The meeting of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Kazakhstan was held in Nur-Sultan for the first time. Of course, for the city itself this is not the first such meeting, but for the city with a new name – Yes. This meeting was also the first after the second visit of the Bishops and Ordinaries of Kazakhstan Ad limina apostolorum, so the participants had something to discuss.
On the agenda of the meeting, which was held from May 3 to 6, there were about 20 issues. The most important of them were told by the Chairman of the KKEK Bishop Jose Luis Mumbiela Sierra.
First of all, the bishops met with the Apostolic Nuncio in Kazakhstan, Francis Assisi Chullikatt, as a representative of the Vatican, and he also outlined the main issues necessary for discussion during the current meeting. Each bishop gave an account of the work being done in his diocese. Of course, they also discussed the Ad limina visit. The most important and urgent was the question of what else can be done to make the service of the clergy in Kazakhstan even more fruitful. How to develop the activities of the Catholic Church in various fields, for example, in the field of media evangelization. As noted by the Chairman of the KKEK Bishop Jose Luis, this issue is highly relevant: “People now spend most of their time in the world of new technologies. We also want to be where they are to serve our people well. Therefore, it is very important to ensure our presence in the media.”
An important place in the meeting was taken by the planning of events related to the celebration of two specific dates significant for the Church of Kazakhstan. This is, first, the 25th anniversary of the proclamation of Mary Queen of Peace Patroness of Kazakhstan, celebrated this year, and secondly, the 25th anniversary of the dedication of Kazakhstan and Central Asia to the Virgin Mary, which falls next year.
The question that was also voiced during the visit of bishops and ordinaries to Rome concerning the new possible processes of beatification of people associated with the Church in our country was not forgotten either. Candidates, in the opinion of the head of KKEK, are many. Among them, for example, Franciscan monks and laity martyrs, immigrants from France, Spain, Italy, whose history dates back to the 14th century, evangelized on the border of China and Kazakhstan under the leadership of Bishop Richard of Burgundy. “It is customary in Kazakhstan to honor our ancestors. And we are obliged to raise the history especially of those ancestors who loved this land for a long time. In this case, we are talking about those people who tried to bring people the news of Jesus Christ. They didn’t give their lives for France or Spain or the Vatican, they died for the people who live here. It is worthy of our memory. The Church loves the people living in Kazakhstan and does not cease to love,” shared Bishop Mumbiela Sierra. Another possible process, more modern, concerns Gertrude Detzel, a resident of Karaganda, known not only in this city, but also far beyond its borders. She was a laywoman, but she managed to raise a whole generation of future sisters of the Servants of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Possible processes of beatification are especially important now, according to the Head of the KKEK, also because more and more news about the Church has recently been negative. Bishop Jose Luis: “Our answer is to show that there is another side to the Church. Reply to such attacks with love. You say that there is dirt and sin in the Church, and we say that we have holiness as the fruit of our work. And this is not a fantasy, but a real fact. There are weaknesses, like all people, but mainly in the Church there is holiness and loyalty.”
The issue of the activities of the charitable organization “Caritas”, which, as noted by Bishop Jose Luis, was “very important for the development of the Christian experience of the believers.” “The activity of “Caritas” in reality is not the help of a few people from abroad, helping poor people with clothes or buying school supplies for children. It is operated by local Christian communities. And here it’s not just financial assistance. The priest can instruct people, but the main help must come from people. First of all, we need to find out who we can help within our Christian communities, and then, of course, we must help those people who are outside the Christian communities, but do need help,” the Bishop added.
For bishops, the most important in this context was the issue of education of Kazakhstanis in this spirit, educating them to help. What exactly to do, and how to organize this work. “There is a noticeable development of the activities of the organization “Caritas”. People rejoice and look at their faith differently when they participate in acts of charity. After all, Christianity does not end with a visit to Church on Sundays and mandatory holidays. Faith is what saves other people. And if you see that your faith can help someone, you perceive it very differently,” said Bishop Jose Luis. One of the last successful projects of the organization “Caritas” was to help parents of children with Down syndrome. This project has already assisted more than three hundred people. During the two-day visit of the specialist 150 people were received in Aktobe, which was very difficult. Some had to be refused help at the moment, which indicates that there is a great need for this kind of work. And there are a lot of such areas of charity. The task of the heads of the Catholic Church in Kazakhstan is to determine the most relevant at the moment. “It is impossible to do everything to help everyone. We need to pray for the Lord to indicate in which direction to go right now”, – concluded the Head of KKEK.
Traditional liturgical issues, issues of working with young people, with families, issues of interaction with representatives of other Christian and non-Christian religions were also discussed.
Bishop Jose Luis Mumbiela Sierra recalled the meeting with the Pope in Rome, when one of the participants of the meeting asked Pope Francis: “What would you like to advise us, what should we do, how to build our ministry?” That caught the Pope by surprise. And to this the Pope replied that he was not an oracle, he could not dictate how to behave in a given situation. The only thing he took upon himself was the responsibility to recommend to rejoice at what is, to rejoice at the little things. Because the Catholic communities in Kazakhstan are small, as well as the number of Catholics in the country in general, but you need to rejoice in this. “When I heard these words from the Pope, It immediately came to my mind the lines from the Gospel, saying: “Because you were faithful in the small matters, I will give you a greater ones.” And I have the faith that if we take good care of what we have now, the Lord will give us more. I found a response in these words in my heart. After all, to get pleasure from the celebration of the Eucharist, I don’t need the Church with thirty thousand people. It does not matter whether there would be two thousand people or two at the Mass. We’re not doing this for show. I can still pray and share this joy. I am convinced that the Church should not grow in accordance with any methodology. It should grow by itself, just like a man,” said Bishop Jose Luis sharing his thoughts.
Such official meetings are often routine and bring little pleasure to the participants, but it turns out not in this case, which is confirmed by the words of the Head of the KKEK: “It’s good to be brothers together.” And I am very pleased to always meet with my brothers. We meet rarely, but this time together always brings a lot of joy from meetings, joint prayers, communication. Perhaps also because we can boast of a good relationship within our conference. It is nice to see that a lot of things are being done in the Church in Kazakhstan, and it is no less pleasant to make new plans, to see that much more can be done. For example, in the Almaty diocese we want to create a pastoral council, which will include not only the bishop, priests and nuns, but the lay people. This is very important, because in parishes the main thing is not the priest, but the people. The priest serves them. We have planned the first such meeting in December.”
During the meeting, the KKEK also took part in an informal meeting with the Vice-Minister of Ministry of Information and Social Development of Azilkhanov Marat, as well as with the new chairman of the Committee on Religious Affairs Yerzhan Nukezhanov. At the end of the meeting, the Vice-Minister of MISD expressed gratitude to the heads of the Catholic Church in Kazakhstan, indicating constant openness to cooperation and noting the following: “Our common goal is human happiness. And the recipe for happiness is simple: that a person has something to eat, that beloved people are near and that there is peace in the heart.”
Recall that during the visit of the bishops and ordinaries of Kazakhstan and Central Asia, the issue of the formation of a new Conference of Catholic Bishops of Kazakhstan and Central Asia was discussed. At the moment there is no final decision on this issue yet, but it is possible that this meeting was the last one for the KKEK and the next meeting will be held in a new composition and under a new name.