Russian Bishop Looks to Advance Laity

Cathedral Marks 10th Anniversary

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SARATOV, Russia, NOV. 2, 2010 ( Bishop Clemens Pickel of St. Clement in Saratov is explaining that one of his priorities is advancing the laity in his diocese.

Bishop Pickel stated this in a visit to the headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need in Koenigstein, Germany, where he spoke about the recent festivities surrounding the 10th anniversary of Saratov’s cathedral.

The celebration was held Oct. 14-15 for the anniversary of the consecration of the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul.

The principal festivities were attended by Archbishop Antonio Mennini, apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation, all the Catholic bishops in Russia, Orthodox bishop of Saratov, and Lutheran and Muslim leaders.

Bishop Pickel noted that a «fraternal and spontaneous» address by Orthodox Bishop Longin of Saratov was one of the high points of the celebration.

«It was the third visit by the Orthodox bishop of Saratov to our cathedral,» the prelate said. «The first two occasions were sad ones.»

Bishop Pickel recalled: «The first time he visited us was to express his sympathy at the death of Pope John Paul II, and the second time was to express his condolences following the tragic plane crash near Smolensk. But this time he had come to congratulate us.»

The prelate added that the Catholic faithful were «delighted» and saw this as a sign of friendship.

Chapel boat

During the celebration, a «chapel boat» funded by Aid to the Church in Need arrived in Saratov, carrying relics of saints. The boat had been traveling en route to Volga, stopping along the way so that Christians in various cities could venerate the relics. In Saratov, the relics were carried in procession to the cathedral.

«For the Catholic faithful it was a great event,» said Bishop Pickel, «for just like the Orthodox Christians, most Catholics here in Russia have a great veneration for relics.»

He recalled, «There were eight separate relics within the casket, and yet many people were afterwards able to remember quite precisely which relics of which saints had been in which places.»

The prelate said that after the celebrations, the faithful returned home to their own parishes to share what they had experienced.

He told Aid to the Church in Need that one priority for his diocese is the advancement of the laity. While not downplaying the importance of the priest, the bishop said that he wants to help the laity to be able to pass on the faith themselves.

He noted that the Diocese of St. Clement in Saratov has 52 parishes, but only 47 priests to minister to the people who live widely scattered.

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