ASIA/KAZAKSTAN - On mission to “bear witness to the faith and sow the Gospel in the steppe lands of Kazakstan”: Archbishop Jan Pawel Lenga of Karaganda diocese speaks with Fides

Wednesday, 16 February 2005

Vatican City (Fides Service) - “We are a young Church, which is growing. We are on the way, we have the enthusiasm of our young people and we strive to bear witness to the faith and sow seeds of the Word of God in the vast land of Kazakstan, the largest country in central Asia”. Archbishop Jan Pawel Lenga of the diocese of Karaganda, said this in a conversation with Fides. Karaganda diocese was created in 1999 as a suffragan of the archdiocese of Astana, the capital.
Mgr Lenga tells Fides about the situation in Kazakstan: “With the fall of communism and restoration of freedom of religion, the people began to rediscover a longing for God. Very slowly the local Church began to sow the Gospel. Today we are a community of about 300,000 Catholics and we form 2% of the population of 15 million. The local Catholics are of many different ethnic and linguistic origins. In fact the people of Kazakstan belong to 130 different ethnic groups. This is why Sunday masses are celebrated in Russian, Polish, German, English, Kazak and Korean”.
“Our people take an active part in Mass and the Sacraments. Although our community is small, every year each of the four dioceses celebrate baptisms for new Catholics and we are free to evangelise in keeping with state law and with respect for other religious communities. Of course we still need men and women missionaries to announce the Good News in the endless steppe land of Kazakstan. Today we have about 80 priests and 100 sisters of various congregations as well as 70 catechists and lay missionaries all engaged in valid pastoral work. But we need still more workers for the harvest for the Kingdom of God! The local Church is gradually taking shape. Two years ago we formed a Bishops’ Conference and the four of us meet regularly”.
The Archbishop also speaks of fruits: “We see the first fruits of our preaching: vocations. We have twenty young men at our inter-diocesan seminary. We provide formation for them and for all the local Catholics who have only just embraced the faith and need to be fully instructed in order to live their new Christian identity with more awareness”.
“We give special attention to our young people - Archbishop Lenga told Fides -. We are a young Church, our young people are enthusiastic but also inconstant. They are tempted by pictures coming from the West of a hedonist and consumerist culture and so their faith still weak, is tested. We are a new community which is growing slowly with the help of the Lord. We strive to bear witness to our faith in a mainly Muslim country with a social and cultural structure fragmented in different groups, but we continue to sow seeds of the Gospel in this vast country”.
“We need the spiritual support of the universal Church, especially from the Churches of ancient Christian tradition. Remember us as we strive to be witnesses of the Good News here in central Asia” the Archbishop concludes.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 16/2/2005 righe 30 parole 321)