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Nuntiatura Apostolica


History of Christianity in Belarus

10th century: Princess Olga was baptized. In 959 Olga addressed to the King of Germany Aton I with the request to ordain a bishop and priests for her people. The King submitted the land of Polatsk Slavs to the power of Bishop Adaldag. The bishopric of the Polatsk Princedom was established in 992.

The first prince of Polatsk mentioned in annals Rahvalod and his daughter Rahneda were Christians. Rahneda became a nun and took the name of Anastasia. She founded a cloister not far from Zaslauye (Minsk region).

End of the 10th - beginning of the 11th century: St. Bruno Boniface together with St. Adalbert preached Evangel to pagans and was killed by them in 1009 somewhere on the border of Lithuania and Russia, nowadays the south-west of Belarus. A Russian king buried the saint's body and erected a temple on the place of his tomb.

Between 1008 and 1013: Prince Sviatapolk married the daughter of the Prince of Polatsk (future King Balaslau Chrabry). The Roman rite bishopric was created in the Turau Princedom under Bishop Rainbern.

1186: The bishopric of Riga was established. It had influenced greatly on the religious situation of the neighbouring Belarusian land. Christian was the first bishop of the part of Belarusian and Lithuanian land. His cathedra was probably situated in Navagrudak. The Holy See signed the privilege of submission of the newly created bishopric directly to the Pope. Thus it received the rights of archbishopric.

Between 1300 and 1316: The Orthodox metropolitanate of Lithuania was erected with the center in Navagrudak, it was submitted to Constantinople. In the 14th century the development of the Roman rite Christianity in Belarus had waned but hadn't stopped at all.

Great Kings Algerd and Keistus who reigned together (1345-1377) didn't interfere with Catholicism. One of Keitus' sons became Catholic. Tradition has it that many Franciscans arrived in Vilnius at that time and 14 of them dyed as martyrs.

End of the 14th century: The power was divided between Vitaut and Yagayla. In 1385 the Kingdom of Poland and the Great Kingdom of Lithuania (GKL) concluded political treaty of alliance known as the Union of Kreva, according to which Yagayla had to marry the Queen of Poland and became King. Yagayla promised to receive baptism of the Roman rite and to baptize pagans of GKL. In 1386 he was baptized, took the name of Uladislau and was crowned. Thus he gave the origin to the royal dynasty of the Yagellons. Within the present borders of Belarus about 20 churches were built under the reign of Vitaut and Yagayla. In 1386 Vitaut managed to renew the privilege of the Holy See, given to King Mindoug, according to which the Catholic Church in GKL submitted directly to Rome.

15th century: This is the time of the further quantitative and qualitative spread of the Catholic Church in the Great Kingdom of Lithuania. At the end of the century there were about 150 parishes. Convents increased in number as well.

The 16th century: From the 1520s Protestantism began to penetrate to the Great Kingdom of Lithuania. It strengthened its positions till the middle of the century. In 1569 the Kingdom of Poland and the Great Kingdom of Lithuania signed the act of the Union of Lublin. Jesuits joined the struggle with Protestants and started to found their collegia. Among them there were two university centers: Jesuits' Academies in Vilnius (1579-1773) and in Polatsk (1812-1820). In 1596 the union of Catholic and Orthodox churches was announced in Brest. The majority of the Orthodox population of Lithuania-Belarus joined the union.

Beginning of the 17th century: That was the time of active building of churches and convents. The century is marked by the death of Bishop Josaphat Kuntsevich (1623) in Vitebsk who was later canonized as martyr. In 1720 Catholic bishops were appointed for the eastern Belarus - in Mohilev, Mstislau and Orsha. Uniats averaged 80 per cent of the population, Catholics - 15 per cent. The territory of Belarus numbered about 240 Roman Catholic parishes with 430 thousands of believers. In 1773 Queen Catherine II created the diocese of Belarus without any permission of the Holy See. By means of long negotiations in 1783 the archbishopric of Mohilev was erected which subjected all the Catholic dioceses of the Russian Empire. In 1798 the diocese of Minsk appeared.

