MINSK, 17 December (BelTA) – Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko met with Apostolic Nuncio to the United Kingdom Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti on 17 December, BelTA informs.
Claudio Gugerotti worked as Apostolic Nuncio to Belarus in 2011-2015. This time he is visiting Belarus as a special envoy of Pope Francis. “We are pleased to welcome you in Belarus as a person who has left a good mark after your service. You spent a couple of years here,” the head of state said at the meeting with the archbishop.
“I very happy that His Holiness Pope Francis sent you to Belarus. It's a pleasure for me to have a meeting with you. I have good impressions from the meetings, talks and conversations that we had when you served here. I've always said that Pope Francis, in my opinion, is a people's person,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The president asked Claudio Gugerotti to wish a Happy New Year to Pope Francis and to wish him strong health. “If he gets sick, he should not worry: he can come to Belarus for treatment, we know how to treat. But now it's better not to get sick. Soon we will celebrate Christmas and New Year – there is no time to get sick. But in any case, he can come to Belarus,” the head of state said with a humorous undertone.
The archbishop assured that he will covey these words to Pope Francis. In his words, the Pope wanted to celebrate Christmas together with believers, but quarantine measures do not allow doing it right now.
Aleksandr Lukashenko also thanked the special envoy of the Pope for the visit describing it as a good sign. “We've always had many topics for discussion. Some issues remain unsolved as more time is needed. But we've made certain progress,” the president said.
Claudio Gugerotti also believes that a lot was done for the development of relations during his service in Belarus. “Unfortunately, you left us too early. After the United Kingdom you need to come back,” the head of state said. “There can be retirement after the United Kingdom. We don't see much sun there – it's quite dangerous to health,” the archbishop also said jokingly.
Speaking about the pandemic, the head of state said that the situation had begun to stabilize in Belarus. “As of today, we have a few good signs: there has been no exponential increase for two weeks, we have stopped at a certain figure. And the main thing is that the number of pneumonia patients has been reducing by 20-30-40 every day. Therefore, I am optimistic and I believe that we will manage to keep it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The Roman Catholic Church is the second largest religious denomination in Belarus. In the past 20 years the number of religious communities of the Roman Catholic Church increased four times to 498 in the country. They are united in four dioceses of Minsk and Mogilev, Vitebsk, Grodno, Pinsk.
Communities of the Roman Catholic Church operate 514 churches and are building 31 new churches. From 1998 to 2020 the state has transferred about 300 facilities to the church for religious purposes.
There are eight Roman Catholic bishops in Belarus. Parishes have 453 priests, including 71 foreign nationals, mostly from Poland. There are 36 foreign nuns. Belarus has two theological schools in Grodno and Pinsk. The Roman Catholic Catehetical College was opened in Baranovichi in 2009. The John the Baptist catholic college was registered in the Minsk and Mogilev diocese in 2013. The Saint John Paul II academy was registered in 2015. However, its construction has not started yet. The Saint Casimir catholic college was registered in the Grodno diocese in 2018.