Prior to his visit to Moscow, President Lukashenko drummed up support of metropolitan
At a meeting with Metropolitan Pavel of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, President Lukashenko said that he supported the Orthodox Church’s active participation in public affairs. The meeting took place ahead of Lukashenko’s telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his visit to Moscow. Prior to his appointment in December 2013, Metropolitan Pavel served as Archbishop of Ryazan and Kasimov (Russia). His appointment has affected the independence of the Orthodox Church in Belarus from Russia and provoked a negative reaction in Belarusian society and among Orthodox clergy, who wanted to see a Belarusian national in this position. President Lukashenko allegedly met with Metropolitan Pavlov to enlist his support ahead of talks in Moscow.
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.