Shrine Of Blessed Mother Recalls Mary's Sustenance During Great
30, 2003 (UCAN) -- A village Marian shrine in Kazakhstan testifies
to the Blessed Mother's role in sustaining local Catholics during
religious repression when the country was a Soviet republic.
of Mary, Queen of Peace Shrine in Ozernoe, a village north of Astana,
the Kazakh capital, was explained in a report presented to the First
Asian Congress of Shrine Rectors, held Oct. 20-25 near Manila. The
congress gathered rectors and pilgrimage directors of 51 shrines
Tomasz Peta of Astana, former parish priest at the shrine in Ozernoe,
current pastor Father Lucjan Pocalun and Filipino Franciscan Brother
Joseph Moreno, who works in Kazakhstan, presented the report.
by saying, "In the past, Kazakhstan was a land of sorrow, soaked
with blood and tears of martyrs." It recounts that in the 1930s
and 1940s, people of various nationalities within the former Soviet
Union, some of them Catholics, were deported to the vast steppes
of Kazakhstan. Thousands died there in "gulags," Soviet
labor and penal camps.
difficult life conditions without any priests or any other hope,
(the Catholics) relied only on God and took up the rosary as a weapon
of prayer," the report said. The rosary filled up for the absence
of Mass and the Sacraments, as well as priests and churches, it
detailed the history of the Mary, Queen of Peace shrine, which it
says is a sign of God's providence and Our Lady's presence in Kazakhstan.
now has about 600 people, was founded in 1936 by Catholics deported
from Ukraine, also then part of the Soviet Union.
In 1941, the
snow around the area melted for three days beginning March 25, the
Annunciation, which commemorates the appearance of an angel to Mary
telling her she would bear Jesus. The melted snow formed a lake
five kilometers from the village that was soon full of fish. The
fish in the lake saved the people from famine during the Second
to the Blessed Mother led Ozernoe villagers who built a church in
the early 1990s to name it after Mary. the actual name, Mary, Queen
of Peace, was given by a Dutch priest, Father Nico Hoogland, who
sent a statue of the Blessed Mother from Holland for the church.
also wrote a hymn to the Blessed Mother after religious freedom
was established following independence from the Soviet Union in
1991. It contains the verse: "You, Blessed Mother, opened the
door for me into the Kazakh steppes and met me with the rosary in
In 1995, Bishop
Jan Pawel Lenga of Karaganda, then apostolic administrator of Kazakhstan,
entrusted the country to Mary, Queen of Peace.
That is why,
the report noted, Pope John Paul II's designation of October 2002-October
2003 as the Year of the Rosary was a great joy for the Catholics
It said that
when the pope visited Astana in 2001, he also "spiritually
visited Ozernoe" and called it the national sanctuary of Kazakhstan.
"It shows a great example of God's reward for the prayers and
trust," the report added.
Plans Tight Security for Papal Visit
Following Terrorist Attacks on U.S.
SEPT. 18, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Following last week's attacks on America,
Kazakhstan is taking "unprecedented" security measures
for John Paul II's visit this weekend, the country's Foreign Minister
measures are unprecedented, given the recent terrorist attacks in
the United States," Bulat Iskakov, the head of Kazakh diplomacy,
said Monday in statements to the Russian Interfax agency.
the Foreign Minister, 2,400 police and soldiers will be responsible
for security during the Pontiff's stay in Astana, the capital. It
is the only city the Pope will visit.
when he received the new Kazakh ambassador to the Vatican, the Holy
Father said he aims to promote dialogue between cultures and religions
during his Sept. 22-25 visit to this former Soviet republic. Kazakhstan
has a mix of ethnic and religious groups.
separates Kazakhstan from Afghanistan. Leaders in the region are
bracing for possible U.S. action against Afghanistan, which has
sheltered Osama bin Laden, a suspect in last Tuesday's attacks in
New York and near Washington, D.C.
Half of Kazakhstan's
16 million inhabitants are Sunni Muslims. Just over 6 million are
Orthodox, and about 300,000 are Latin-rite Catholics. There are
also Greek-Catholics in the country.
