Meeting with Apostolic Nuncio of the Vatican to Belarus Claudio Gugerotti

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Belarus will continue the policy of establishing the closest kind of ties with the Vatican. Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko made the statement as he met with Apostolic Nuncio of the Vatican to Belarus Claudio Gugerotti on 4 December. The meeting took place on the occasion of the end of Claudio Gugerotti’s diplomatic mission in Belarus.

The President stressed: “I would like to officially and openly thank you for your mission in Belarus. Absolutely sincerely, without any diplomatic varnish, I would like to say that, perhaps, you are the best Ambassador of the Vatican.” At the same time, Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that all Ambassadors of the Vatican did a good job.

“Your mission was an honest, open, principled and sometimes not even diplomatic but panhuman one. You have tried to solve certain issues in the relations of Belarus both with the Vatican and other states taking into account the interests of Belarus and our people. I am especially grateful to you for that,” the head of state stressed.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that a lot was done to establish close ties with the Vatican and the Pope during Claudio Gugerotti’s work in Belarus. “I would like to assure you that we are not going to abandon the policy. If someone thinks that Lukashenko is changing his attitude towards Catholics, the Catholic Church, and the Vatican, it is absolutely not so. It is total rubbish,” stated the Belarus President. “We are changing nothing. We have not courted the Catholic, the Orthodox, or other ones. We have been pursuing an honest and sincere policy.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko continued: “Some of our citizens are Catholics. They are believers. They are principled people and I respect their stance.” According to the President, every person has to decide for themselves which road to the temple they should take. “I have been pursuing this policy for twenty years. It will always be like that. Do you want to be a Catholic? Go right ahead. Would you like to be an Orthodox? Be my guest. If you want to preach the Jewish religion, the Muslim one, or Buddhism, we won’t stop you. You are free to choose any religion; we will never interfere with that. If you don’t want to go to church, you don’t have to. We are not going to oppress anyone and force them to accept religion. People have to make their own choices.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that he respects Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Muslims living in Belarus, and representatives of other religions that do not promote terrorism or stir tensions and destabilize the situation.

“If a religion promotes peace and order in the country, stability, it will be favored in Belarus. You should know this,” the head of state emphasized.

The President of Belarus asked the Archbishop to tell Pope Francis that he would like to meet with him. “I would like to discuss a lot of things with this person whom I respect a lot,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He praised the work of Claudio Gugerotti in Belarus. “You have always supported us. We have done a lot to establish good ties and I believe in the future we will do our best to organize the top-level meeting with the Pope. I respect him a lot. I obtain information from mass media, his trips and statements. I like his stance regarding the respect to the poorest people, fight against corruption, honesty and justice. I am glad that such a person leads the Catholics today.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko also noted: “You see that we are doing our utmost to support our Catholics. This pertains to the theology school where we will train our priests (at present Italians will help us). We have already discussed this issue with you. We will welcome any priest who will arrive in our country and will respect our people, will work in the best interest of our state as you have always been doing.”

Claudio Gugerotti, in turn, said that the Catholic Church and the Pope respect the Belarusian nation a lot.

The Apostolic Nuncio heartily thanked the Belarus President for the kind words addressed to the former and for the meeting. “It is a great honor for me to meet with you and it is not the first time. We have always talked very sincerely. We feel that we love this nation. Love means that we can talk about anything and heartily understand each other. It is important to do everything while following our hearts,” said the Apostolic Nuncio.

Claudio Gugerotti remarked: “I feel sadness, I say it sincerely, because it was good to live and work here.” The Apostolic Nuncio underlined he had travelled a lot all over Belarus, he had been invited many times to visit not only big cities but also small communities. He recalled his visits to Vitebsk and Grodno with fondness.

“My meetings with members of the general public were particularly interesting. I hope I was able to give them at least a bit of warmth and demonstrate that the Catholic Church and the Pope very strongly respect the Belarusian nation. In addition to respect they love this modest and very nice Belarusian nation,” he added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko wished every success to Claudio Gugerotti. Aleksandr Lukashenko said he believes that the Apostolic Nuncio would be able to utilize a lot of the experience he had accrued in Belarus in his new position.