Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz. Credit: Raviaka Ruslan/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).
The Church in Belarus has no other task than proclaiming the Gospel. It did so also during the protests that broke out in Belarus following the presidential elections in August, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with the Catholic News Agency.
Since 31 August, Kondrusiewicz has been unable to return to his country. He was blocked at the border with Poland, where he had gone for a celebration at a Marian shrine. Later on, the Belarusian government said that the archbishop’s passport was invalid.
Despite many international appeals, the archbishop still cannot return to his country. Pope Francis sent his foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, to Belarus 11-14 September. The bilateral meetings zeroed in on the situation in Belarus and also the particular case of the archbishop.
As of now, the archbishop has not been able to return to his country. He visited the Vatican 19-20 October.
“I was summoned,” he told CNA, “by the Secretariat of State, and I had meetings with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Gallagher. We discussed the situation in Belarus and my particular situation. I already knew that, but I am now even more convinced that the Holy See has put in place strong efforts to solve my issue.”
Speaking about the situation in Belarus, Kondrusiewicz recalled that he has made many appeals for reconciliation.
“I am very worried. Belarus’ situation is challenging, but I am more preoccupied with some slogans I hear around that say: ‘We remember, we do not forgive.’ This is not a Christian way of thinking,” the archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev said.
He stressed that “with no forgiveness, there is no room for reconciliation, no room for peace. Like St. John Paul II said, forgiving is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. When I forgive my enemy, I win because I let enmity go and keep something spiritual. As a bishop, I teach this way of thinking because this is the Gospel.”
Kondrusiewicz noted that the lack of reconciliation stemmed from a deeper problem in Belarusian society.
“The Belarusian generations were first raised in atheism and now in secularism, which does not recognize any spiritual perspective, but focuses on material issues,” he remarked.
He said that, although there is no longer ideological and militant atheism, there is a materialistic atheism.
“No one openly persecutes the Church,” he explained, “but there are signs of persecution of Christians ‘in white gloves,’ since there are many parliaments that pass laws against the divine law.”
In his country, Kondrusiewicz strived to foster interreligious dialogue, and he organized many meetings of prayer on the issue. He explained that this was a way to help the reconciliation process.
On 18 August, the Executive Committee of Justice and Peace Europe asked all Christians to say an “Our Father” for the Belarusian people.
Kondrusiewicz said: “The notice of the initiative did not come so much in advance, and there was no time to deliver the message properly. However, the response was phenomenal. We arranged the recitation of the prayer in the Red Church in Minsk, which is pretty big. The church was overcrowded: there were Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Greek Catholics, Protestants, Jewish people, Muslims.”
In particular, the archbishop was struck by “a Muslim woman that prayed very intensively.”
According to Kondrusiewicz, the meeting “created an interconfessional and interreligious symphony, that is the symbol of a new society, open to different faiths. All the religious confessions gather together and pray together for the same purpose; that is, the peaceful solution of the Belarusian issue.”
He stressed that the event was a twofold sign. On the one hand, it consolidated Belarusian society. On the other, the common prayer was a wake-up call for an increasingly secularized Europe.