Pope Francis accepts Archbishop Kondrusiewicz’s resignation days after returning from exile in Belarus
Less than two weeks after Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk was allowed to return to Belarus after a four-month exile, the Vatican announced on Sunday that Pope Francis had accepted the archbishop’s resignation on the occasion of his 75th anniversary.
In a January 3 statement, the Holy See Press Office said the Pope accepted the Archbishop’s resignation in accordance with Church canon which requires a bishop to offer his resignation to the Pope at age 75 years old.
The Vatican has not appointed the successor Metropolitan Archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev, but has appointed Monsignor Kazimierz Wielikosielec, 75, the current Auxiliary Bishop of Pinsk, to serve as the apostolic administrator of the archdiocese.
In Belarus, Catholics celebrated Kondrusiewicz’s 75th birthday on January 3 by creating a video honoring his life in Church service and holding up congratulatory signs.
Kondrusiewicz returned to Belarus on December 24, nearly four months after being barred from entering his homeland after speaking up for protesters following a contested presidential election.
Belarusian authorities have authorized his return to the country to celebrate Christmas at the request of Pope Francis, according to the nunciature in Belarus.
“The challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and the socio-political crisis call us to return to true religiosity, which shows that we are created for something more than just minding earthly affairs and pleasures,” said Archbishop Kondrusiewicz on December 24.
“The doors of the former Soviet Union, where militant atheism has prevailed for three generations, have opened to Christ. We have freedom, including religion. Unfortunately, we quickly forgot that freedom is not only a gift, but also a responsibility, ”he said in his homily, according to the website of the Catholic Church in Belarus.
Protests in Belarus began on August 9 after President Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner of that day’s election with 80 percent of the vote. Election officials said opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya won 10% of the vote. The opposition claims it actually won at least 60% of the vote.
Thousands of protesters against the election results were arrested, including a number of priests. Archbishop Kondrusiewicz prayed outside a prison where protesters were being held on August 20.
Later that month, Kondrusiewicz, who was visiting Poland, was prevented from returning to Belarus by Belarusian border guards. His passport had been invalidated.
Lukashenko, who has been president of Belarus since the post was created in 1994, suggested that Kondrusiewicz could be a citizen of more than one country – a claim the Archbishop denied.
The US, UK and EU no longer recognize Lukashenko as Belarusian president. Canada, the UK and the EU have imposed sanctions on Belarusian figures.
Lukashenko obtained a $ 1.5 billion loan from Russian President Vladimir Putin in December as Putin denounces “external pressure” on Belarus.
Relations between the Holy See and Belarus have been strained due to allegations that the Church in Belarus is being used to exert foreign influence, as well as the exile of Archbishop Kondrusiewicz.
Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, apostolic nuncio to the UK, acted as Pope Francis’ special envoy to Lukashenko, delivering a letter on December 17 with a request regarding Archbishop Kondrusiewicz.
Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said that when he was finally allowed to cross the border and return to Belarus on December 24, he knelt, prayed and kissed the ground.
Kondrusiewicz was Metropolitan Archbishop of Minsk since 2007 and President of the Belarusian Bishops’ Conference since 2015.
He was consecrated bishop by Saint John Paul II on October 20, 1989 in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. As bishop, Kondrusiewicz founded the Higher Theological Seminary in Grodno and reopened around 100 churches that had been closed during the Communist persecution, according to the website of the Catholic Church in Belarus.
In his homily on January 1, Bishop Kondrusiewicz called on the Catholics of Belarus to entrust the coming year to God “so that it may be a time of successful resolution of socio-political and epidemiological crises and a time of blessing which will bring many fruits for the future. us and our company. “