ASIA/TAJIKISTAN - A "year of grace" for the small Catholic community

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Dushanbe (Agenzia Fides) - The small Catholic community in Tajikistan will live a "year of grace": 333 faithful who will keep alight the flame of faith in Central Asia, despite the difficulties and the new restrictions on religious freedom imposed in the country. The faithful are led by a small group of Spanish missionaries of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE). As reported to Fides by Fr. Carlos Avila IVE, Superior of the local mission, in the "Year of Faith", proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, the community will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the "missio sui juris", erected in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.
The Superior reports to Fides that "today there are three parishes in Tajikistan: St. Joseph, St. Rocco and St. Theresa of the Child Jesus," while on the territory there are 4 priests of the Incarnate Word, three sisters of the Religious of the Lord and of the Virgin of Matara and 4 Missionaries of Charity." Moreover, according to the Superior, "in the last 15 years, God has blessed us with some vocations in Tajikistan: three seminarians and three nuns."
On the life of the Church in the country, the Superior told Fides: "The Catholic Church has existed in Tajikistan for about 40 years but in 1974 it began to develop and has a more solid structure, since Catholics built the first church in the city of Dushanbe." "The first Catholics, mostly of German nationality, arrived from Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania during the deportations of the the Soviet Union period. They were the pioneers who brought the seed of faith to this land." "The Catholic community grew - he continues - and became one of the largest in the Soviet Union. Due to the tragic civil war of 1992-1993, however, an exodus of the faithful began, not only Catholics, who decided to leave the country for internal difficulties. The small Catholic community survived thanks to the efforts of the few remaining faithful and with the invaluable spiritual and material assistance that the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta gave." "Today – concludes Fr. Avila - the Catholic Church, despite the difficult past times, has reborn and lives a new life with courage, faith and hope."
Christians of various denominations (around 150 thousand people) could face new difficulties for new restrictions on religious freedom imposed in 2011 and the new "law on parental responsibility," which prohibits any form of religious education for children. Under the new rules, note sources of Fides, less than half of the Churches in the country have been able to obtain regular registration: which means that many Christians (mostly young) suddenly have become "outlaws" because of their prayer meetings and social activism. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 13/10/2012)