Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Catholic Archbishop of Minsk, the Vatican said on January 3.
Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz was allowed to return to Belarus last month after being stopped from re-entering the country since August following a trip to Poland where he 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 Vatican said in a short statement that the resignation was in accordance with a code that allows bishops to retire at age 75.
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.
Tikhanovskaya 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 Tikhanovskaya, who remains in Lithuania after fleeing Belarus following the election.
Catholicism is the second largest religious denomination in Belarus, after Eastern Orthodoxy.
Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters
This post was originally published on Radio Free.