Cardinal Parolin on visit to Belarus
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin is in Minsk for a weekend visit to Belarus. During the visit, he will bless the first stone of the new building of the Apostolic Nunciature in Minsk.
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After arriving in Minsk on Thursday evening, Cardinal Pietro Parolin briefly spoke to Vatican Radio about his expectation of the journey.
He said his primary purpose was to strengthen relations between the Holy See and the local Church, and to deliver the words of support from Pope Francis, noting the minority Catholic community in the country has preserved and professed its faith, even in times of persecution.
He also said his visit is a sign of the good relations between the Holy See and Belarus.
“I think the relations are excellent,” he said. “Really, there is a will from both sides to go ahead on this relationship, and to build more and more a constructive relationship between the two sides.”
When asked about the conflict in neighboring Ukraine, Cardinal Parolin spoke about the role Belarus has played in hosting negotiations to end the violence.
“For the Vatican diplomacy, Belarus is a helpful country, especially in the context of the events in Ukraine,” he said. “I want to emphasize this, because at the moment it is very important. It was here the talks were held which led to the signing of the ‘Minsk agreement’, which may lead to a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian crisis.”
On Friday, Cardinal Parolin met with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei.
During these meetings, President Lukashenko emphasized the importance of the freedom of religion.
“My policy on this issue and the policy of the entire Belarusian state rely on one thesis: every person has a right to choose his way to God, to the Church,” said President Lukashenko. “ It is his right and no one can infringe on it. We prevent attempts to favor one church over the others and to destabilize the interfaith situation in Belarus.”
The President added the nation’s Orthodox and Catholic Churches have a “large” and “invaluable” role in preserving interfaith peace and cooperation in Belarus.
Cardinal Parolin also met with Metropolitan of Minsk and Zaslavl Pavel, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, who described the meeting as “warm and open”.