Pope Francis has awarded Belarusian businessman Aliaksandr Zaitsau the title Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, writes the Telegram channel Christian Visions.
This is the highest award the Holy See gives to laymen. It was founded in 1831. The award is for "military or civilian merit in support of the endeavors of the Holy See."
Zaitsau became the first member of this papal order in the history of Belarus. Archbishop Jozef Staniewski consecrated the regalia and took the oath from the new knight back in early November 2022. The event was attended by priests Ihar Lashuk from Stoubtsy and Yury Zheghryn from Navahrudak. The event was not reported on official Catholic portals.
Aliaksandr Zaitsau is considered to be "Lukashenka's wallet." Previously, he was his assistant and an adviser to the Prime Minister under Siarhey Sidorski. According to some reports, he was also an assistant of Viktar Lukashenka. Among his businesses, the most famous is Sohra Group, registered in the UAE. Together with Mikalai Varabey and Aliaksey Aleksin, he owns the company Bremino Group. For some time, he owned the Dynamo soccer club in Brest. For many years, he's been among the top 100 most successful and influential businessmen in Belarus.
In June 2021, Zaytsau and his companies were put on the EU "black list" and that of other countries. After the Russian attack on Ukraine, Zaitsau also fell under U.S. sanctions.
Zaytsau's services to the Catholic Church are not named. Christian Visions believes that he financially supported some Catholic projects. Probably, the question is about the repair of a church in Navahrudak.
Priest Ihar Lashuk mentioned that Zaytsau supported the re-grinding of the figure of St. Archangel Michael, which began in 2018. In the years 2020-2021, Lashuk actively traveled with this figure to churches in Belarus and organized prayers for the soonest resolution of the socio-political crisis.
This year, the priest traveled with the figure along the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. "We read exorcisms so that the Demon of War would leave the Kremlin. (...) We prayed that politicians would be politicians and not thugs," Lashuk wrote at the time. And shortly after that, an administrative case was opened against him for distributing "extremist content." The priest was fined 960 Belarusian rubles (30 basic units).