Minsk is counting on Vatican in normalizing Belarusian-European relations
During a meeting with the Apostolic Nuncio in Belarus Claudio Gugerotti, President Lukashenka said that he would like to meet with Pope Francis. The Belarusian officials from time to time talk about their interest in the mutual visits at the highest level between Belarus and Vatican. They are unlikely to expect Pope Francis’ visit to Belarus as head of the Catholic Church due to the opposition from the Belarusian Orthodox Church bishops. However, Minsk is attempting to step up diplomatic contacts with the Holy See and to use them as an additional mechanism for the normalization of relations with Western capitals. On their side, the Belarusian authorities are ready not to interfere with the development of the Catholic Church in the country.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.