Monday, April 27, 2009

What has Aleksandr Lukashenko told +Benedict XVI?

From Russia Today:

It is remarkable that the Belarusian president chose Italy as the first EU country to visit after officials in Brussels lifted visa restrictions on his travels to the European Union last year. It is more remarkable that the first person he met with there was Pope Benedict XVI.

It is no secret that contact with the Pope is an important part of world politics. Any president or other remarkable figure feels it his duty to meet the Holy Father. The Belarusian leader was well aware of the meaning of such a meeting. After he talked privately to Benedict XVI he now has at least one thing in common with major European politicians: Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy, Tony Blair, etc. In light of the upcoming Prague summit, where the EU is to launch its ambitious European partnership program, this meeting definitely gives Aleksandr Lukashenko certain advantages. The trivial knocks he got from some Czech officials, who promised not to shake hands with him and not to let him out of the plane, have lost their edge after the Belarusian president has improved his image in the Pope’s parlour.

Many birds – many stones

However, it is not only his wish to receive political dividends prior to the Prague summit that has driven Aleksandr Lukashenko to go to the Vatican. Before the meeting, the Belarusian president said he was going to present the Pope with a number of questions from the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Kirill. Talking to the Pope, he also expressed hope that Benedict XVI would come to Belarus. The visit of the Pope to Belarus, which is a canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church, would itself be a notable event. But the fact is that the Belarusian leader wants to play a role in organizing a historical meeting of the Pope and the Patriarch on Belarusian territory. That was what he proposed to Patriarch Kirill while in Moscow this spring.

The idea to bring leaders of the two branches of Christianity together in Belarus is not a new one. Aleksandr Lukashenko proposed it as early as in 2002. However, today it has taken on an interesting twist: Kirill already met Benedict XVI several times as a head of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church. He was also often criticized for his ecumenical policies, as he advocates for deeper cooperation with the Catholic Church. All this makes the possibility of a meeting between the leaders of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches greater than ever. And if Lukashenko’s proposal is accepted, Belarus will play an important role as a conciliator and a peacemaker. In this sense, Lukashenko is doing a great job, improving Belarus’ image on an international level and doing a favor for Kirill who, according to all indications, would like to meet the Pope.

Read the rest here.

Hat tip to Timothy O. Thanks for the email.


The Ochlophobist said...

Very interesting.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

I thought so too.

Artyom said...

He's an interesting character Lukashenko. I think a lot of this is just him trying to get up some brownie points with the international community and improve his public image.