Vatican criticises US for sanctions on Belarus

June 23rd, 2008 - 12:58 am ICT by IANS  

Minsk, June 22 (DPA) Internationally isolated Belarus Sunday received unexpected support from the Vatican, when visiting Cardinal Tarciso Bertone criticised US-imposed economic sanctions against the former Soviet republic. Bertone, the secretary of state for the Vatican, celebrated a mass attended by thousands in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, a stronghold of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Interfax news agency reported.

Attending the service were representatives from Western governments as well as many dignitaries from the Belarusian Orthodox Church.

“Sanctions against Belarus are inappropriate because they affect its people first,” Bertone told journalists.

The US imposed sanctions on Belarus for continuous human rights violations.

“Problems between two states should be resolved through dialogue,” said Bertone, adding that he had “positive and brotherly” talks with the Minsk leadership during a visit that laid the foundation for the development of positive diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

The service by Bertone ended his official visit to Belarus in what is seen as an attempt to build bridges between the West and the East.

The country’s authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, in a meeting with Bertone also invited Pope Benedict the XVI to Minsk.

Approximately 80 percent of the population of Belarus is Russian Orthodox and 15 percent Catholic.

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