ASIA/KAZAKHSTAN - In the footsteps of Father Bukowiński: A missionary journey to the most remote areas of the Country

Saturday, 16 December 2023

Almaty (Agenzia Fides) - Not far from the borders with Kyrgyzstan and China, along the former Silk Road, the missionary pilgrimage organized by the Pontifical Mission Societies in Kazakhstan took place this year. This is the fourth trip of its kind, aimed at visiting Christian communities in the most remote areas of the country.
In the first three years the pilgrimage went to the north of the country and also to the far west on the Caspian Sea, where very few Catholics live in a predominantly Muslim society. This year it was the Diocese of the Most Holy Trinity in Almaty, in the south of the country (see Fides, 22/4/2022), that the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Kazakhstan, Father Leopold Kropfreiter, together with four missionaries, three religious sisters and a male religious, visited.
The aim of this pilgrimage, which led through an area where thriving Christian communities had already emerged in the 5th century, is to pass on the faith and joy that comes from Christ. A Franciscan mission was founded there in the Middle Ages, which later had to be closed due to upheavals in the history of these countries.
"Our missionary journey," says Father Kropfreiter, "first took us to the remote villages of Shanashar and Nura, where we met Father Shymon Gshywinski and the nuns who look after a mission station. We had numerous encounters with adults, children and young people. The Celebration of Holy Mass, prayer and worship were always the focus of every meeting.
The area visited by the Pontifical Mission Societies delegation this year is a region where the faithful suffered oppression during the Soviet era: their ancestors were deported to Kazakhstan in 1936 and continued to live in a climate of anti-religious oppression. Some were baptized by Blessed Father Władysław Bukowiński, known as the "Apostle of Kazakhstan" who came to the south of the country on his long missionary journeys.
"From the time of Stalinism to today," explained the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Kazakhstan, "the faithful have been praying the 'Living Rosary', which for them is a special sign of faith and love for the Church. We celebrated the end of the pilgrimage in the Catholic community of Kapchagai (Kunaev), where we had numerous encounters with children, young people and adults after celebrating Holy Mass with the Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Karaganda, Evgeny Zinkovsky. The priest, together with some religious sisters and lay people, is doing a great job in caring for poor and abandoned children. The church in Central Asia is small but vibrant". (EG) (Agenzia Fides, 16/12/2023)