Nur-Sultan (Agenzia Fides) - "The visit to Kazakhstan was very interesting in many ways: from a spiritual point of view, it was a pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Virgin, which, from the center of Asia, watches over the entire continent; from an ecclesial point of view, it was a strong experience of catholicity, which allowed me to meet a varied and lively local Christian community, along with many other pilgrims from different parts of the world; from a historical point of view, it was an occasion to remember a dark page of contemporary history; finally, from a tourist point of view, it was the discovery of a beautiful Country, which is worth visiting". This is what Father Giovanni Scalese, a Barnabite priest, responsible for the Missio sui iuris in Afghanistan, tells Agenzia Fides about the 5-day experience he lived in Kazakhstan in July.
The Barnabite, guest of the Archbishop of Maria Santissima in Astana, His Exc. Mgr. Tomash Peta, who in turn visited the Catholic Mission in Afghanistan in 2016, arrived in Nur-Sultan (new name of the Kazakh capital) on July 5th, precisely on the day of the founder of his order, Saint Antonio Maria Zaccaria.
The trip gave the missionary, at the head of the only parish present in Afghanistan, the opportunity to live moments of sharing and meeting with other members of the Church of Central Asia: "Already on the first day, accompanied by Archbishop Peta and auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider, I visited the Apostolic Nuncio, His Exc. Mgr. Francis Assisi Chullikatt. Later, I went to visit Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity: two of the Sisters who were in Astana in the past are now in Kabul; one of those that was in Kabul is now in Astana". The missionary managed to meet the Sisters of the Beatitudes in the city of Kokshetau, and Mgr. Yevgeniy Zinkovskiy, Vicar General of Karaganda: "In this city, we celebrated Mass in the crypt of the cathedral, on the tomb of Father Władysław Bukowiński, first blessed of Kazakhstan, beatified in 2016".
Among the highlights of the trip, the pilgrimage to the National Marian Shrine of Oziornoje, to celebrate the liturgical feast of the Queen of Peace, Patroness of Kazakhstan, a place that the Barnabite calls "laden with history and blessed by God". In that shrine, the Superior of the Missio sui iuris of Afghanistan celebrated Sunday Mass: "In the homily, I reminded the faithful that peace is possible only in the Kingdom of Christ and Mary, who are the Prince and Queen of Peace. I explained that I had come on pilgrimage to that shrine to ask the Virgin for peace for Afghanistan, tormented by forty years of war, and I invited all those present to join my prayer", concludes Fr. Scalese. (LF) (Agenzia Fides, 3/8/2019)