ASIA/TURKMENISTAN - Christmas just like Greccio for the small Catholic community

Thursday, 21 December 2017 christmas   local churches   christianity   islam   orders   mission   missionary institutes  

Ashgabat (Agenzia Fides) - "It will be a simple Christmas, marked by the Eucharist and by the living representation of the Nativity. In fact, our children are preparing a small theatrical show to narrate how Saint Francis made the first nativity scene in Greccio". This is what Fr. Andrzej Madej, Polish priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Superior of the Missio sui iuris of Turkmenistan told Agenzia Fides: "Our celebrations are concentrated almost exclusively on the evening of the 24th.
Here in Turkmenistan we Christians are a minority, so December 25 will be a working day like any other day", he explains.
The Holy Mass, which will also be attended by Catholic diplomats present in Turkmenistan, will be preceded by "a very solemn dinner. After having seen the first star in the sky, we sit at the table with a lighted candle. We read the Sacred Scripture alternating with Christmas carols. Then we share the meal and exchange gifts", says Fr. Madej.
The last days of Advent also represent a moment of proclamation of the Gospel. Father Diego will join the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The Christmas decorations were also designed to announce the Gospel message. In fact, the Oblate Missionary explains: "We are building a large crib outside, in front of our house. The characters will be made with colored lights, so that passersby can see it".
In the former Soviet republic of Central Asia, the Catholic Church was reborn in 1997, with the Missio sui iuris established by John Paul II. At the beginning, the presence of the Oblates was admitted only in the form of representation of the Vatican Embassy: they met in private houses and the Mass was celebrated in the diplomatic territory of the Apostolic Nunciature of Ashgabat. In 2010 the Turkmen government officially recognized its Catholic presence, but this measure only partially gave the expected results. To date Turkmenistan has over 5 million inhabitants, 90% Muslims. The Catholic community, according to Fr. Madej, is mainly made up of people of German and Polish origin: "In this country we represent a very small community. At Christmas, we ask Catholics from other countries to remember us and our mission", he concludes. (LF) (Agenzia Fides, 21/12/2017)