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Claudio Gugerotti optimistic about Belarus relations with West

Claudio Gugerotti from Belarus will go to Ukraine, where he will spend the next four years. With what feelings does the envoy of the Holy See leave Belarus and what souvenir will he take away?

Your Excellency, thank you very much for taking the time for our conversation. And, if I may, I will speak Belarusian, a native language, because I know that you also studied it.

Claudio Gugerotti, apostolic nuncio in the Republic of Belarus (2011-2015):
Of course, please.

And I believe this is your respect for our country.

Claudio Gugerotti:
Meeting with Belarusian culture was important for me, it was a key that opened the door for me in the everyday work that I was doing here. Belarusians are modest people, silent, in contrast to Italians, who speak a lot, even when it would be better to keep silent. I tried to understand Belarusians through art, ancient and modern. On Monday, a farewell meeting with diplomats working in Belarus will take place. At this meeting, I will recite two Belarusian poems.

What does your personal experience say: is Belarus such a tolerant country?

Claudio Gugerotti:
I have never met aggression in Belarus, on the contrary, almost everywhere I saw great sincerity, hospitality and even the honor of receiving a visit. The history of the Belarusian people combines the cultural influences of various nations and religions. Therefore, tolerance for Belarusians is something very natural. But this is more than tolerance, you simply accept others as they are. And you are not annoyed. You do not need to do this effort.

Apparently, you had enough time to understand our Belarusian soul. The completion of your mission in Belarus coincides with the Catholic Advent. This is the time to sum up some results. What is the main result of your work in Belarus?

Claudio Gugerotti:
The main result of my work in Belarus is Advent. This is a time of waiting, days of waiting for well-being filled with joy and happiness. And my work was really successful if it could bring light. This is the light of peace in the heart of Belarusians, your people.

Belarus has lately done a lot to bring peace to the Ukrainian land. Will the experience of Belarus give help you continue the mission in Ukraine?And it seems that this is in Christian traditions to exert every effort to achieve peace.

Claudio Gugerotti:
Belarus has done a lot to achieve a peaceful resolution of the situation in Ukraine. And the fact that it is here, in Belarus, where representatives of different Ukrainian sides of the conflict meet is not something accidental, it is very symbolic. Belarusians and Ukrainians are naturally close to each other. You in Belarus understand what is happening in the hearts and souls of Ukrainians better than other countries. And so, thanks to you, I hope to better understand Ukrainians subsequently to better serve in their country.

While working in Belarus you have always favored the warming of relations between Belarus and the West. Are there any prospects for further development?

Claudio Gugerotti:
When I arrived in Belarus, I felt cold, but not only because it was winter, but also because of that frost in relations with the West and certain sectors of the Belarusian society. For the diplomacy of the Holy See this situation is unacceptable. And something happened in that direction. I met here representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who worked very honestly in order to bring your countries closer. I am very optimistic about the future of Belarus in its relations with the West. Everyone needs this quiet and open country.

This week, you met with the head of state. What does a close interaction between the church and the state give Belarus?

Claudio Gugerotti:
The meeting with the President took place in a very warm and cordial atmosphere. And it is above all because at every meeting I try to be very sincere. Each meeting is held in the spirit of sincerity and openness. During the meeting, two people just tell each other what they feel. And for me that is the ideal relationship between the church and the state. They both serve one nation and they have to pay attention to each other. It is necessary to have mutual respect.

I am sure that you have traveled much across Belarus. What places impressed you most?

Claudio Gugerotti:
First of all, meetings with people will remain in my heart. Even in small huts in the middle of a forest. Women who are happy about being able to work in their gardens. They asked me to forgive them since they needed to leave me for a second to make sure their potato pancakes don't burn.
I was very impressed with the pilgrimage to Budslav. I saw flows of young people walking happily and singing.

What you will miss after parting with Belarus? Perhaps Belarusian quietness or the same Belarusian potato pancakes?

Claudio Gugerotti:
I will miss everything I talked about but there is a very special thing - your county. I enjoy your flax. I've seen women who weave linen and this brought me great spiritual satisfaction. Linen looks elegant but it is fresh. Man is both dressed and does not lose touch with nature. Now, dressed in man-made fabrics, we lose the connection with nature. But you in Belarus at least have a thing called bath. Something I had never seen before. I made gifts. I will give all my friends: Belarusian flax belts, tablecloths and so on. I also have a national Belarusian shirt with the national belt, which I'll take with me to Ukraine.

Your Excellence, thank you very much for this interview and warm memories.

Claudio Gugerotti:
Thank you very much and goodbye.

Goodbye.

Claudio Gugerotti, apostolic nuncio in the Republic of Belarus (2011-2015)