Sibirskaja Katoličeskaja Gazeta
Moscow (Agenzia Fides) - "The bishops once again draw the attention of the faithful to the reality of our world, to the suffering caused by war, violence and natural disasters". This is what emerges from the statement issued at the end of the 57th plenary assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia, which was held at "Betlemme" House for Spiritual Exercises, near the city of Novosibirsk, from February 28 to March 2. All the bishops of the four Catholic dioceses of the Federation met in the Siberian capital: the metropolitan of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow, Paolo Pezzi, and his auxiliary Nikolaj Dubinin; the Ordinary of the diocese of the Transfiguration in Novosibirsk, Joseph Werth; the Ordinary of the Diocese of St. Clement in Saratov, Clemens Pickel; Ordinary of the Diocese of St. Joseph in Irkutsk, Kiryl Klimovič. The Apostolic Nuncio to Russia and Uzbekistan, Bishop Giovanni D'Aniello, the Councilor of the Nunciature, Father Piotr Tarnawski, and the Secretary of the Episcopal Conference, Father Stephan Lipke SJ also participated in the assembly. In the statement, the bishops recall the suffering of so many men and women in contemporary society, especially in Ukraine, the Caucasus, Syria and Turkey, as well as the wound inflicted on individuals and society by separations, divorces, domestic violence, abortions, the misery of the hungry, the homeless and the destitute.
This is why the bishops ask Catholics in Russia and all people of good will to reconsider Pope Francis' Letter for Lent 2023, in which he asks us to go out to meet the Lord and our neighbour. The Episcopal Conference indicates three ways necessary to walk and work together in the particular historical conditions of the present time: prayer, accompanied by fasting and contemplation of the love that led Christ to give his life to death on the cross and to resurrection; dialogue, inviting the faithful to share their concerns with loved ones and friends: "There is no healing without listening and taking seriously what the other has to say, even if it is difficult to understand or unpleasant or sometimes even painful"; an active love, following the example of the Catholics living in the southwestern part of the Federation, who provide help to all who need it, without any discrimination on the basis of religious belief, origin and personal convictions of those who need help. In addition, faced with certain cases of expulsion of priests and lay Catholics from the Federation, the Episcopal Conference calls on the government and all the faithful to be "open to the Gospel values of which the Catholic Church is a bearer, which is a small part but an integral part of Russian society". The bishops call for continued reflection, both at personal and community level, on what it means to live today the pastoral and missionary conversion suggested by Pope Francis. Among the many points addressed by the work of the Episcopal Conference is that of the correct formation of the faithful on the contents of the faith and of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, based on official sources of information, namely the channels of the Holy See, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia and the Catholic dioceses. With regard to World Youth Day, which will be held in Lisbon from August 2 to 6, the bishops say they remain hopeful that a group of Russian Catholics will be able to take part, also pointing out to all young Catholics aged 16 to 30 years old the meeting which will be dedicated to them and which will be held in Saint-Petersburg from August 23 to 27.
Together with the clergy of the host diocese, on March 2, all the participants in the assembly concelebrated the Eucharistic liturgy at the end of the work, presided over by Bishop D'Aniello. The presence of the Nuncio has attracted Catholic faithful from several parishes of the Diocese of the Transfiguration to the cathedral of the Siberian capital, by virtue of the special closeness of the Pope to the local Church, which the figure of the Nuncio represents by nature. The faithful then had the opportunity to briefly meet the Nuncio and the other bishops in the adjacent diocesan library. The Catholics present in the Diocese of the Transfiguration, which covers a territory of 2 million km2, are approximately 500,000, or almost 2% of the total resident population. It is, together with the Diocese of St. Clement in Saratov and the Diocese of St. Joseph in Irkutsk, a suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow: all four constitute the ecclesiastical province of the Catholic Church in Russia.
Since Catholics in the Russian Federation are less than 1% of the total population, they mostly gather in small or very small communities, in some of which the presence of a priest is not continuous throughout the year. The next plenary assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Russia will be held in Togliatti from November 22 to 24. (CD) (Agenzia Fides, 6/3/2023)