Siberia Catholics Hope to Come in From the Cold

Construction a Priority, Says Bishop of Diocese at Irkutsk

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

KOENIGSTEIN, Germany, NOV. 18, 2004 ( Catholics’ frequent use of private homes for their services in Siberia «makes them look like sects» to locals and thus makes urgent the construction of churches there, says a bishop.

The first visit by Bishop Cyryl Klimowicz, of the Diocese of St. Joseph of Irkutsk, to the Germany-based Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need was an occasion to learn firsthand about the situation and needs of Catholics in Eastern Siberia.

«With a territory of more than 10 million square kilometers, St. Joseph’s is the largest diocese in the world, though the number of Catholics is only 50,000, served by some 100 parishes,» the bishop explained.

«At present, 45 priests, only one of them a Russian national, 57 nuns and one religious brother are serving the spiritual needs of the faithful,» the 52-year-old prelate added, in a statement sent to ZENIT by Aid to the Church in Need.

The priests and religious «have a lot of difficulties here, in particular, in obtaining visas and in covering the long distances between parishes,» he said.

«Catholics in Siberia often have to use private homes for their services and gatherings. This makes them look like sects in the eyes of many locals. Therefore, the construction of new churches, or chapels at least, is paramount,» explained Bishop Klimowicz.

The bishop, a native of Kazakhstan, also attached great importance to the formation of priests.

«Currently, one candidate from my diocese is preparing for the priesthood in the St. Petersburg Seminary. I hope that many other young men from my diocese will follow his example,» he said. He added that support from abroad «continues to be indispensable for Siberia’s struggling Church.»

In February 2002, John Paul II elevated Russia’s four apostolic administrations to the rank of dioceses.

At the time, the St. Joseph Diocese was entrusted to Bishop Jerzy Mazur. He was expelled from the country, however, without explanations after the establishment of the Catholic dioceses. In April 2003, the Pope appointed Bishop Klimowicz as a substitute to head the St. Joseph Diocese. Bishop Mazur was appointed lead of the Diocese of Elk, in Poland.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation