Siberian Diocese Gets Its First Native Priests

NOVOSIBIRSK, Russia, JUNE 30, 2004 ( Bishop Joseph Werth has ordained the first two local-born priests for his Diocese of the Transfiguration of the Lord, based in Novosibirsk, western Siberia.

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“My diocese comprises about 4 million square kilometers, with some 50,000 baptized Catholics, about 10,000 of them practicing their faith,” Bishop Werth told the group Aid to the Church in Need, on June 21.

“Pastoral care for Catholics here is extremely difficult, given the fact that the faithful live scattered in such a vast area,” the 51-year-old prelate explained. “Most of them belong to ethnic minorities such as Poles, Germans or Lithuanians. And many of the 48 priests currently serving in my diocese are foreigners.”

Bishop Werth, who ordained the priests last Sunday, said that obtaining visas for missionaries to enter Russia “is not always easy. There are, indeed, many bureaucratic obstacles.”

According to the bishop, the building up of Church structures is a high priority, after 70 years of Communist dictatorship and state-imposed atheism.

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