Ashgabat (Agenzia Fides) - "The ecumenical dimension of our Catholic presence is a constant that accompanies us every day. For example, throughout the year we live the experience of interfaith hospitality: in our chapel in Ashgabat, the Protestant evangelical community called the Word of Life gathers almost every Sunday": says to Agenzia Fides at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for the Unity of Christians, Fr. Andrzej Madej, Polish priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Superior of the Missio sui iuris of Turkmenistan.
"This is a mutual exchange. Sometimes we Catholic missionaries are called to be preachers during the weekly prayer meetings of the Protestant community. In the same way, a few days ago during the Eucharistic celebration, a boy of evangelical faith gave witness to how Jesus Christ freed his life from drugs and alcoholism", continues Fr. Madej in the interview with Fides.
Furthermore, the Oblate explains how this spirit of communion is also at the basis of evangelization: "Sometimes I go together with the Protestant Pastor in the various regions of Turkmenistan: we pray and preach together in the homes of the families that welcome us".
"Good relations also exist between Catholics and the Orthodox Church: I occasionally participate in their moments of prayer and almost always at Easter or Christmas, with the awareness that we are all part of God's people", says Fr. Andrzej, expressing the hope of a future of full communion: "We pray so that sooner or later we will be able to celebrate together the Eucharist, as Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras wished in the 1960s. Their dream is our dream", concludes the priest.
In Turkmenistan, the Catholic Church was reborn in 1997, with the Missio sui iuris established by John Paul II. For thirteen years, the presence of the Oblates was admitted only as a representation of the Vatican Embassy: at first we met in private houses and Mass was celebrated in the diplomatic territory of the Apostolic Nunciature of Ashgabat. In 2010 the Turkmen government officially recognized the Catholic presence. The Turkmen Catholic community, consisting of about two hundred faithful, gathers in the chapel of the Transfiguration of the Lord, in the capital Ashgabat, and is led by two Oblate priests of Mary Immaculate. Turkmenistan has over 5 million inhabitants, 90% are Muslims. (LF) (Agenzia Fides, 26/1/2018)