Belarusian Bishop Notes Church-State Relations

HRODNA, Belarus, DEC. 8, 2010 ( The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Belarus is affirming that relations between the Church and state in that country are advancing.

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Bishop Aliaksandar Kashkevich of Hrodna told the Polish Catholic Information Agency that an agreement between the Apostolic Nunciature and the Belarus Republic «has been prepared and we need to pray that it will be signed shortly.»

On Dec. 2, Benedict XVI’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, met with the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, while they were both in Astana, Kazakhstan, for a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

They spoke about various religious questions and exchanged gifts.

Bishop Kashkevich said that the Church has always tried to initiate dialogue with the state authorities.

Nonetheless, he noted that there have been some issues working with the authorities in matters such as obtaining visas for foreign priests.

«Unfortunately, the number of foreign priests who courageously and with self-sacrifice work among believers is decreasing,» the prelate said. «There were 85 of them, while now only 48.»

He explained, «There is a problem regarding visas for foreign priests,» and in the Diocese of Hrodna they «are given only for half a year.»

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