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Pope Accepts Resignation Of Minsk Archbishop

Updated

Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz (center) conducts a service on Christmas Eve at a cathedral in Minsk on December 24.

The Vatican said Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Minsk, who was briefly prevented from reentering Belarus after he criticized the Belarusian government's harsh crackdown on opposition protesters.

Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz was allowed to return to Belarus last month after being stopped from reentering the country following a trip to Poland in August.

While there, Kondrusiewicz criticized the crackdown on protests against the contested reelection of strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

It was not immediately clear whether Kondrusiewicz's resignation was expected.

The resignation was in accordance with a code that allows bishops to retire at age 75, the Vatican said in a short statement.

While in Poland, Kondrusiewicz, who is a Belarus citizen, gave an interview to a radio station calling for an end to police violence against protesters and demanding the resignation of Lukashenka.

Lukashenka, who faces ongoing protests by the opposition against his rule, accused Kondrusiewicz in November of plotting to "destroy the country.”

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets for months, declaring that opposition candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya was the real winner of the country's contested August vote. More than 30,000 people have been taken into police custody.

Scattered protests were reported in Minsk and elsewhere on January 3, as opposition groups sought to keep pressure on Lukashenka and his government. There were no immediate reports of arrests.

Tsikhanouskaya wrote on Twitter on January 3 that the archbishop would preside over his last Sunday service later that day.

"Belarusians have been truly blessed" to be under his guidance "during this difficult time", wrote Tsikhanovskaya, who remains in Lithuania after fleeing Belarus following the election.

Catholicism is the second largest religious denomination in Belarus, after Eastern Orthodoxy.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Belarus Service, AFP and Reuters
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