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Exiled Catholic archbishop meets with senior Vatican officials

AbpTadeuszKondrusiewicz Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mohilev, pictured in 2014. / Redaktor01 Remik Kubicki (CC BY 3.0).

Exiled Belarusian Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz met with senior Vatican officials Monday.

The website of the Catholic Church in Belarus reported Oct. 19 that Kondrusiewicz held talks with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

Catholic.by said that the trio discussed plans to enable Kondrusiewicz to return to his homeland after he was blocked from reentering Belarus amid turmoil following a disputed presidential election.

The website said that the Vatican was “concerned” that the president of the Belarusian bishops’ conference remained barred from the country.

“The Holy See is making every effort to rectify the situation as soon as possible and hopes that the problem will be resolved positively,” it said.

Kondrusiewicz, the archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev, was turned back at the border Aug. 31 when he attempted to return home following a trip to Poland. The authorities later claimed that his passport was “invalid,” but invited him to appeal the decision

Gallagher, the Vatican’s equivalent of a foreign minister, traveled to Belarus Sept. 11 to discuss the situation with Belarusian officials, but the talks did not result in an immediate breakthrough.

Kondrusiewicz had spoken out in defense of protesters after they were targeted by police following an election in August in which the incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko, claimed victory with 80% of the vote. 

The election result prompted mass demonstrations calling for the resignation of Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994. 

Kondrusiewicz demanded an investigation into reports that riot police blocked the doors of a Catholic church in the capital, Minsk, while clearing away protesters from a nearby square. Earlier he had prayed outside of a prison where detained protesters were reportedly tortured.

Protests are continuing more than two months after the election. On Sunday, tens of thousands of protesters marched through Minsk, according to the Associated Press.

The authorities in Belarus have faced international condemnation over their treatment of the archbishop. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Oct. 13 that Kondrusiewicz’s exile was an “injustice” and “an affront to religious freedom.” 

“Faith is not merely a private endeavor,” he said. “I urge the Belarusian government to right this wrong and allow the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus back into his country.”

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On Monday evening, Kondrusiewicz joined children praying the rosary in Belarus via video link from Rome. 

Catholic.by said that the children were taking part in the “One Million Children Praying the Rosary” campaign, organized by Aid to the Church in Need.

The prayer, led by Bishop Yuri Kasabutsky, an auxiliary bishop of Minsk-Mohilev archdiocese, took place in the capital. The children prayed for an end to the coronavirus pandemic and for Kondrusiewicz’s swift return to Belarus, reported the website.

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