Cardinal Bertone Notes Satisfaction With Belarus Trip


Cardinal Bertone Notes Satisfaction With Belarus Trip

Says Faith-Reason Dialogue Is Re-emerging

VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2008 ( Belarus is characterized by a healthy dialogue between faith and reason, says Benedict XVI's secretary of state.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone mentioned this aspect of the former Soviet nation in an interview with Vatican Radio, L'Osservatore Romano and the Vatican Television Center about his June trip there.

There is a lot of thirst for this dialogue, the cardinal said, "a lot of thirst for God and for God's reasons in respect of man's."

The faith-reason dialogue, "suffocated during the Communist dictatorship, is re-emerging," he explained. "At the state university of Minsk there is a wonderful theology faculty frequented by Orthodox and Catholics," as well as by "non-believers who want to find the reasons of faith."

The cardinal also mentioned the meetings he had with the country's president, Aleksandr Lukasenko, the foreign minister, and president of the Religious Affairs and Ethnic Minorities Committee of the Council of Ministers.

"The meetings were very positive and we arrived at concrete results," the Vatican official said. "Above all, there is a prospect that is opening up, to stipulate a real agreement with Belarus." He further lauded the "climate of collaboration at the diplomatic level."

"I believe that in Belarus, as in other countries of the Eastern European area, we have opened new avenues that until recently were unthinkable," he said. "This reflects the opportuneness of personal meetings, of face to face meetings with leaders of civil life and of the governments of the various nations."

Ecumenical concord

Cardinal Bertone also highlighted the positive ecumenical and interreligious situation in the country.

In Belarus today, "not only is there a climate of tolerance but also of concord, of true concord between the different confessions, especially between the Christian confessions," he said.

The cardinal affirmed he was especially impressed by "the climate of virtually idyllic concord, respect and reciprocal promotion of the initiatives of the different Churches."

The Vatican official noted the participation of the Orthodox hierarchy in the solemn events over which he presided.

And he noted the agreement with Metropolitan Filaret over the need to encourage a religious presence in society. "There is a healthy imitation and collaboration in the construction of churches. He showed me the gallery of all the new churches built while he has been metropolitan; he also appreciates the Catholic Church's building of these signs of the presence of God in the midst of men."

Moreover, the relationship between the Latins and Greek-Catholics is "very fraternal," the cardinal affirmed.

Cardinal Bertone also mentioned the representatives of the Lutheran Church and of the World Biblical Alliance, as well as the representatives of the Muslim community, at the trip's closing celebration in Minsk.

Catholic vitality

Finally, the Pope's secretary of state noted that the nation's Catholic community is "a minority, but numerous and active, which professes its own faith publicly, I would say enthusiastically."

"Catholics contribute through the testimony of values, which are appreciated by the society and public authorities: the value of life, of the family, of education, of healthcare, with many initiatives of a solidary and social character," he said.

The prelate particularly noted the work of Caritas, ministering to the victims of the Chernobyl accident and other needy people. He also recalled the large number of youth who form part of the Catholic communities, and provide "a continuous presence in all the public celebrations and manifestations."

Finally, Cardinal Bertone noted the special impression left on him by Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek, a survivor of the Communist persecution against the Church.

"I met with this 'grand elderly man,' who has suffered so much in his life and who will soon be 94, in Pinsk," the Vatican official recalled. "He continues to work with extraordinary strength. He continues with his apostolic work and pastoral plan, with truly admirable commitment. We had already met many times, but to see him in his Diocese of Pinsk, and to see such love and esteem with which he is surrounded, it greatly impressed me.

"In a celebration held during those days, young people spoke of the martyrs, of the witnesses of the past and of the living witnesses, and they gave a bouquet of flowers as a gift to Cardinal Swiatek, a living witness, indestructible, with a faith that does not waver, with a history of faith that goes on."