In Siberia, Churches Go Unbuilt for Lack of Funds

Poverty Pervades an Area Larger Than the U.S.

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KONIGSTEIN, Germany, NOV. 6, 2001 (Zenit.org).- A lack of funds is holding back Catholics in Siberia who want to build churches.

Bishop Jerzy Mazur, apostolic administrator of Eastern Siberia, spelled out the problem recently when he visited Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), an association of pontifical right.

He spoke about the state of Christianity in Siberia, an area larger than the United States, where only 50,000 of the 16 million inhabitants are Catholic.

The apostolic administration, headquartered in Irkutsk, has been in existence since 1999. It sorely needs churches, chapels and parish houses to be built, the bishop said during his visit to ACN headquarters here.

ACN gave Bishop Mazur $20,000 to build a new church in Magadav. The Catholic communities have requested the construction of an additional seven churches.

Charitable endeavors are crucial for Siberia because of the country´s poverty, Bishop Mazur explained.

Nuns of the Congregation of St. Charles Borromeo, the Little Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, and the Servants of the Holy Spirit work with abandoned children in orphanages. Nuns also care for children with AIDS, for prisoners, and for women who are considering abortions.

Abortion is the most prevalent means of family planning, the bishop said. During the Year of the Family 2001, family pastoral care has been a priority.

Asked about a possible papal visit to Russia, Bishop Mazur said: «The necessary condition would be an invitation of the head of state and the Catholic Church. Former Presidents Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin, as well as Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, have already extended this invitation.»

«To date, President Vladimir Putin has not reiterated the invitation but neither has he withdrawn it explicitly,» the bishop added. «The intention is to avoid provoking the Orthodox.»

The apostolic administrator expressed his gratitude for the support he receives from many countries, including the United States, Poland, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic.

ACN sends millions of dollars to the Catholic Church in the Russian Federation and also helps the most needy Orthodox priests.

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