Former Soviet Country Celebrates Lourdes Apparitions

Conference Focuses on a Future Accompanied by Mary

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MINSK, Belarus, FEB. 12, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Orthodox and Russians gathered in Minsk with Catholics of Belarus to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Mary's apparitions in Lourdes and to consider Our Lady's role in their personal and national history.

Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk led the celebration, titled "Into the Future With the Immaculata."

The apostolic nuncio in Belarus, Archbishop Martin Vidovic, also participated.

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, who guided the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow until last September when he was entrusted with Minsk-Mohilov in his native country, presented a speech about the Mother of God as the star of hope.

The prelate recalled that Our Lady told Bernadette Soubirous that she was the Immaculate Conception.

"These words of God's mother," stated the archbishop, "are the confirmation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the most holy Virgin Mary, which was announced in1854 by Pope Pius IX."

The "exclusive and specific mission of Mary," emphasized the prelate, "was prepared by the mission of the women chosen by God during the whole Old Testament."

He explained, "At the very beginning it was Eve. And though she was not obedient to the will of God, she was promised that she would have a descendant who would overthrow the evil spirit. She became the mother of all the living." After her, there was "a range of famous women [...] Sarah, Hannah, Deborah, Ruth, Judith, Esther and others."

"To be able to fulfill the mission entrusted by God -- to become the Mother of the Savior -- Mary was given special gifts by God," added Archbishop Kondrusiewicz.

Father Alexandr Shymbalou, president of the section for education and catechesis in Minsk, spoke about the specifics of the Orthodox doctrine of the Virgin Mary, while Father Krzysztof Pozarski, pastor of St. Stanislaus in St. Petersburg, Russia, addressed the question of the current value of the Marian apparitions in Fatima and Lourdes.

Father Ihar Lashuk presented the history of the development of the veneration of the Immaculate Conception in Belarus.

The symposium finished with the testimonies of the faithful about the role of the Virgin in their lives.