ASIA/KYRGYZSTAN - New details on the intervention of armed agents in the Catholic church of Talas

Wednesday, 29 March 2023 local churches   laws   religious minorities  

Talas (Agenzia Fides) - In the last few hours, new details have emerged that clarify the dynamics and scope of the events that took place on Sunday March 26 in the Catholic parish of Saint Nicholas in Talas, Kyrgyzstan (see Fides, 28/3/2023), where at the end of the evening Eucharistic celebration, when the faithful began to leave the church, some policemen and agents of the State Committee for National Security entered the place of worship armed, forcing those who were leaving to return to the building.
The officers fined Sr. Daniela Činčilová and Sr. Eva Eliašová, Slovak citizens of the School Sisters of St. Francis Congregation, USD 90 each, in criminal proceedings under Article 142 ("Violation of the legislation on religious freedom and religious organizations") of the Penal Code of the Republic. According to the authorities who ordered the intervention of the police, the nuns are responsible for illegally preaching Catholicism among the inhabitants of Talas without authorization from the State Commission for Religious Affairs. The officers prevented the faithful present from leaving the building, saying that this would not be possible until the nuns signed the document declaring them guilty, keeping them in the church for approximately an hour and a half. Sister Daniela and Sister Eva signed, to avoid any consequences that their prolonged refusal could entail, despite the fact that the liturgical service was celebrated in full compliance with the norms of the Republic. In fact, during the mass, the two Slovak missionaries limited themselves to reading from the ambo the two readings provided by the liturgical calendar, that is, they did not preach or preside over the celebration of the Eucharist, both actions that a foreign citizen in Kyrgyzstan can only carry out if in possession of a special certificate issued by the competent government bodies. Police have claimed to be in possession of photographic evidence that would show the nuns in the act of preaching. According to an official video released by the State Committee for National Security showing images of the operation, the agents limited themselves to suppressing the "illegal missionary activities of two citizens of the Slovak Republic", allegedly guilty of illegally spreading "their ideology". "Now we have a clearer picture of what happened and we will proceed in accordance with the legal instruments that, according to current legislation, are granted to us. We believe that the entry of armed agents into the church is an inadmissible gesture and that the decision to fine the two nuns was taken by mistake by local staff, since they most likely did not correctly distinguish between the functions that correspond to the priest (presiding over the celebration and pronouncing the homily) and those that may correspond to the other baptized, and that the two nuns carried out without violating the penal code in force", reported to Fides Damian Wojciechowski SJ, Jesuit brother and director of the curia of the Apostolic Administration of Kirghizia. "We trust that justice will take its course and the fines will be cancelled, since the Catholic Church in Kyrgyzstan does not proselytise in any way and is only present in the territory of the Republic in accordance with current regulations," continues the Jesuit.
Today in Kyrgyzstan, a predominantly Muslim country, there are some 500 Catholics who regularly attend the nine parishes of the republic. The church of Talas, reconsecrated in 2019, was the first to be reopened after the end of the USSR as a proper church. Among the Catholic religious, the numerically most significant presence is that of the Jesuits (9 priests and one brother, from Slovenia, Vietnam, the United States, Kazakhstan and Poland), to which are added 5 Franciscan Teacher Sisters, 4 Missionary Sisters of Charity, 2 Consolata Missionary Sisters and a diocesan priest from Slovakia. apostolic nunciature in Kyrgyzstan is currently vacant, as Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt, former nuncio to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, was appointed as nuncio to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Montenegro in October 2022. (CD) (Agenzia Fides, 29/3/2023)