The apostolic nuncio to Belarus prayed on Saturday for peace and harmony in the country as he celebrated Mass at a renowned Marian shrine.
Archbishop Ante Jozić said he prayed that, with God’s help, divisions would be overcome as he offered the Mass on July 3 in the village of Budslau, 90 miles north of the capital, Minsk.
“Today I pray in a special way for peace and harmony in this country, so that with God’s help and through the intercession of Our Lady of Budslau we can overcome, as Pope Francis says, the ‘culture of division and establish a true culture of brotherhood and solidarity,’” he said, according to Catholic.by, the website of the Catholic Church in Belarus.
Jozić, a 54-year-old Croatian archbishop who arrived in Belarus last October, was presiding at Mass at the end of the annual festival of Our Lady of Budslau attended by thousands of pilgrims from across the country.
A revered Marian icon depicting Our Lady of Budslau is housed in the local Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The icon was recovered undamaged in May following a devastating fire at the church.
Jozić said: “The Budslau Sanctuary, with its miraculous icon, has been inspiring many believers from all over the country every year for centuries, giving them new spiritual strength to overcome life's difficulties and get closer to Jesus Christ, God and Man, Savior of the world and all people.”
Catholics are the second-largest religious community after Orthodox Christians in Belarus, a country of 9.6 million people bordering Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.
An annual celebration in honor of Our Lady of Budslau was inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2018.
In its citation, the United Nations’ cultural agency said: “Since the 17th century, every year on the first weekend of July tens of thousands of pilgrims from all over Belarus and other countries have come to Budslau to participate in the celebrations in honor of the Budslau icon of Our Lady, with some making the pilgrimage on foot.”
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The apostolic nuncio recalled that Belarusians had turned to Our Lady of Budslau at the most challenging moments in their history, including the Second World War and the communist era.
Alluding to the upheaval in the country following a disputed presidential election in August 2020, Jozić encouraged Belarusians to reconcile with one another, building a culture of peace.
He urged them to imitate the Virgin Mary, who served God with humility, ending his homily with the words of the Magnificat, spoken by Mary during her Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth, as recorded in St. Luke’s Gospel.
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Less than two weeks after Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk was allowed to return to Belarus after a four-month exile, the Vatican announced Sunday that Pope Francis had accepted the archbishop’s resignation on his 75th birthday.