Catholic Church Bringing a Rebirth of Catechesis to Russia

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz Addresses Conference

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MOSCOW, JULY 30, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A key element in the rebirth of the Catholic Church in Russia lies in its catechesis, including to foreigners, says Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz.

The head of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow delivered that message at the recent European Catechetical Conference, organized by the Vatican Congregation for Clergy. The conference’s written lectures are now available on the congregation’s Web page: www.clerus.org.

“At the time of the persecutions in the Soviet Union, there existed the practice of individual catechesis, primarily within the family, which was then considered a ‘domestic Church,'” Archbishop Kondrusiewicz said.

“Catechesis was taught by devout grandmothers or parents, using old prayer books and catechisms with questions and answers, which were copied by hand or typed using carbon paper,” he said.

“I know a woman who, risking her life, typed 70,000 copies of these catechisms. Those who managed to obtain one were lucky, not to mention a copy of the Bible which was impossible to find,” the prelate recalled.

He continued: “The restoration of the Catholic Church’s structures in 1991 marked the beginning of the normalization of pastoral activities, including catechesis, needed now not only by children and young people, but also by adults who had not previously had this opportunity.”

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz illustrated some of the initiatives in recent years to support and impart catechesis in Russia, such as the St. Thomas Aquinas College of Theology. Founded in 1991 in Moscow, its objectives include the training of lay catechists.

The Catholic Commission for Catechesis, established in 1994, has drawn up a seven-year program for children, which includes preparation for first Communion and confession.

Since 1999, there are “catechesis schools” which offer a four-year program of systematic lessons in theology as well as spiritual retreats.

“The duty of the catechesis schools,” the archbishop said, “is to prepare catechists to organize and carry forward evangelization, to guide prayer groups, to help priests and foreign religious personnel to understand the particularity of the Russian culture, bearing in mind the requirements of the times, the country’s situation, and the spirit of ecumenism.”

“In Russia’s great metropolises there are many Catholics of various nationalities,” he added. “Liturgical celebrations and catechesis is organized for them in their native languages, usually using material prepared in their own countries.”

In all, there are in Russia more than 400 catechists, including 100 lay people, he added.

The archbishop noted that over “the past 13 years, starting practically from zero, with God’s help and that of Western benefactors, efficient and still-developing catechesis structures have been set up in Russia, and 25,000 copies of catechistic literature have been distributed.”

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