A Belarusian archbishop who has been denied entry back into his own country said the Vatican was doing everything in its power to resolve the situation and help him return.
To live in “forced exile” is difficult, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk told SIR, the news agency of the Italian bishops’ conference.
“I can only live in spiritual unity with my people in prayer. I can always repeat, ‘Thy will be done’,” he said during a brief stay in Rome.
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, president of the Belarusian bishops’ conference, was barred from re-entering his country from Poland on 31st August.
The previous weekend, he had a statement read in Belarusian churches warning that the country could be on the brink of civil war because of violence and demonstrations protesting the 9th August presidential election. President Alexander Lukashenko declared himself the winner for a sixth term in the widely disputed election.
The archbishop told SIR that he met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister, on 19th October.
Asked about the meetings, the archbishop, who is a Belarusian citizen, said: “I can only say that the Vatican will do everything possible for my return home.”
He said he had been able to participate and pray online with the faithful in Minsk as they took part in the global campaign, ‘One million children praying the Rosary’, on 18th October, sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need International.
“These initiatives are a very great spiritual support for me. The people’s prayer is also a sign that the bishop must be with his people,” he said.
When asked about protests in Belarus calling for Lukashenko’s resignation, the archbishop said: “Our hope is always for a peaceful solution to the problem that we are experiencing today.”
Archbishop Gallagher had visited Minsk in mid-September for talks with Lukashenko’s government and meetings with bishops.
Speaking on 12th September, Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said talks with Archbishop Gallagher had covered events since the election, and he gave no information about the future of Archbishop Kondrusiewicz.
On 15th September, the Belarusian Interior Ministry confirmed the archbishop’s passport had been cancelled to prevent its “unjustified use”, but said his Belarusian citizenship remained valid.
Cardinal Parolin told journalists in Rome on 15th September that the Holy See insisted to Belarus the archbishop “be allowed to return to his see and continue to be the guide of his flock, certainly reaffirming the role of the Church, which is to be a promoter of dialogue, reconciliation and peace”.
Picture: Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk, Belarus, is pictured in a file photo. Archbishop Kondrusiewicz says the Vatican is working on helping his re-entry into Belarus after he had been turned away at the border. (CNS photo/Bob Roller).