Peter Anderson reports from the Orthodox world.

Longstanding reporter of the news from the Eastern Church, Peter Anderson shares our dream of a unified Christianity. His love for Orthodoxy has driven him to this personal mission to share the news of East with the world through his email list. The Urbi et Orbi Foundation is proud to share his efforts and his insights with you.

As is well known, the election for the position of president of Belarus was held on August 9 and was followed by the announcement that Aleksandr Lukashenko had been reelected by a huge majority of 80%.  As probably occurred as a matter of routine for past elections, Patriarch Kirill sent a letter to Lukashenko on August 10 offering him the Patriarch’s “heartfelt congratulations on your victory.”  (text of letter).  On the same day, Metropolitan Pavel of Minsk and All Belarus sent a very similar letter of congratulations. (text of letter)  As was widely reported by the world media, the election announcement was followed by large protests, police repression, and large scale detentions.  On August 12, Metropolitan Pavel held a press conference in which he made an appeal to the authorities and the public to find a peaceful way to resolve the crisis. (video)  The government’s Belta news agency posted an English summary of the news conference.  According to the summary, the Metropolitan called on those who came to Belarus to incite hostility and hatred to go back home.  He also urged parents whose children take to the streets today to talk to them and tell them that it is important to preserve peace and accord in the country.

On August 15, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Belarus (Moscow Patriarchate) issued an appeal to the faithful.  The full text of the appeal can be read at  It includes the statement:  “Categorically condemning violence, torture, humiliation, groundless detention, extremism in all its forms and manifestations, lies and treachery, we call on everyone for whom our Fatherland, children, relatives and friends are dear, to stop and end the confrontation.”  It also states:  “We believe and hope that the country’s leadership, which is rightfully called upon to respect and protect its people, will stop the violence, hear the voices of the offended and innocent victims during the period of confrontation, and that those who committed atrocity and cruelty – brought to a court of law and convicted.”  On the same day, it was announced through the patriarchal press service that Patriarch Kirill was praying that “the authorities of the Republic of Belarus and all healthy forces of the Belarusian society, caring for the welfare of the people, enter into a dialogue to overcome the tension that has arisen.”

Today, Metropolitan Pavel came to a Minsk hospital and visited persons recovering from injuries received during the protests.  According to this press report, Metropolitan Pavel “informed all the victims that prayers for their speedy recovery were being offered up in the Belarusian Orthodox Church and expressed his hope for a fair investigation of the crimes committed during the recent protest actions.”  Some Orthodox in Belarus have been much more outspoken.  For example, the following is a video of Archbishop Artemy of Grodno (Moscow Patriarchate) at a service in his cathedral stating with respect to the Lukashenko regime: ““You will not be forgiven and your work will not stand!”

Catholics constitute approximately 15 percent of the population of Belarus.  Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz was the first major church leader in Belarus to speak out concerning the protests.  On August 11, he released a letter to compatriots in which he called “on all parties to the conflict to end the violence” and proposed solving the future of Belarus at a special roundtable and not at the barricades.  On August 13, the Catholic bishops of Belarus issued a letter to all believers and people of good will.  The letter included the following statement:  “We, the Catholic bishops of Belarus, condemn every act of violence committed by a brother against a brother, and therefore once again call for an end to unnecessary aggression and a dialogue for the good of man and our society as a whole.”  The letter also included a program of prayer, especially to Our Lady, Queen of Peace.   On August 14, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz issued a letter to state authorities calling for the immediate “release all innocent citizens detained at peaceful rallies.”

On Sunday, August 16, Pope Francis in his Angelus address made the following statement:  “My thoughts also go to dear Belarus.  I carefully follow the post-electoral situation in this country and appeal to dialogue, the rejection of violence and respect for justice and law.  I entrust all Belarusians to the protection of Our Lady, Queen of Peace.”   At the end of a Mass in Valkalata on Sunday, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz read the just-received words of the Pope to the applause of all present.  During his homily, the Archbishop also stated:  “We want a revival. We want a new Belarus: a Belarus that will be built on Christian values” which begins with the individual.  For tomorrow evening, August 18, Archbishop Kondrusiewicz has invited Christians of various denominations as well as representatives of Judaism and Islam to a service in Minsk to pray for the “victory of truth, justice, and peace” in Belarus.

Lukashenko met with workers at the Minsk Wheel Tractor plant today and received a very negative reaction from the workers.  However, the Belta news agency reported that Lukashenko stated at the meeting:  “Come, sit down, and let’s work on the Constitution.  We will arrange a referendum, pass the Constitution, and I will hand over my authority in accordance with the Constitution.  But not under pressure and not via street protests.”   It is also encouraging that the police have not attacked protesters in the last few days.  The following website is a very good source of the very latest developments from the perspective of the protesters.

In my last report, I provided information relating to the funeral of Protopresbyter Boris Bobrinskoy in Bussy-en-Othe, France on August 11.  Although the funeral was conducted by Vicariate of Sainte-Marie de Paris and Saint-Alexis d’Ugine (Ecumenical Patriarchate) with Metropolitan Emmanuel of France participating, Bishop Simeon of Domodedovo (Moscow Patriarchate), one of the two newly elected vicar bishops of the Orthodox Churches of Russian Tradition in Western Europe, was also present and spoke (but did not serve).   Metropolitan Athenagoras of Belgium (Ecumenical Patriarchate) has posted a reflection in which he refers to the funeral as a “day of unity and solidarity, which our Church needs so much today.”

The following is an interesting English-language analysis on the forthcoming August 30 parliamentary elections in Montenegro.  The article states that the issue of the new law on religion has weakened support for the ruling party.  However, it concludes:  “With little more than two weeks to election day, the result will be known soon but according to analysts and polls, an upset is not expected and the Milo Đukanović-led DPS is likely to still remain in power. What does remain uncertain is which parties DPS have to ally with after the election in order to form a government.”  In a statement which might well have political overtones, the National Coordination Body for Infectious Diseases in Montenegro declared today:  “Public gatherings organized by the Serbian Orthodox Church and certain political actors directly contribute to the growth of the number of infected and endanger the health and lives of people who participate in these gatherings, their families and all citizens.”

Anderson, Seattle USA