For the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, the Churches of Russia, Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries meet in the city that was once a Gulag center. Our Lady's icon traveled to the territory, involving Catholics, but also Orthodox and Muslim families. The Centenary, a stimulus for "conversion to life". The consecration of Russia and Central Asia to Mary.
Karaganda (AsiaNews) - For the Kazakh Church, the celebrations for the centenary of Virgin's apparitions to the Fatima shepherds are "days of intense work" and devotion to Mary as a sign of coexistence and renewal, awaited for with great warmth and enthusiasm by the entire Christian community says Msgr. Adelio Dell'Oro, bishop of the Karaganda diocese.
The Karaganda diocese has organized a series of conferences, meetings and ceremonies in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Fatima, in the city of Karaganda. The meetings began on May 9 and culminate with the mass on the morning of May13.
The Catholic Churches of Central Asia and Russia gather in an annual meeting after Easter, and this year it coincided with the celebrations for Our Lady of Fatima.
All Catholic priests and nuns in Central Asia and Russia will participate in events, and not only: tomorrow an Orthodox bishop will intervene to bear the testimony of Orthodox devotion to Our Lady. In addition, today 70 lay people will attend the Marian Congress on the events of Fatima. Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, Archbishop of Moscow, will talk about Mary's veneration as a way to live the faith: "Like Mary, we too are the instrument for the Lord to become flesh."
The program also includes an organ concert by Sienese musician Cesare Mancini, and a visit to the mass grave where 20,000 people were buried in the Second World War.
The most anticipated moment is the celebration of May 13 morning, presided over by Cardinal Josef Cordes, the Pope's special envoy: "It is a way for the Church to demonstrate the closeness to our community." On that occasion, the Churches of Russia and Central Asia will renew their consecration to Our Lady. For the Russian Church, consecration to the Virgin is of great value, since it was a request made by Our Lady to the Little Shepherds of Fatima, when she warned that if Communist Russia left the faith, there would be serious consequences for the whole world.
The community is awaiting the celebration with great enthusiasm: "The icon of Our Lady of Fatima traveled throughout our parishes, where it stopped for 10-15 days. It was also brought to families' homes during prayers and rosary recitals. This helped bring the meaning of the apparitions to life. I have had beautiful testimonies from many parishes. An elderly lady in Almaty, who has been in bed for a long time, got up when the icon came. In Astana, Catholics, Orthodox, and even Muslims gathered to pray together. "
"The question now is what God asks of us, whether we are here for 'ourselves' or for all. It is a "positive time", a real challenge to show a fascinating faith experience. "
The prelate’s mind turns particularly to the young people in Kazakhstan: "The challenge is to conquer the young people, crushed by the weight of globalization, taken up by the mania of money and their career. I came here for the first time in 1997, at the time I was with Caritas. Then the university was full of young people who had a lively questioning on the meaning of life, which is now under ashes. "
The Karaganda diocese is twice the size of Italy, and the number of the faithful is difficult to define, as in the rest of Kazakhstan. "Statistics are made on a national basis, so the Kazakhs are counted as Muslims, German Catholics and Protestants, Catholic Poles and Orthodox Russians, so the numbers are hard to define." In the diocese there are about 20 parishes, with about 8,000 faithful who actively participate. "It is hard to say, anything can happen, even if an orthodox grandfather dies, his funeral can be held in one of our churches."
Christianity in Kazakhstan grew enthusiastically since the fall of the Soviet Union: "First, 25 years ago, faith was communicated through persecution. Since the Soviet Union has fallen, there has been freedom of religion, which has brought a moment of great enthusiasm for everyone, not just for Christians. Many Polish and German priests arrived, gathering Catholics and Christians, and many new churches were built. Over the last 20 years, many have returned to their countries, especially because of the Polish repatriation policy. "
Many Germans, Poles and Ukrainians arrived in Kazakhstan with the Stalinist deportations. Karaganda was the center of the concentration camps. "Our communities - the bishop continues - are shrinking. Moreover, in my opinion, during the Soviet era lay people were more involved because no priests felt responsible. "
That is precisely why Msgr. Dell’Oro, "I expect that [this celebration] will be a stimulus to convert my life to make God more present through me. As Our Lady says, 'my Immaculate heart will triumph' ".