Friday, April 26, 2024

Moscow Increasingly Worried about Rise of Roman Catholicism in Belarus

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 22 – Both the Kremlin and the Moscow Patriarchate are increasingly worried about the rise of Roman Catholicism in Belarus, with the former concerned primarily about the possibility that the church’s rise will threaten Putin ally Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the latter about the danger that it will weaken the Moscow church in Belarus.

            These fears have been growing over the last several years, following the prominent role Catholics played in the protests following the last “elections” in Belarus and the spread of autocephaly movements among Orthodox churches in the post-Soviet states (

            These fears have fed anti-Catholic attitudes both in Moscow and in Minsk ( and have now led to direct attacks on the Vatican for what one Russian author says is its direct involvement in the rise of an anti-Russian and anti-Belarusian Catholic movement in Belarus.

            On the Rhythm of Eurasia portal, Moscow religious affairs commentator Artyom Karpovich directly attacks the Vatican and Pope Francis for what he says is Rome’s efforts in Belarus  to overthrow both Russian Orthodox and Russia’s ally Lukashenka (

            He argues that the Roman Catholic Church has always been anti-Russian, although he notes the Pope Francis has promised in public not to interfere in Orthodox affairs. But he says that pledge has been undermined by the increasing activity in Belarus of an apostolic administration set up last year to coordinate Catholic churches in that country. (On that body, see

            According to Karpovich, the pope has taken this position because he fears retaliation from Moscow and Minsk; but the pope’s subordinates believe that they can proceed and that the Holy Father will eventually change his position and allow the creation of a Roman Catholic exarchate in Belarus.

            To that end, the Catholic apostolic administrator has become increasingly active in meeting with Belarusian officials and in providing financial support and guidance to the growing number of Catholic churches in Belarus (

            The Belarusian Catholic church is closely connected with the Greek Catholics of Ukraine. Many of its priests were trained in western Ukraine, and not surprisingly, they and their flocks have supported Ukraine since Putin launched his expanded invasion of that country in February 2022, yet another reason for Moscow’s opposition to Catholicism in Belarus. (On these interrelationships, see

            The Belarusian government and the Russian church in Belarus recognize the dangers that this “fifth column,” to use Karpovich’s expression, poses to both. And the former has adopted new laws that give Minsk far greater powers to interfere in and limit the growth of Roman Catholicism in Belarus (

            Karpovich would clearly like to see the Belarusian government do even more and the Moscow church there become increasingly active in opposing what he believes is a Catholic threat to both. 

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