Church in Belarus Blooms After Communist Winter

Bishops Conclude 5-Yearly Visit to Rome

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By Carmen Elena Villa

ROME, DEC. 15, 2009 ( Belarus has not yet celebrated its 20th birthday, but since the country gained independence in 1991, the Church there has been blossoming: The number of parishes has doubled, and there are nearly four times the number of priests.

Before the end of the Cold War, it had no hierarchy: Priests manned a few Catholic churches, but without a diocese to congregate them or bishops to guide them.

Today, some 14% of the 10 million inhabitants of this former Soviet nation are Catholics. It now has an archdiocese, three dioceses and some 450 parishes.

The bishops of Belarus concluded their five-yearly visit to Rome on Monday. This was the third such visit made by the prelates since national independence, the first under Benedict XVI.

Archbishop Tadeuz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk-Mohilev characterized these five-yearly trips to the See of Peter as a «sort of examination of conscience for every bishop.»

He illustrated how the Church in his nation has been reborn since 1991. That year, there were 220 parishes, served by 60 native priests and 60 foreign-born priests. Today, there are 440 priests, 270 of whom are native Belarusians.

In 1990 the first seminary was opened in Grodno and in 2001 the second in Pinsk. About 90 seminarians are studying and an additional 60 attend seminaries of religious congregations.

The Church in Belarus also has a Web site,, publishing news on the life of the local and universal Church in several languages, such as Belarusian, German, Russian and Polish.

Close to 14,000 faithful visit this page daily, which Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said, «for us is like a very large parish.»

In addition, the missal, documents from the Second Vatican Council and the liturgical texts of all the sacraments have been translated into Belarusian.

The archbishop said there is a «good team of translators» preparing quality translations. «They also translated the Holy Father’s last encyclical,» he noted.

Youth days

The blossoming of the Church has attracted a good number of young people, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz observed.

«We have organized two youth days which have had great participation,» he said. The prelate also explained that periodically he leads discussion groups with the youth.

And the Church is also active in the world of academia.

«Over the past two years I have been invited, on different occasions, to public and other universities to give conferences or to participate in meetings with students and professors,» the archbishop said.

The media are also fields of Church participation, he continued. Radio and television broadcast Sunday Mass in the cathedral of Minsk. The archbishop praised this initiative as «something very good, especially for the sick, and children of the countryside.»

In regard to social work, Caritas carries out programs which gather not only Catholics but Orthodox, Protestants, Muslims, and Jews, as well as non-believers.

Social work is focused on programs for the elderly, children, the physically handicapped, cancer patients and the prevention of AIDS. Catholics have joined forces with the Orthodox in establishing a commission to defend the values of the media.


Despite the growth of Catholicism, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz commented that foreign priests face some difficulties, such as obtaining visas.

He also said that at times the faithful need more places to congregate. «Up to now, for the 300,000 Catholics of Minsk, there have been only four churches, although the local authorities recently authorized the construction of an additional six.»

«The only problem now,» the archbishop said, «is where to find the money.»

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