Argentine Priests Aiding the Flock in Tajikistan

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan, MARCH 17, 2004 ( Two Argentine priests of the Institute of the Incarnate Word have just arrived in this Central Asia republic to help bolster the tiny Catholic community.

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Father Ezequiel Ayala and Father Pedro López, ordained in September 2003, prepared for the mission for years, though they still have to learn the Tajik language, the AICA agency reported. The liturgy is celebrated in Russian.

The mission “sui iuris” (in it own right) was established by John Paul II in September 1997. The Pope entrusted the mission to Argentine Father Carlos Avila, of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.

It has three parishes and a missionary center in the city of Yovon. Five priests, including the two new arrivals, are ministering there. All are Argentines of the Incarnate Word Institute.

There is also a Community of the Daughters of Charity, an institute founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Of Tajikistan’s more than 6.8 million inhabitants, 85% are Sunni Muslims; 5% are Shiite Muslims; 1.5% are Russian Orthodox; 0.1% are Jews; and 7% have other convictions, including atheism. Only 250 citizens are Catholics.

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