This recognition — welcomed by the Holy See as well as the small community and its pastors — gives the Church an official public status with corresponding juridical and pastoral benefits.
“We are filled with great joy and great hope,” Father Andrzej Madej, superior of the Catholic mission, told the Fides news agency.
“This is a decisive moment in the history of the Church in this country,” he affirmed.
On Saturday, the apostolic nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan, Archbishop Antonio Lucibello, will arrive in the country to meet with authorities and ratify the arrangement. He’ll also be officially expressing the satisfaction of the Holy See.
Turkmenistan’s near 5 million people are 89% Muslim. The Church there lost everything in the Soviet revolution, though there is an officially recognized Russian Orthodox community, which includes almost 10% of the population.
The request for official recognition of the Catholic Church was made 13 years ago and initially denied on the grounds that the community should be led by a Turkmen citizen. That obstacle was overcome and now, Father Madej affirmed, “we can think about asking government permission to build the first church for our Catholic community.”
They also hope to retrieve two former Catholic buildings — one of which is now a coffee shop.