Amid strife in their country, Catholics in Belarus attended a Mass Tuesday with a revered statue of St. Michael the Archangel, praying for an end to the persecution of the Church in Belarus and a resolution to the political crisis.
“The main heavenly patron of the Catholic Church in Belarus is St. Michael the Archangel, the victor over the evil spirit. In our churches a special prayer is recited daily through his intercession,” Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz wrote in a letter announcing a month of prayer dedicated to the saint.
The statue of St. Michael, a replica of the one found in the Basilica of St. Michael in Gargano, Italy, has traveled across Belarus this month to cathedrals across four dioceses, culminating in the Mass in the capital, Minsk, on the Feast of the Archangels Sept. 29.
Bishop Yuri Kasabutsky, an auxiliary bishop in Minsk-Mohilev archdiocese, offered Mass on the feast, preceded by prayers in the Cathedral of the Blessed Name of Mary.
The prayer intention for the procession of St. Michael across Belarus was for a resolution to the socio-political crisis currently gripping the country and to stop the persecution of the Church, according to a report on the website of the Catholic Church in Belarus, which provided a livestream of the Mass.
The archdiocese invited Catholics to stop by the cathedral to spend a minute in prayer, asking the archangel to protect Belarus from evil.
The Catholic Church honors the archangels Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael -- mentioned by name in the Bible -- on Sept. 29. St. Michael, in particular, is invoked for protection from the devil and is a patron saint of the Church in Belarus.
In an Aug. 30 letter announcing the St. Michael procession, Kondrusiewicz wrote: “Christianity teaches to defeat evil with good.”
“From the very beginning of the socio-political crisis in Belarus, the Catholic Church has called for solutions to problems through dialogue and encouraged prayer, remembering the words of Christ that without him we can do nothing,” he said.
Since writing this letter, Kondrusiewicz has been denied entry to Belarus. Kondrusiewicz, a Belarusian citizen, was turned back without explanation by border guards when he attempted to return Aug. 31 following a trip to Poland.
The president of the Belarusian Catholic bishops’ conference had spoken out in defense of protesters after they were targeted by police following the election in which the incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko, claimed victory with 80% of the vote in August.
Fifty days after the disputed election, an estimated 100,000 protesters took to the streets on Sept. 27 to call for Lukashenko to step down, according to AP.
Kondrusiewicz participated in a virtual meeting of the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) held Sept. 25-26, where the bishops expressed hope for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Belarus.
Kondrusiewicz said after the meeting that he understood that Belarus was “the only country in Europe where churches were not closed during the pandemic, and the Eucharist, other sacraments and services were regularly celebrated.”