Tashkent (Agenzia Fides) - "We trust in everyone's prayer so that the Lord can give new priests to Uzbekistan and support our mission. We are a little worried, because one of our confreres, who spent the last 21 years here, has moved to Holy Land to study. But we priests are doing our best to ensure spiritual assistance to the Uzbek Catholic community". This is what Apostolic Administrator of Uzbekistan, Franciscan Fr. Jerzy Maculewicz, OFM Conv. says to Agenzia Fides.
The Catholic priests are distributed in five parishes in the major cities of the Country where there are about 3,000 baptized Uzbeks: "In Tashkent two Franciscan priests and another friar take care of the faithful. In Bukhara we have a priest and a religious, as well as in Fergana and Urgench, while Samarcanda is today completely uncovered and there are no priests", says Fr. Maculewicz.
The number of community members, explains the friar, is variable: "Every year we have new baptisms, but at the same time, the process of migration to other countries such as Russia or Poland or Kazakhstan persists. In the parish of Tashkent, Mass is attended not only by Catholics, but also by people who, attracted by the Gospel message, observe us and perhaps after a while decide to begin the catechumenate".
Particular attention is given to the path for the preparation regarding the sacraments: "The path towards baptism lasts one and a half years. We want to prepare people well, so that everyone is aware of what they receive and what it means to be Catholic Christians". The catechumenate of adults usually ends on the night of Easter: "This year there were 9 people who received baptism and first communion during the Easter vigil. The day after, however, we baptized 5 children. For us it is a moment of great joy and our community continues in some way to grow", notes the friar.
The newly baptized adults will receive the sacrament of Confirmation in the first days of June: "We have decided to separate the two sacraments. In these days, instead, 8 children will receive the first communion".
In Uzbekistan, 80% of the population profess the Islamic religion, 8% belong to the Russian Orthodox Church and the remaining part of the population adheres to minority religious beliefs. (LF) (Agenzia Fides, 28/5/2018)