19th century: That was the time of national and religious persecution of Belarusians by the Russian Empire that lasted above 200 years. After the forcible union with Russia due to the last division of the territory of Belarus in 1795 almost all the Catholic convents and educational centers were closed between 1830-1870. In 1839 the Church Union was abolished. The population was being forcibly converted into the Orthodox religion. The period of cruel national and religious persecution began. In 1869 the diocese of Minsk was abolished: at first its territory became part of the diocese of Vilnius, then in 1883 it joined the diocese of Mohilev. Czarist regime interfered by all means with religious life of Catholics.

After the revolution in 1905 Catholic Church activity had revived for some time. Some parishes reappeared as well as the diocese of Minsk in 1917. But in the 1920s religious policy was changed again and the territory of Belarus was divided between Poland and Russia in 1921, the activity of the archbishopric of Mohilev and the bishopric of Minsk was completely paralysed. In 1923 Archbishop Tseplak was condemned and repressed. In 1926-1936 P. E. Nevio performed head functions of the archbishopric of Mohilev. In 1921 the bishop of Minsk Zigmund Lazinsky was arrested and had to leave for the western Belarus that was part of Poland then. Later Bp. Zigmund Lazinsky became head of the diocese of Pinsk created on the basis of the western part of the former diocese of Minsk. The wave of repressions against the Catholic Church and the clergy was at its high in 1939. Almost all the temples were closed and there were no single priest in the 10 formally unclosed. A great number of priests had been slain, others had been constantly persecuted. The Belarusian language was eliminated from religious use.

During the World War II in the Belarus occupied by Germany the Catholic Church was partly revived, but after the war repressions became even stronger. After Stalin's death the persecution of Catholics was reduced but didn't cease. Nevertheless in such difficult conditions religious life was little by little reviving.

July 25, 1989: Thaddeus Kondrusievich was ordained bishop and was appointed by the Holy See to the post of Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Minsk for Catholics in Belarus. Major Seminary was opened in Grodno.

April 13, 1991: Thaddeus Kondrusievich was nominated archbishop and Apostolic Administrator for the Roman Catholics of the European part of Russia with residence in Moscow. That day two other bishops were ordained: Kazimir Sviontek who became bishop of the newly created archdiocese of Minsk-Mohilev and Apostolic Administrator of the renewed diocese of Pinsk, and Alexander Kashkevich who became Ordinary Bishop of the diocese of Grodno.

July 5, 1991: There appeared the metropolitan commission for translation of liturgical texts and religious literature into the Belarusian language. The commission has already prepared for publishing the main liturgical texts and other materials.

May 18, 1994: The Holy See appointed Archbishop Agostino Marchetto to the post of Apostolic Nuncio for Catholics in Belarus. On November 26 Kazimir Sviontek was created Cardinal.

April 15, 1996: Archbishop Dominik Grushovsky became Apostolic Nuncio in Belarus.

1994: There appeared the Catholic magazines: Dialogue (the diocese of Pinsk) and Ave Maria (the archdiocese of Minsk-Mohilev). In 1995 the first numbers of the quarterly magazine Our Faith and monthly information bulletin Catholic News were published.

1998-1999 . The Holy See appointed auxiliary bishops for the dioceses of Grodno and Pinsk as well as for the archdiocese of Minsk-Mohilev.

September 29, 1998: Antony Dzemianko was ordained bishop in Grodno.

June 24, 1999: Kazimir Velikaselets was ordained bishop in Pinsk. On December 4 Kiril Klimovich was ordained bishop in Minsk.

The Conference of Catholic Bishops was erected, the first meeting of which took place on February 11, 1999. Kazimir Sviontek was elected head of the Conference.

September 30, 2000: The first postwar synod of the archdiocese of Minsk-Mohilev and the dioceses of Vitebsk and Pinsk finished its work. It lasted four years. The synod worked out the Church Statutes concerning its main activities.

The number of parishes and believers is growing, churches are being restoring, new ones are being built. Belarusian becomes the language of Catholics' religious life.

May 13, 2002: The religious quarterly magazine for children Little Knight of the Immaculate was registered.


Last modified: Wednesday, 28-Jan-2004 12:30:47 EET

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