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Agreement on cooperation between the Republic of Belarus and the Belarusian Orthodox Church (2003) : Text

Since 1999 Belarus has been signing “co-operation agreements” with its Orthodox Church. A major “general accord” came in 2003. While lacking the international clout of concordats, these church-state pacts still confer many concordat privileges.

Agreement on cooperation
between the Republic of Belarus and the Belarusian Orthodox Church

[12 June 2003] 

The State of the Republic of Belarus (further —  State) and the Belarusian Orthodox Church (further — Church), hereafter referred to as the Parties,

In accordance with the Constitution and legislation of the Republic of Belarus,

cognisant that development and strengthening of cooperation of State and Church are in the interest of the Belarus people,

respecting the citizens’ right to freedom of conscience and religion,

taking into consideration the importance of close involvement of the Parties in solving problems of the spiritual-moral improvement of the society, [and]

arising from the necessity of developing a contractual-legal basis between State and Church,

have entered into the present Agreement which defines the agreed positions of the Parties in respect of the principal directions of cooperation and measures for achieving these directions, having agreed on the following:

Article 1

The State recognises that:

♦ The Church is one of the most important social institutions, which historic experience, spiritual potential and the cultural heritage of many centuries has exerted in the past, and in the present continues to exert, significant influence on shaping the spiritual, cultural and national traditions of the Belarusian people;

♦ the spiritual and cultural values preserved by the Church represent part of the historic heritage of Belarus and national identity;

♦ co-operation with the Church is an important factor in social stability, civil unity and inter-confessional peace in the territory of Belarus.

♦ The Church is given guaranties of the freedom of internal organisation, performance of religious rituals and other kinds of activities, and also the right of clerical jurisdiction on its canonical territory within the framework of the Constitution and the legislation of the Republic of Belarus.

Article 2

Church recognises that:

♦ The State is a guarantor of preservation of spiritual and cultural traditions of the Belarusian people, including those historically formed under the influence of the Church;

♦ its relation to the State is based on the principle of respect for it as a social institution called to ensure social order, defend national interests and morals, protect spiritual and cultural values of the nation;

♦ co-operation with the State helps to further the spiritual and social work of the Church, expand the possibilities for joint action against pseudo-religious structures presenting a danger to personality and society. 

Article 3

The State and Church recognise that the priority directions of their cooperation are public morals, upbringing and education, culture and creative activity, protection, restoration and development of historic and cultural heritage, public health, social security, mercy and charity, support of the institution of the family, motherhood and childhood, care of persons in places of imprisonment, instruction, social and psychological work with military service personnel, protection of environment.

The Parties consider it expedient, beginning in 2003, to adopt in the aforementioned directions, joint programmes between the corresponding republican institutions of State Government and other state organs, and the Church, with the aim of coordinated and productive cooperation in the following areas of public service:

♦ upbringing and education – Ministry of Education;

♦ science – National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, Ministry of Education;

♦ culture and creative activity, restoration and development of historic and cultural heritage  –  Ministry of Culture, regional executive committees, City of Minsk executive committee;

♦ public health  –  Ministry of Public Health;

♦ social security, charity, assistance in strengthening the institution of the family, motherhood and childhood  –  Ministry of Labour and Social Security, regional executive committees, City of Minsk executive committee;

♦ mass media –  Ministry of Information;

♦ prevention of crime, care of people in places of imprisonment and persons released after serving their sentences – Ministry of Interior;

♦ formational, social and psychological work with military personnel and servicemen in military units –  Ministry of Defence, State Committee for Border Guards, Ministry of Interior, Ministry for Emergency Situations;

♦ protection of the environment –  Ministry of Natural Resources and Protection of Environment, Committee of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus for Problems of the Consequences of the Chernobyl Catastrophe.

If necessary, programmes can be adopted for other directions of cooperation, to be stipulated by the Parties through their authorised bodies.

The Committee on Religious Affairs of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus is charged with the task of coordinating activity to develop and actualise the aforementioned programmes.

Article 4

The Parties recognise that the present Agreement is made in the interests of the public welfare and is not intended to restrict the rights of any confessions or citizens.

Article 5

On a regular basis, the Parties will make widely known the outcome of their work in areas of cooperation, exchange urgent information which directly or indirectly touches on the interests of the other Party, conduct mutual consultation and other joint actions.

Article 6

Changes and amendments into the present Agreement can be added by mutual consent of the Parties.

Article 7

The Agreement comes into force from the moment of its signing and is valid indefinitely, if the Parties have not decided otherwise.

On behalf of the Republic of Belarus –
Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus, G. Novitskii
On behalf of the Belarusian Orthodox Church –
Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk Filaret, Patriarchal Exarch of all Belarus

Minsk, 12 June 2003

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