Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko visited the Church in honor of the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God on the premises of the Saint Elisabeth Convent in Minsk on Christmas Day.
The head of state was greeted by students of the Sunday School of the convent who presented him a bouquet of flowers. The President returned the favor giving the students Christmas gifts – books about Eastern Orthodox holidays and sweets.
After that Aleksandr Lukashenko lit a Christmas candle.
The President addressed the attendees and all those who celebrate Christmas. “It is a good and serene holiday that fills our hearts with faith, hope, love and kindness. I believe that this church, this shrine we are in, is the embodiment of all this,” he said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the year 2019 was not easy for the country; different people lived it differently. “All in all, you all say that it was not a bad year. It was a difficult period in our life. I keep saying that the thing that raises the biggest concern is economy, because it affects the life of our people,” the head of state said.
He recalled that in his New Year address he mentioned that farmers coped well with the challenges of the past year, as it was preceded by two difficult years in a row and many reserves were depleted. “Thanks God, we had these reserves. Last year (which was not the best year, however it was not the worst either) we replenished our reserves and ensured food security. We performed pretty well that year, however not the way we wanted. It was a so-so year. I would call it a difficult year,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The President believes that urban residents and the manufacturing industry could have performed better.
“You see what is happening in the world, on the international arena. This is a difficult period. The global economy is expected to plunge into recession. No one expects growth,” the Belarusian leader said.
The head of state doubled down on his New Year address saying: “I said that the year will not be easy. Someone will have it hard, someone will not. However, this year will bring a number of challenges. We will have to do a lot in order to walk through it proudly and preserve our country, our independence.”
“Our biggest achievement of the past year is preserving peace and tranquility on our land. Inter-faith and inter-ethnic peace is what any country would be proud of, including Belarus,” the Belarusian leader underlined.
The President recalled that the country had gone through a lot. “We experienced a siege, isolation and sanctions. We are not Russia or any other big country, not the European Union. We had it hard. However, we managed to pull through by standing united. This unity is key to our success. Our church contributed greatly to this unity, not only the Eastern Orthodox Church and not only the Catholic Church, but all religious denominations, our Church in general,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The head of state thanked the Eastern Orthodox clergy as they represent the biggest religious denomination in Belarus, for peace and tranquility in Belarus. “You have made a great contribution to our peaceful life and the life of our children. There are no problem-free countries in the world. No matter how people might rhapsodize about their successes and achievements (I have traveled around the world), believe me, every country has its issues. People die, children die. We have enough of our issues, but all these issues are of our own making. There is no way someone outside Belarus can orchestrate conflicts in which children die. Our carelessness is to blame for all our issues. We create situations that cause people to die, including children, unfortunately,” the Belarusian leader said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko wished everyone good health and asked people to take good care of themselves and their children. “They say that there is life after death. Unfortunately, we do not know for sure, but we will believe that this is true. However, we know well about the terrestrial life, therefore let us live our earthly life in a decent way,” the President said.
He gifted the icon Nativity of Christ to the church. This icon was painted by Belarusian artist Andrei Shcherbinin. It depicts the birth of the Son of God in a cave in Bethlehem. The day when Jesus was born is the day of the renewal of the world, the day of salvation and universal joy. “Let this icon be kept in this church. I promise you to come back to this church this year. To my biggest regret I did not know about the great things the church has done. I know that you help people in need. To make up for my ignorance of this place, I promise to come back and see how I can help this church. In my view, the best thing about a church is when people come to a church or a convent willingly to do something good,” the head of state said.
By the way, the first thing the President asked after getting out of the car, was what he could do to help the shrine. The state is ready to support charity activities, including assistance for the elderly and people living alone, and all those who need attention and care.
Archpriest Andrei Lemeshonok, the spiritual father of the Saint Elisabeth Convent, said that he is particularly happy to see the head of state in this church on Christmas Day: “This feeling of joy is really special, because the leader of our nation, our President is visiting our church, the shrine and is saying very important things, not formally, but sincerely. Thank you so much.”
The archbishop said that 20 years ago there was a wasteland on the place where the convent now stands. There were no wealthy sponsors, but there were people who wanted to help those in need. “There are many hospitals in the vicinity and people need joy, beauty. With this in mind this church and this convent were built. It was done by our young people who graduated from our universities and chose to stay in the country,” he said.
“We realize how difficult it is for you to take us ahead, to give us hope for a better future. Our future will be good indeed. Therefore, we would like to wish you a lot of energy and good health, because, as you said, we should not wait for someone else to hand us everything on a plate. We need to work hard. You are concerned about the entire nation. We really pray for you and want peace. Living under the peaceful sky is the most important thing. People should feel free and comfortable on our land, have big families, many children and love in their families,” the archbishop said addressing Aleksandr Lukashenko.
Archpriest Andrei Lemeshonok gifted an icon to the head of state. “As a token of our love and prayers. The icon was made by our artisans,” the archbishop said.
The President noted that many people bring him Christmas and New Year gifts and the President shares these gifts with other people. “Such gifts are on display in the museum of the Palace of Independence. The President can accept gifts, but these gifts do not belong to him, they belong to the state,” the Belarusian leader said.
“I have received many New Year gifts. The gifts given to my little family will be handed over to you by the end of the day. I will also add something, so there will be enough of gifts for sisters and brothers and children. Thank you very much. I will certainly come back soon,” the head of state said.
In conclusion, the head of state welcomed the churchgoers standing at the church and wished them good health.
The Church in honor of the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God is part of the Saint Elisabeth Convent. The church was built in 2001-2007 by the convent, with participation of artisans of the workshops of the convent. The church was consecrated on 18 October 2008 by Metropolitan Pavel of Minsk and Zaslavl, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus. The Saint Elisabet Convent was founded in 1999.