Tashkent (Agenzia Fides) - "The decline of the impact of the coronavirus in Uzbekistan has led to a return of the international community, which in the last two years had diminished. This also has consequences for us: in Tashkent, we celebrate masses in English, Russian and Korean every Sunday. In some periods we can count on the support of priests who come from abroad to help us. These days, for example, a French priest from the Institute of St. John the Apostle gives us a hand with the English Mass. To ensure a correct pastoral journey for the Korean-speaking community, on the other hand, every three months we are joined by two priests from Korea, who stay for about ten days". This is what Fr. Jerzy Maculewicz, OFM Conv., Apostolic Administrator of Uzbekistan, says talking about how the small local Church tries to carry out pastoral work, even in creative ways, to support the local faithful and allow them to access all the Sacraments. According to the Franciscan, the spiritual accompaniment of the Korean community represents a challenge for Uzbek priests: "We have about fifty people from Korea. Before the pandemic there were more of them: in the last two years they had all returned to their homeland, while now they are gradually returning. On Sunday, April 3 we baptized 6 children belonging to this community, all between 10 and 12 of age. Unfortunately none of us know Korean and only some of them speak English or Russian: for this reason, not everyone is able to receive the Sacrament of Confession in these languages or they do it by limiting themselves to a very restricted dialogue. We have created a list of sins and some penances in Korean with a Russian translation on the front: in this way we are able to guarantee confession, while in the periods in which the two priests arrive from Korea, these faithful can count on a more in-depth spiritual guide. It is a simple method, but at the moment it seems to be working". The growth and change of the faithful community in Uzbekistan leads to a growing need for priests. In this regard, Fr. Maculewicz says: "I often ask Korean Catholic organizations to send us a missionary who, in addition to following the faithful of that nationality, can help us in the care of local Catholics. Here in Uzbekistan, in fact, we are few: in Fergana there is a Franciscan priest and a religious brother, just like in Bukhara; in Urgench there is only one diocesan priest; in Samarkand two priests from the Institute of the Incarnate Word, while in Tashkent there are three of us, but one is very old and sick and can only concelebrate.
Probably, he will soon return to Poland to be treated and then come back here". The shortage of priests and religious, explains the Franciscan, represents a brake on the development of new communities: "At the moment, the requests for the construction of new parishes are at a standstill, because we are dealing, first of all, with seeking help. I invited a congregation of nuns to establish a presence in Urgench, where there is only one priest, while last year we received a visit from the Minister General of the Franciscans, accompanied by the Polish Provincial Father. Together, we are trying to involve other Asian Franciscans in our mission, and we will probably start a collaboration with Indonesia". Positive news, however, comes from the vocations front of Uzbek people: "We have two boys in the second year of seminary in Krakow, Poland, and a boy who is doing the preparatory year for the seminary in Kazakhstan. This is news that makes us happy and gives hope to the future of our mission", he concludes. (LF-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 5/4/2022)