 26 years we have understood that he is absolutely inadequate and now also illegitimate”.

According to the opposition, the Assembly will be a preformance, a large demonstration with groups of people specially selected to "stage the Belarusian people" and have the opportunity to impose a new repressive wave in the country. "The assembly - said Krasulina - will take place not only in an emptied city, but also under the fire of the automatic weapons of the Omon".

The opponents' proposal is for Lukashenko to resign, and then return to the 1994 constitution, which the leader has already changed six times in his favour over the long years of rule.

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