01/22/2005, 00.00
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The small seed of the Tashkent church

Tashkent (AsiaNews) – The count is done and the results are in: there are 500 Catholics in Uzbekistan in a population of 26 million people divided in five parishes, one in the capital Tashkent and the other respectively in the cities of Samarqand, Fergana, Urgench and Bukhara.

In the February issue of Mondo e Missione, an article signed Giampiero Sandionigi will highlight the difficulties and hopes of these small Church in a post-Communist country.

As for now, Uzbek Catholic communities lead a precarious existence. Under Uzbek law religious schools and places of worship for more than three people are banned if they have not been registered with and authorised by the authorities.

For this reason, Urgench's 40 Catholics recently came close to being fined, and even arrested, for meeting in a private home.

Work on a building bought two years to serve as a parish church is well underway and the small congregation should have its place of worship by Christmas this year, said Stanislaw Rochowiak, a Conventual Franciscan.

In Bukhara, Fr Wojciech Kordas, another Conventual Franciscan, is facing instead construction problems. The local parish church has been registered since 2002, but it lacks funds and authorisation to build a place of worship.

Although some financial aid from abroad did arrive the foundations laid for the church building leave a lot to be desired. A decision has to be made as to whether scrap the present plan and start all over or just fix it. For the time being, the 20-member congregation meets in a small room.

The superior of the mission sui iuris in Uzbekistan, Fr Krzysztof Kukulka, has seen the construction of Tashkent Cathedral nearly completed. The building was started in 1912, confiscated by the Bolsheviks in 1917 and returned to the Catholics in 1991. In 2000, it was officially consecrated.

Muslims constitute 88 per cent of Uzbekistan's population; Christian Orthodox are 9 per cent.

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