The Episcopal Conference of Central Asia elects its first president

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By Catholic News Service

Spanish-born Bishop José Luis Mumbiela Sierra of the Holy Trinity Diocese in Almaty, Kazakhstan, is the first president of the newly created Central Asian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. (Photo: Wikimedia)

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan (CNS) – The new Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Central Asia has elected Spanish-born Bishop José Luis Mumbiela Sierra of the Holy Trinity Diocese in Almaty, Kazakhstan, as its first president.

Bishops and church delegates from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Afghanistan attended the meeting, joined by church leaders from the Vatican and South Korea . Ucanews.com reported that the group reunited from April 27-29.

Members discussed and set pastoral priorities for churches in the region and held talks on Pope Francis’ planned visit to Kazakhstan in September, ucanews.com reported.

The bishops also elected Msgr. Jerzy Maculewicz, Apostolic Administrator of Uzbekistan, and Auxiliary Bishop Yevgeniy Zinkovskiy of Karaganda, Kazakhstan, respectively Vice President and Secretary General for four-year terms.

Bishop Sierra, 52, is the first bishop of Almaty, a diocese created in 2003.

The Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples established the new regional episcopal conference in September to help bishops across Central Asia meet common challenges and ensure mutual support when they do.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, head of the congregation, connected virtually with attendees at the Vatican meeting.

The Philippine cardinal said the conference “is called to play a special role in the ministry of the Church in the territories of the countries of Central Asia. Although Catholics in this region are a minority, this does not detract from the role that the Church plays in society.

Cardinal Tagle also offered guidelines for the conference to carry out activities such as the development of friendly relations with other religions and the constant and appropriate formation of clergy, religious and laity for catechesis in parishes. .

The new Episcopal Conference will undertake a series of initiatives, including the translation and publication of Catholic books, prayer books and manuals in national languages ​​to help spread the Gospel in various sectors of society. Ucanews.com reported that the conference would work on publications for the synodal process, youth and families and the implementation of Caritas projects.

Earlier, the Kazakh Senate press service reported that President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev sent Senate President Maulen Ashimbayev to the meeting to convey his best wishes.

Ashimbayev said the president was aware that the bishops’ meeting was being held during the year of celebration of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and the Holy See, ucanews.com reported.

He quoted Saint John Paul II who, during his visit to Kazakhstan in 2001, focused on the common goal of being “builders of peace, because a society firmly based on peace is a society of coming”.

The message also called Pope Francis’ planned visit to Kazakhstan in September a “historic and unique” event that confirms the country’s status as a reliable platform for interreligious and inter-civilizational dialogue.

The Pope plans to attend the Seventh World Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions scheduled for September 14-15 in Nur-Sultan.

The Catholic Church officially began in Central Asia when the Vatican established an apostolic administration in Kazakhstan in 1991.

Islam is the majority religion in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, with an estimated total population of 72 million, mostly Sunni Muslims. The region has a significant concentration of Russian Orthodox Christians.

Kazakhstan is the largest of the five Central Asian countries, with almost 15 million inhabitants. Catholics are estimated at around 250,000.

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