Uzbekistan on the Rebound

Former Soviet Republic Has a New Bishop

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 24, 2005 ( The Catholics of Uzbekistan, whose Church is rebounding after long years of Communist persecution, have a new bishop.

He is 50-year-old Jerzy Maculewicz, former assistant general of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual for Eastern Europe, who was ordained May 14 by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, in the Basilica of the Holy Apostles of Rome.

Last March 22, Pope John Paul II had established the mission of Uzbekistan as an apostolic administration.

The mission was entrusted to the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, which has 13 friars working among 4,000 Catholics in six parishes. The women Missionaries of Charity make up the only other religious congregation working in the area.

The symbol of Catholicism’s rebirth in the country is the Church of the Sacred Heart in Tashkent, capital of the former Soviet republic.

Construction began on the church in 1912, but after the 1917 October Revolution, it was expropriated by the Soviet atheist regime.

It was returned to the Catholic Church in 1991. Restoration works were concluded for the Jubilee Year 2000.

New era

The Holy See established diplomatic relations with Uzbekistan in 1992, thanks in part to the endeavors of Cardinal Francesco Colasuonno, who was then the Holy See’s representative to the Russian Federation.

«Since then, with the advent of the new era of religious freedom, the Church has been able to work, eliciting consensus even among non-Christians,» said Cardinal Sodano during the homily of the Mass for the bishop’s ordination. Representatives of the Uzbekistani Embassy to the Vatican attended the ordination.

The day before the ordination, Uzbekistan was rocked by violence. In a revolt which broke out in the city of Andijan, 170 people were shot dead by the security forces, according to the authorities. Other sources say the number of dead could be as high as 700.

Today, the Uzbekistani Parliament established an independent commission to probe the incident.

After expressing his concern over the events, Cardinal Sodano said that the «new bishop will certainly be an architect of concord and peace there.»

At the end of the Mass, the apostolic administrator of Uzbekistan requested the prayers of the Church of Rome for the population of that country of more than 26 million inhabitants, 88% of whom are Muslims, and 9% Orthodox.

Jerzy Maculewicz was born in the Ukrainian city of Daszew.

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