Within five years of the Brief of Suppression (1773), the number of Jesuits holding on in White Russia had dropped by a quarter, from approximately 200 to nearly 150. The drop in numbers was accounted for by withdrawals and deaths. Stanislaw Czerniewicz, the Lithuanian vice-provincial, and thus de-facto leader of the rump of Jesuits, realised that if numbers continued to drop it would make their educational apostolate unsustainable. HE informed the Russian authorities that the work in the schools that was so valued by Catherine, would not be able to continue unless they were able to guarantee replacements.
Thus the question of opening a novitiate became a priority. Czerniewicz felt that papal permission was needed to open a novitiate and suggested to Catherine that this could be requested a sign of gratitude for the benevolence she had shown to Catholics in Russia. Catherine, not concerned with the diplomatic protocol, and sure that permission would eventually be granted, told Czerniewicz to proceed with construction. Of course this would only serve to aggravate Rome, who were becoming frustrated with Catherine's refusal to promulgate the brief.
Stanislaw Siestrzencewicz, the bishop of Mogilev, had been entrusted with the care of all Latin Catholics. He requested that Rome give him authority over religious orders too. Hoping that this would enable them to sidestep Catherine, Rome seized upon the chance, desiring that this would put an end to the Jesuit question. The bishop was given the powers of visitor for three years, with Catherine in full agreement. The Roman plan backfired, as the duplicitous Bishop was subservient to the Russian government. He proceeded by virtue of his new powers to issue a pastoral letter granting the Jesuits permission to open a new novitiate. It opened in 1780 in Polotosk receiving 8 novices. Pius VI protested but Cardinal de Bernis, considered an astute and sensitive observer remarked that the Pope was not as displeased as he seemed.