Ashgabat (Agenzia Fides) - The interview that took place in Ashgabat between Apostolic Nuncio Paul Russell and Turkmen Vice Premier Raşit Meredow could have historical results for the Catholic Church in Turkmenistan. This is what Fr. Andrzej Madej, Polish priest of the Oblates of Maria Immacolata (OMI) and Superior of the Missio sui iuris of Turkmenistan explained to Agenzia Fides. Following the meeting, a dialogue was initiated with the civil authorities of the country, which could lead to "building something". The hope is that soon the local community could have "a church made of wood and bricks", which could accommodate the small flock of faithful that exists.
As Fides learns, the meeting took place thanks to the pastoral visit held from May 28 to June 4 in Ashgabat, which was attended by Archbishop Paul Russell, Apostolic Nuncio for the lands of Turkey, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, Father Peter Stoll, of the General Council of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and OMI responsible in the Asian Countries, Father Antoni Bochm, responsible for the Oblates in Europe and Father Pawel Zajac, provincial of the Oblates in Poland.
Fr. Madej explains that he obtained "the grace of being received at such a high level by the Turkmen authorities. There was a good dialogue that gave birth to a historical process for the Turkmen Church". In this regard, the missionary claims to be very happy "because sometimes one doubts, one loses hope, one questions one's own usefulness. A similar meeting brings life back to life and awakens the sense of mission: after 21 years, something big could happen in this land".
The Oblate explains that the local Catholic community is living a positive moment: "The pastoral visit was a great gift for the faithful, because it reinvigorated the enthusiasm that already characterizes them. We are a 'photogenic' Church. Anyone who comes to visit us, in fact, falls in love with it and affirms that being with us is like being with the Christian communities of origins, because everything is so alive, spontaneous and full of hope".
The Turkmen Catholic community, consisting of about two hundred baptized, meets in the chapel of the Transfiguration of the Lord, in the capital Ashgabat, and is led by two Oblate priests of Mary Immaculate. The order has been present in Turkmenistan since 1997, when the Missio sui iuris was 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 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. Turkmenistan has 5 million inhabitants who are 90% Muslims. (LF) (Agenzia Fides, 23/6/2018)