Two New Dioceses Erected in Kazakhstan

VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2003 ( John Paul II erected two new dioceses in Kazakhstan on May 17, to make possible the «orderly development» of the Catholic community, Vatican sources explained.

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Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano explained during an interview that he does not think the measure will trigger arguments with the Russian Orthodox Church. Kazakhstan is an independent country, in which the Orthodox are not in the majority.

The republic became independent 12 years ago. It has a total of 16,824,900 inhabitants, 8 million of whom are Muslims. About 6 million are Orthodox, and some 360,000 are Catholics.

«I am convinced that in this case all will understand the pastoral significance of this papal measure,» as was the case with the recent creation of the dioceses in Belarus and Ukraine, the cardinal explained to «Avvenire.»

Patriarch Alexei II of Moscow publicly criticized the Pope’s decision to erect four Catholic dioceses in the Russian Federation, in February, 2002.

«I must add that, as a gesture of courtesy, the decision had been communicated to the patriarchate of Moscow,» Cardinal Sodano emphasized. The cardinal is in Kazakhstan to commemorate the first anniversary of the Pope’s visit in 2001.

«It gives me great inner satisfaction to be in touch with a Church that is being reborn after the long period of communist persecution. Catholics in Kazakhstan, as well as Orthodox brethren, experienced terrible trials» between 1920 and 1960, he added.

«It is a duty of the Holy See to help this reconstruction of the local Church.

In virtue of the Pope’s decision, the apostolic administration in Astana will now be the Archdioceses of Mary Most Holy in Astana. Its archbishop will be Tomasz Peta, who up until now has been apostolic administrator of this See.

In addition, the Pope has raised the apostolic administration of Almaty to the rank of diocese with the name Diocese of the Most Holy Trinity in Almaty, appointing as bishop Monsignor Henry Theophilus Howaniec. O.F.M., to date apostolic administrator of that See. The Dioceses of Almaty, Karaganda (created by the Pope in 1999), and the apostolic administration of Atyrau (created in 1999) will depend on the Archdiocese of Astana.

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