Ashgabat (Agenzia Fides) - The meeting between Apostolic Nuncio Paul Russell and civil authorities in Ashgabat is a sign of hope for the future: this is what Fr. Andrzej Madej, Polish priest of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) and Superior of the Missio sui iuris of Turkmenistan says to Agenzia Fides, reporting that from May 28 to June 4 the Turkmen community will welcome four ecclesiastical authorities on a pastoral visit: "The first will be Father Peter Stoll , of the General Council of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and OMI responsible in the Countries of Asia, and Father Antoni Bochm, responsible for the Oblates in Europe. Then it will be the turn of the provincial of the Oblates in Poland, Father Pawel Zajac. Finally, we will welcome Archbishop Paul Russell, Apostolic Nuncio to the lands of Turkey, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan".
Illustrating the program of the visit, Fr. Madej says that "the celebration of the Eucharist, the visit to the ruins of Nissa, big cultural center of the Parties, and the meeting of the Apostolic Nuncio and of the Provincial Father with state authorities in Ashgabat will take place". Moreover, "the central point of the visit is to celebrate the solemnity of Corpus Domini. At the end of the mass, the procession will be held. Then there will be a small artistic moment and the sharing of the plov, the traditional Turkmen dish. This event is open to all our parish community".
"Our ecclesiastical authorities come to us in the name of the Lord. This visit is a blessing for us and a sign of hope: that the peoples of Asia will be completely open to the message of salvation of Jesus. The light of the Gospel will shine ever stronger in the East!", Concludes the Oblate.
The presence of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Turkmenistan dates back to 1997, when John Paul II established the Missio sui iuris. For thirteen years, the presence of the Oblates was admitted only as a representation of the Vatican Embassy: at first we met in private homes 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, meets 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 5 million inhabitants and 90% are Muslims. (LF) (Agenzia Fides, 30/5/2018)