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Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State: My visit aims to develop ties with Belarus' state authorities

The Vatican Secretary of State made an official visit to Belarus. Cardinal Pietro Parolin is called the second person of the Holy See after the Pope. Therefore, this visit is an important gesture, with which the Pope wishes to express his deep respect for the people of Belarus.

On March 13, the Secretary of State met with the President of Belarus . Belarus manages to maintain interfaith peace and understanding. This was the essence of the discussion at the meeting. The corner stone was laid in the foundation of the future Vatican Embassy.

The representative of the Holy See arrived on an ordinary scheduled flight, but still the Vatican Secretary of State was welcomed as befits a person coming on an official visit.

The Cardinal heads the Vatican administration. This post is comparable to the post of a prime minister.

The Secretary of State is responsible for the political and diplomatic actions of the Vatican. So it is not surprising that the visit began with an assessment of peaceful diplomacy.

Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State:
Belarus serves as an excellent platform for negotiations on the Ukrainian conflict. Those agreements and documents that were signed in Minsk, allowed reaching certain arrangements. The Vatican appreciates the diplomatic contribution of Belarus.

The Cardinal underwent diplomatic service in Nigeria, Mexico, and Venezuela.

Pietro Parolin is the youngest Secretary of State for the last 50 years. In 2013, he succeeded Tarcisio Bertone, who kept in touch with Belarus and its President.

Belarus is home to peaceful people of different religions. Some 30 denominations live here. The biggest, of course, are Orthodox and Catholics. Catholics make up somewhere around one and a half million people. The position of the Roman Catholic Church has recently strengthened. The number of parishes has increased almost fourfold.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President:
You probably know the situation that is developing in Belarus in terms of inter-religious cooperation. This situation is characterized by absolute peace and mutual understanding. And I must confess, we are proud of. Representatives of about 30 denominations live in Belarus. Naturally, the largest of them are the Orthodox and Catholic denominations. The interfaith peace and cooperation that exists in Belarus depends on them. Their role (the role of these two major religions) is invaluable.
Over the past 20 years, the number of Catholic parishes has increased by almost four times, if not more. The state has given Catholics more than 300 buildings and places of worship. We must pay tribute to Vatican representatives in Belarus: you have done everything possible to ensure that the Catholic population has enough parishes. Today, the coverage of Catholics with religious buildings is 98%. Almost completely all of them have their place of worship. No other denomination in Belarus possess this number of religious buildings. I would venture to say that the Vatican would hardly find such a figure in any other country.
My policy in this regard, the policy of our state is based on a single premise: Everyone has the right to find their way to the Lord and the temple. This is his sacred right, no one has the right to oppose it. We prevent any attempts to create an advantage one any denomination at the expense of other faiths and thereby destabilize the inter-religious situation in Belarus.

This meeting is an opportunity to discuss a variety of issues. Alexander Lukashenko spoke about the training of the Catholic clergy.

There should be more Belarusians among them. The President instructed to find a place to build the future theological academy.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President:
We do not think this should be done by the Vatican alone. We understand that in order to have more Catholic priests of the Belarusian origin, we should just train them in Belarus. And the construction of your central office, the educational academy in Belarus was my initiative.

The Catholic Church is involved in many humanitarian programs. For example, those aiming to help the poor. It is humanity and tolerance that are the values Belarusians share.

Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State:
First of all, thank you for your warm welcome. I am very pleased to meet you. And I want to convey to the Catholic community greetings and the words of welcome from the Pope.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President:
Our Orthodox and representatives of other denominations would not mind to get a greeting from the Pope.

Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State:
The purpose of my visit is to develop contacts with the state authorities of Belarus. I am glad to hear words of appreciation of the role of the Catholic community which it plays in the life of the country.

After the conversation with the representative of the Pontiff, the President of Belarus donated to Pope Francis a handmade icon .

By the way, it was an icon the head of state presented to Pope Benedict during the 2009 visit to the Vatican. This copy is made using the Belarusian technology of Sozh filigree. The icon was made by ordinary Belarusian people.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President:
This is an evidence of our inter-religious peace and harmony.

The Vatican official held a lot of meetings that day. Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei called the Vatican a special partner of Belarus. The arrival of the representative of the Pontiff is regarded as a desire to develop relationships. 

Despite the fact that Belarus is a secular state, respect for faith is one of Belarus' traditional values. This was said by head of the Council of the Republic Mikhail Myasnikovich.


Mikhail Myasnikovich and Pietro Parolin

At a meeting in the upper house of the parliament, is was noted that the current dialogue can be basis for the visit of the Pope to Minsk. 

Catholic bishops will give such an invitation to Pope Francis.

Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, Metropolitan of Minsk and Mogilev, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in the Republic of Belarus:
We have been waiting for the Pope. We will also ask the Cardinal to pass our invitation to the Pope. I think it's time for this. The dialogue is developing and this dynamism is becoming very important for both the Vatican and Belarus and the Catholics of Belarus in particular.

Negotiations in the government revealed that Minsk and the Vatican enjoy the dialogue. Priorities Pope Francis - struggle for social justice, promotion of international, intercultural and interreligious dialogue - are in tune with the policy of Belarus.


Pietro Parolin and Andrei Kobyakov

Andrei Kobyakov, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus:
The Republic of Belarus pursues a socially-oriented policy. We believe that peace and stability in the country, the equality of citizens, guaranteed right to work and rest, free education and health care are real achievements that we are proud of. Similarity of our approaches means that during Pope Francis' tenure, relations between the Republic of Belarus and the Vatican will not only retain their friendly tone, but also be strengthened.

Natalia Breus, CTV:
Diplomatic relations between Belarus and the Vatican were established long ago, back in the early 1990s. But it so happened that there was no Apostolic Nunciature, so-called embassy of this mini-state, in the Belarus capital. It was located in an ordinary house. But a land plot has been allocated. The construction has already started.  This is also a kind of solid foundation for dialogue of the official Minsk and the Holy See.

Cardinal Parolin consecrated the cornerstone of the new building of the future of the Apostolic Nunciature.

Its construction should be completed in autumn. Then the Vatican will have its own home in the welcoming Belarus.

Meeting of the Vatican Secretary of State with Metropolitan of Minsk Pavel was held behind closed doors.

It is known that the bishops spoke eye to eye on the issue of preserving cultural values ​​as no-disturbance of peace between religions.

Pavel, Metropolitan of Minsk and Zaslavl, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus:
We noted today the complex and hard lesson in Ukraine. Peace is fragile. And so we need to keep it.  


Cardinal Parolin and Pavel, Metropolitan of Minsk and Zaslavl

This was a kind of interchurch diplomacy. However, all means are good to preserve tranquility today. The visit of the representative of the Vatican runs until Sunday. He will hold two masses in the capital. It will be a vigil in the church of Sts. Simon and Helena, as well as the one in the cathedral, which will bring together believers and their children.

On March 14, Cardinal Pietro Parolin talked with reporters and said that the Catholic community in Belarus deserves the visit of Pope Francis.

Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State:
Indeed, there is a very strong desire in Belarus among Catholic believers to see the Pope in Belarus. And I can admit it. I felt this during the meetings. The invitation and the desire to see the Pope in Belarus was a common element in all my meetings with the Government.  

On March 14, it became known that Pope Francis may follow the example of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, and will not stay on the Holy See for life.

The head of the Catholic Church said that he likes to be the Pope, but he would like some time to enter a pizzeria without being recognized.

Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State: My visit aims to develop ties with Belarus' state authorities