Pope Francis appoints new Catholic archbishop for the capital of Belarus | National Catholic Register

The appointment comes at a difficult time for the Catholic Church in Belarus, a country of 9.6 million people bordering Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis appointed a new Catholic Archbishop for the capital of Belarus on Tuesday.

The Vatican announced on September 14th that the Pope had elected Bishop Iosif Staneuski, General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Belarus, as head of the Archdiocese of Minsk-Mohilev.

The appointment comes at a difficult time for the Catholic Church in Belarus, a country of 9.6 million people bordering Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

The country has seen widespread protests since longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko was declared the winner of a presidential election with 80% of the vote in August 2020.

This month Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, the predecessor of Bishop Staneuski as Archbishop of Minsk-Mohilev, was banned from returning to Belarus after a trip to Poland.

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, then president of the Belarusian Bishops’ Conference, had prayed outside a prison where detained protesters were reportedly being tortured and called for an investigation into reports that riot police blocked the doors of a Catholic Church in Minsk while marching demonstrators from a nearby area cleared away the place.

Authorities alleged that he was turned away at the border because his passport was “invalid” and asked him to appeal the decision.

The Vatican attempted to break the impasse by sending Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the equivalent of a Vatican Foreign Minister, to Belarus to discuss the situation with Belarusian officials. But the talks did not lead to an immediate breakthrough.

After months of further diplomatic activities by the Vatican, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz was allowed to return to his homeland on December 24th.

Pope Francis accepted the archbishop’s resignation on January 3, his 75th birthday, shortly after arriving in Belarus after his four months of forced exile.

On the same day, the Pope appointed Bishop Kazimierz Wielikosielec as Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Minsk-Mohilev.

At a farewell mass in Minsk, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said: “It is normal to change a bishop after he is 75 years old. I go as the reigning bishop, but as a bishop I stay. “

“It is important that the church remains, despite the change of bishop, that it functions and that the gates of hell do not win.”

Since the departure of Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, the Church has continued to face difficulties. She recently protested after a regional government newspaper published a front page caricature of a priest with a swastika.

An estimated 1.6 million civilians, including some 500,000 Jews, died during the three-year Nazi occupation of the country.

Aleksandr Rumak, Commissioner for Religious and Ethnic Affairs of Belarus, later assured the Church that the cartoon did not reflect the official position of the state and was unacceptable.

The state news agency BelTA reported on September 9 that Archbishop Ante Jozić, the apostolic nuncio in Belarus, had met with the country’s foreign minister, Vladimir Makei.

The Foreign Ministry said: “The minister stressed the inviolability of the official attitude towards the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus, the inadmissibility of inciting religious intolerance and the importance of maintaining ethnic-denominational harmony in the country in general.”

“In this context one should not attach any importance to individual, purely subjective attempts to portray the situation differently.”

Bishop Iosif Staneuski, 52, has been auxiliary bishop of Grodno in western Belarus since 2014.

He was born on April 4, 1969 in the village of Zanevich near Grodno. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Grodno on June 17, 1995.

In 1999 he obtained a licentiate in canon law from the Catholic University of John Paul II, Lublin, Poland.

He was a lecturer, prefect and finally rector of the Great Seminary in Grodno. From 2007 to 2013 he supervised the pastoral formation of young priests in the Diocese of Grodno.

He was elected General Secretary of the Belarusian Bishops’ Conference for the second time in 2015 and in April this year.

The Archdiocese of Minsk-Mohilev dates back to 1798 and took its current form in 1991. In addition to a cathedral in Minsk, the archdiocese has a co-cathedral in Mohilev (also known as Mogilev), a city in eastern Belarus.

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