Russian Catholic church celebrates 30 years since rebirth
by Stefano Caprio

Thanksgiving celebrations in all parishes, now more than 300 across the territory. The reconstitution of the structures of the Catholic Church in Russia began with the enthronement of Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz in the church of St. Louis of the French in Moscow, on April 13, 1991. Msgr. Pezzi: The memory of "" all the sacrifices that so many believers offered to God for the unity of our Church.” Commission for the postulation of the twentieth century Russian Catholic martyrs reformed.


Rome (AsiaNews) - With the enthronement of Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz (photo 2, left) in the Church of StLouis of the French in Moscow On April 13, 1991, the reconstitution of the structures of the Catholic Church in Russia was officially inaugurated.

A few weeks later Msgr. Joseph Werth in Novosibirsk (photo 3), still in office was tapped to lead the new apostolic administration of the Asian part of Russia. On the eve of the jubilee of 2000, the two maxi-dioceses were split with the seats of Saratov on the Volga and Irkutsk on Lake Baikal, and all four structures were elevated to the rank of diocese in 2002.

Marking the anniversary, Catholics held solemn thanksgiving celebrations in all parishes, now more than 300 across the territory, not to mention the many chapels and "pastoral points", places where small groups of Catholics scattered throughout the immense Eurasian territory of the Russian Federation live.

"Thirty years of communion and unity - underlined Archbishop Paolo Pezzi in Moscow - believing in the word of Jesus Christ, we begin to see what men without faith do not see ... we see the miracle of our unity, the gift precious that we received 30 years ago, grateful to God for our presence here today in the community of the Church”.

Msgr. Pezzi (photo 2, right) recalled "all the sacrifices that so many believers have offered to God for the unity of our Church". In the words resound the memories of the many martyrs for the faith, which united Russian Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants in the tragic Soviet persecutions.

Observing the thirtieth anniversary, the postulation commission of the Russian Catholic martyrs of the twentieth century was reformed, which now officially follows the "cause of beatification or proclamation of the martyrdom of the servant of God Antonij Maletskij, titular bishop of Dionisiana, apostolic administrator of Leningrad and 9 companions, killed in hatred of the faith”. With Bishop Maletsky there are some priests, one religious and one lay woman.

Along with the memory of the martyrs, local Catholics recalled the difficulties and events of the past 30 years, during which the community gradually emerged from the semi-clandestine reality in which they hid their Catholic roots during the Soviet years.

Catholics in Russia are largely heirs of Polish, Lithuanian and German ancestors, who often Russified names and surnames to avoid being noticed. They were joined by faithful from Africa or Latin America, and also from the Caucasus and Asia, from many countries that had privileged relations with the Soviet Union, where they arrived for work or for study and were also forced to put aside their own religious traditions and beliefs.

In today’s Russia the Catholic Church lives in peace with society, state structures and other religious confessions, starting with the dominant Orthodox Church. The priests serving in the parishes are still largely foreigners, but in recent years a very significant group of local priests and religious has grown, one of whom, the Franciscan Nikolai Dubinin, became auxiliary bishop of Moscow and St. Petersburg. He is the first bishop of Russian nationality in history.

Accompanying the entrance of Msgr. Kondrusiewicz thirty years ago, there was only a small group of missionaries from various countries, including myself (photo 4, left), then chaplain of the Italian embassy in Moscow.

The Polish priests would have liked to exhibit the pride of their national tradition, bringing the bishop triumphantly to church in the embassy car with the banners of Catholic Poland unfurled.

Kondrusiewicz himself, on the other hand, begged me to take him in my small Russian utilitarian Žiguli without flags, and with a dented side: even in this way, one learned to live Catholic unity, witnessing in Russia a universal communion beyond origins. The Catholic Church, small and fragile in the great Russia, is at the service of all "with courage and a strong and wonderful hope in the future", as stated in the founding decree of April 13, 1991, signed by the Holy Pope John Paul II.

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