Since the republic
gained independence in 1991, some 600 churches and sects have registered
officially in the country, including many Protestant fundamentalist
Fides reports that the Kazakh government has fears of fundamentalist
groups, including Islamic organizations, and hence tries to control
religious liberty. Large meetings require special authorization,
and demonstrations and processions are prohibited. "Proselytism"
and active missionary work are also banned.
Preparing for a Papal Visit
Will Be the First Stage of Trip
5, 2001 (Zenit.org).- In his next international trip, John Paul
II will visit Kazakhstan, the largest of the Central Asian republics,
born after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Husar confirmed the news at the end of the papal visit to Ukraine,
and Monsignor Renato Boccardo, the new organizer of papal trips,
has already made a reconnaissance tour of Kazakhstan.
are in full swing in the capital, Astana, which will be the first
stage of John Paul II's trip to Armenia in September.
At first it
seems strange for the Pope to travel to a country halfway between
Rome and Beijing, with a small Catholic presence -- only about 300,000,
or 2% of the population.
been an official Vatican announcement of the trip. But there was
talk of a possible visit back in 1999, as part of John Paul II's
return from India. The Pope had been invited a year earlier by President
Nursultan Nazarbayev during an audience at the Vatican.
On that occasion,
a bilateral agreement was signed with the consequent juridical recognition
of the Catholic Church in this republic of 16.7 million people.
The new ecclesiastical
organization took shape a few months later. Until then, it had only
had an apostolic administrator. Now, there are five dioceses with
four bishops, serving a territory almost four times the size of
was part of the ancient silk-trade route. Franciscan missionaries
evangelized it in the 14th century, and today it is a frontier land
in which Christianity and Islam coexist.
In the past,
it was a land of deportation. Millions of people were forced to
move to its inhospitable steppes. Many died of privation and those
who survived were obliged to build collective factories near the
local people, who in turn were forced to break with the nomad tradition
and work in the kolkhozes, or collective farms, in the best of cases,
or in concentration camps. In this tragic exile, Christians knew
heroism and martyrdom.
rebirth over the past 10 years has been without the clashes with
the Orthodox that have been common in Russia. Relations are very
good between Catholics and the faithful of the Moscow Patriarchate
Alexy of Alma-Ata regularly meets with Catholic priests, appreciates
their work, and favors close cooperation in charitable work. Christian
alliances seem natural in a country of Muslim majority that is aiming
to relaunch its own Kazakh identity.
In a recent
survey on the world figures most liked by the Kazakhs, John Paul
II was No. 1. Even the Muslims, who have not suffered from the fundamentalism
that dominates other former Soviet countries, look forward to the
KEPT THE FAITH: KAZAKHSTAN GETS A BISHOP
Been Isolated for Decades
MAR. 19, 2001 (Zenit.org) <http://www.zenit.org> .- Among
the nine bishops ordained here this morning was the leader of Latin-rite
Catholics in Kazakhstan, a country where the Church is re-emerging
after years of Soviet persecution.
Peta had been parish priest of the village of Osiornoe since 1990.
The village is a community of Ukrainian Catholic exiles deported
by Stalin in 1936. Since then, these few thousand Latin-rite Catholics
and their children lived in isolation from the world, in the heart
of the Kazakh steppes, without the ministry of a priest, the Vatican
missionary agency Fides reported.
A priest who
was sent to a concentration camp visited the community once after
his release. Later, after World War II, another priest occasionally
and secretly visited the community.
In 1981, Father
Jan Pavel Lenga, the present bishop of Karaganda, combed the area
in search of exiled Catholics. Despite the difficulties created
by the police, he discovered the community of Osiornoe, which kept
the faith intact despite its isolation.
gave hope and dynamism to this community, which at the time of perestroika
was given permission to construct a church. In 1990 the community
received Father Peta, a Polish missionary.
A year later,
Kazakhstan became an independent republic. The country, which borders
China and is about four times the size of Texas, has a population
of 16.7 million people. In 1995 the church in Osiornoe became Kazakhstan's
shrine dedicated to Mary, Queen of Peace.
the faith of these people, John Paul II decided to give them a bishop
as pastor, Father Peta himself.