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Papal Mass Could Lead To Belarus Visit

Papal Mass Could Lead To Belarus Visit
A weekend papal mass to be broadcast in Minsk's Catholic cathedral could help improve Belarus's standing in the world and eventually lead to a visit by Pope Benedict, the country's top Catholic cleric said.
Saturday's mass, organized with the help of state television, is the first such event in ex-Soviet Belarus, where Catholics make up about 14 per cent of its 10 million people. Belarus is accused by Western countries of infringing human rights but religious strife is rare and both Catholic and Orthodox holidays are officially observed.
"This will be the first such broadcast in Minsk and we have encountered no obstacles from authorities in organising it," Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, Archbishop of Minsk-Mogilev, said in an interview late on Tuesday. "It is important for the Catholic Church, for young Catholics, to have the opportunity to pray together with the Pope. And I believe it is also important for Belarus itself, to improve Belarus's standing in the world."
Kondrusiewicz, previously the senior Catholic cleric in neighboring Russia, said the late Pope John Paul had visited many ex-Soviet states and had long wanted to come to Belarus. "We would love to have the Pope come to Belarus. This would be a landmark event. But for the moment, this is not on the agenda," he said.
Relations between Rome and the 220 million-strong Orthodox Church, divided since the Great Schism of 1054, became more tense under John Paul, who was unable to visit Russia, the long-held dream of his papacy. Russian Orthodox patriarch Aleksy II had rejected a visit by Pope John Paul on the grounds that Catholics had tried to poach congregations and claim property in former Soviet republics, particularly Ukraine.
Kodrusiewicz said he hoped the Catholic Church would be able to sign an agreement with Belarusian authorities guaranteeing its rights as a recognized religion akin to one already setting down the leading role for Belarus's Orthodox Church. "We would be very pleased to sign such an agreement and this ought to happen. Catholics make up the second largest confession in Belarus," he said, adding that in future the Church hoped no longer to have to rely on foreign clergy in parishes.
Authorities have expressed disquiet that half the 398 Catholic clergy in Belarus come from outside the country. Most are from neighboring Poland, which has uneasy ties with Minsk over a series of diplomatic and spying rows and allegations that Belarus mistreats its 400,000-strong Polish minority.
But he said Catholics would never engage in proselytizing or take actions that would antagonize Orthodox believers. "There is no logic in this. The Catholic Church sees the Orthodox Church as a sister church," he said. "There are so many mixed marriages and that can only be beneficial. Benedict has called mixed marriages a laboratory for Christian unity so Belarus can be a nationwide laboratory."


 

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