Pro-Life Training Transforms Priests in Belarus

The diocese of Vitebsk begins the long journey toward the Culture of Life.

Five years ago, two men had a conversation that transformed the diocese of Vitebsk in Belarus.

The newly appointed Bishop, Aleh Butkevich, was praying for guidance. He needed to turn his diocese pro-life, but too many of his priests were working against him.

This pro-life retreat for priests in Belarus changed hearts.

Belarus is a dying country. Decades of communist rule left it with a culture that is closed to life. Most people are unaware of God’s design for faithful and fruitful marriages. Sadly, even some priests accept repeated abortion as normal and healthy.

Every year there are too few births to sustain the country’s population, and the birth rate is still dropping. If the culture does not change soon, Belarus will disappear.

Fortunately, Dr. Vladislav Volokhovich of HLI Belarus was ready to help. He connected the bishop with Fr. Giordano, HLI’s Rome director. Fr. Giordano showed him that what his priests most needed was pro-life and family training.

Building the Culture of Life from Scratch

As Fr. Giordano told Bishop Butkevich, the situation is urgent. But it’s not too late to turn things around.

Many Belarusians have forgotten the meaning of marriage and the dignity of human life. They need passionate pro-life priests to remind them. So, the first order of business is to re-train the clergy.

Our pro-life training programs for priests and seminarians are the perfect solution to problems like this one. Through them, priests master Church teaching on life and family and practice teaching it in real-world situations.

Fr. Giordano helped Bishop Butkevich protect the future of his diocese by installing a pro-life curriculum for his seminarians. Then they moved on to the priests.

The Pro-Life Message Opened their Eyes

Pro-life training helped these Belarusian priests restore their faith in the Gospel of Life! Front row left to right: Dr. Vladislav Volokhovich, Fr. Giordano, Cardinal Burke, Bishop Butkevich, two priests of Vitebsk.

Fr. Giordano and HLI President Fr. Boquet have given retreats for priests in the diocese of Vitebsk. They even brought Cardinal Burke, a strong pro-life voice in Church leadership, to speak. At first, there was some resistance. ‘What’s wrong with the culture in Belarus?’ they asked. ‘Since when are abortion and contraception so bad? And what does any of this have to do with the Church?’

Our missionaries explained that all human life issues are religious issues because God values every life. They showed the priests of Vitebsk how to weave pro-life teaching and scripture together in their homilies. They helped them adopt marriage preparation programs that fully teach the dignity of marriage and its essential openness to life.

By the end of each retreat, the tone is completely different. The priests are inspired by what they learned and excited to preach it in their parishes.

Priest Training Leads to Long-Term Change!

Thanks to the sustained pro-life mission and the steadfast leadership of Bishop Butkevich, Vitebsk is slowly transforming.

The priests we’ve trained are enthusiastically preaching the pro-life message at home. Through them, Catholics who were raised in an anti-life culture are learning to be open to life in their marriages.

Five years into the program, a great change is beginning. But shifting the culture of a nation is a marathon, not a sprint. Now it’s time to help Bishop Butkevich plan the next five years of pro-life transformation.

We need your support to strengthen the Church in the diocese of Vitebsk. With your help, we can transform Belarus into a nation that values every human life!

About HLI Staff

HLI staff writers bring you stories from the mission field and the latest information on life and family issues. All HLI articles are true to Catholic teaching.

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