Officials of Aid to the Church in Need (CAN) are hopeful for the Catholic Church in Belarus, where many signs of life are sprouting. “The Catholic Church in Belarus is coming out of the ashes of communism,” said Antonia Willemsen, the organization’s secretary general, Aug. 23 after a visit to the East European country.
Churches are being built and the seminaries are filling up. There are there are currently 27 Belorussian seminarians at the cardinal’s seminary in Pinsk, and 15 other candidates entering for the new academic year, reported Marko Tomashek, head of ACN’s East Europe III section.
“People are creative and thanks to the great commitment of bishops and priests, numerous parish churches are being built now,” said Willemsen, whose organization helps fund pastoral projects. In 2003, ACN gave more than 540.000 Euro for projects in Belarus.
However, Belarus is not without its problems. “Still there are demanding and confusing bureaucratic procedures for obtaining permission to build churches,” said Willemsen. “This makes it difficult for the Church to develop its plans. Corruption, bribery and the still existing command economy are enormous obstacles for private businesses as well,” she explained.
In addition, foreign missionaries continue to run into difficulty in obtaining visas from the Belorussian authorities, admitted Tomashek.