23 May 2016, 10:57
Lukashenko proposes arrangement of meeting between Pontiff and Patriarch of Moscow for sake of peace in Donbass (updated)
Minsk, May 23, Interfax - It is time the Pope of Rome visited Belarus and met with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church on Belarusian soil, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said.
"I suggested it was time the Pontiff came to Belarus and met our citizens together with our patriarch. I am sure that more than one million people would like to see that handshake not in faraway Cuba, at an airport, but on land in the center of Europe which, thank God, has been spared the cataclysms [the Pontiff has also emphasized this] that happened in the post-Soviet republics and East European countries after the breakdown of the USSR," the BelTA news agency quoted Lukashenko as saying after he had met with Pope Francis in the Vatican.
According to the Belarusian president, the Pontiff asked him about the situation in the region, especially in the context of the Ukraine conflict. "I spelled out my position and said that the current condition, the situation in eastern Ukraine required new initiatives, preferably spiritual," the Belarusian leader said.
In the opinion of Lukashenko, a meeting between the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church could help the peacemaking process.
"In this case, I have invited them to Belarus. We should invite clerics from Europe, Ukraine, Russia and ours. They should sit down, talk and pray for peace together in front of millions of pilgrims," the president said.
"I believe this could be a good initiative in furtherance of the Minsk agreements," Lukashenko said.
The meeting lasted for about 40 minutes, during 25 of which the president and the pope spoke one on one.
The parties exchanged gifts in the presence of members of the official delegations. The Belarusian head of state presented the pope with a copy of the Cross of Euphrosyne of Polotsk, made using a unique wood-carving technique; a mockup of a carriage made according to the same technology; and a holographic icon. The icon combines history and modernity, the president said.
For his part, Pope Francis gave the president three documents that he wrote on the subject of the Gospels, environment protection, and family. Lukashenko said he will familiarize himself with their content and hand them over to the presidential library.
Another gift from the pope was an artistic impression of an olive tree, the symbol of peace. In this respect, the pope particularly emphasized the peaceful mission Belarus has assumed. "Minsk can be a place of peace," he said.