Russian pilgrims join Pope Francis at mass in Kazakhstan


On the occasion of Pope Francis’ three-day apostolic trip to Kazakhstan, the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow organized a special pilgrimage to the Central Asian nation from September 12-15. The Auxiliary Bishop of Moscow explains the importance of their participation and the Pope’s visit to the region for Russian Catholics in these difficult times.

Sep 15, 2022

Faithful gathered for Holy Mass presided over by Pope Francis at EXPO Park in Nur-Sultan (Vatican Media)

By Lisa Zengarini
Among the thousands of faithful Catholics who attended the mass presided over by Pope Francis on the “EXPO grounds” in Nur-Sultan on Wednesday, there was also a small representation of pilgrims from Russia.

The pilgrimage is organized by the Archdiocese of the Mother of God in Moscow under the motto “We are witnesses of unity”, to express the closeness and support of the Catholic Church in Russia to the Pope as he brings his message of peace and brotherhood to neighboring Kazakhstan in these difficult times for the region and the whole world.

The group, which left Moscow on September 12, arrived in the Kazakh capital on Wednesday, after stopping in the Siberian city of Omsk, in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, and visiting Karlag, one of the largest Soviet gulags . It was in Karlag, between 1930 and 1960, that tens of thousands of prisoners, including Russian Christians, lost their lives.

Pope’s visit means a lot to Russian Catholics
Leading the pilgrimage is Auxiliary Bishop Nikolai Dubinin of the Moscow Archdiocese, who on Tuesday presided over a memorial mass in Karlag for those who died there during Soviet persecution.

In an interview with Vatican News ahead of the event, he explained how important it is for these Russian pilgrims to visit Kazakhstan and meet the Holy Father on this special occasion.

“We have been praying for many years for the Pope to visit Russia, and as Catholics we are still waiting for this visit to take place. Unfortunately, such a visit is not yet possible, but we have not lost hope,” Archbishop Dubinin said.

“A visit to a neighboring country which is a former Soviet republic and where the local Catholic Church suffered the same fate [as the Church in Russia] in difficult times, has a special meaning for us.

Although only a small number of faithful from Russia were able to join the pilgrimage, the Bishop said many Catholics across the country are spiritually joining Pope Francis on his apostolic journey to the Central Asian nation, especially during of the celebration of the Eucharist on Wednesday the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

“Light and Hope” for Peace
The importance of the participation of the small Russian Catholic group in the event was also emphasized by Fr. Janez Sever, a Slovenian American Jesuit who works as director of a cultural center and training coordinator in Novosibirsk, Siberia.

Speaking to Antonella Palermo of Vatican News, the priest said the presence of Pope Francis in Kazakhstan in these “crazy times” of war in Ukraine, but also in many other parts of the world, brings “light and hope” for peace also to Russian Catholics. .

The “thirst for world peace” and the key role of religions in building harmony and brotherhood among peoples were at the center of Pope Francis’ first two public addresses in Nur-Sultan in which he supported Kazakhstan as an example of peaceful coexistence. between peoples of different faiths, cultures and nationalities.

In his homily during Mass at EXPO Park, the Pope further emphasized that “peace is never achieved once and for all” and insisted that “commitment is required on the part of all if Kazakhstan wants to continue to grow in fraternity, dialogue and understanding.”

Referring specifically to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, as well as in other parts of the world, Pope Francis again prayed that we never grow accustomed to war or resign ourselves to its perceived inevitability.–Vatican News


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