The Pontifical Missionary Union together with the other Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) organized a webinar on 12 and 13 October 2021 on the theme of evangelization in Central Asia in times of Evangelii Gaudium.
The webinar opened with a greeting of the Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, President of the PMS who reminded the importance of the word mission as evangelization, stating that the mission is the proclamation of the Gospel and the establishment of new local Churches. The countries of Central Asia are precisely in this phase of establishing new Churches through the proclamation of the Gospel.
The Church in Central Asia is experiencing a special situation, which perhaps because of its uniqueness, can call for new forms of mission. The Apostolic Nuncio to South Korea and Mongolia, Monsignor Alfred Xuareb, then recalled the precious contribution of the missionaries in Central Asian countries, appreciating their sacrifices and the challenges they face every day.
Afterwards, aspects and experiences of the missions in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan - and neighboring countries such as Mongolia and Afghanistan were explored. The participants had the opportunity to talk about the specific situations and challenges of the Church in the various realities and to discuss issues common to the various countries. The Bishop of Karaganda in Kazakhstan, H.E. Most Rev. Adelio Dell’Oro, indicated two paths for evangelization in the country today. First: to be personally witnesses, especially in the places of study and work, where the laity are called to live. The testimony of the laity in the social environment is very precious. Second, the great field of charity. The Bishop of the Most Holy Trinity in Almaty, H.E. Msgr. José Luis Mumbiela Sierra, highlighted that when a culture can use its language to express itself in the liturgy, it can better understand that the fullness of its cultural development lies in serving Beauty, joining Her with the signs of its own identity, bringing the best of itself. Then, the Apostolic Administrator of Uzbekistan, H.E. Most Rev. Jerzy Maculewicz, recalled in particular the anniversary of the 30 years of Franciscan presence in this country, celebrated on 15 October 2021 in the church of Tashkent, in the presence of the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, the Argentine Friar Carlos Alberto Trovarelli. Then Fr. Leopold Kropfreiter, national director of the PMS in Kazakistan since 2008, highlitghted that Catholics in this country are close to 2%, a seed among many different cultures. The challenge is above all to develop youth pastoral care, to open the missionary style to the culture and language of Kazakhstan, whose distinctive feature is the hospitality. After Fr. Giovanni Scalese, Titular of the Missio sui iuris in Afghanistan, spoke and reminded in particular the humanitarian airlift activated in August 2021 in the country, after the takeover by the Taliban. The Apostolic Administrator of Kyrgyzstan, Fr. Anthony James Corcoran, SJ recalled that 90% of the population of this country, over 6 million, is of Muslim faith. Christians are a small minority. “We are still here – said Fr. Corcoran – because the Catholic Church has a history in this country and because we want to share pastoral, spiritual, and educational resources with this people.” On the second day, Fr. Dinh Anh Nhue Nguyen, OFMConv, PMU Secretary General, gave useful point of reflection on the theme “The missionary between the evangelical announcement and charitable activity. Some provocations from the Bible and Evangelii Gaudium.”
He read some biblical passages on the topic of Chrirst’s mission and the announcement, on the mission of the 12 apostles, to whom Jesus left the missionary mandate, the mandate to the other 70/72 disciples and the missionary mandate of the Risen One, as well as the mission in the Acts of the Apostles between the announcement and charitable activities. H.E. Msgr. Yevgeniy Zinkovskiy, Auxiliar Bishop of Karaganda, spoke about the birth of the first priestly vocations. The Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) Giorgio Marengo highlighted that the need in the near future for the Church in Mongolia is to move from “rapidity” to a dimension of greater “depth.” For the Archbishop Marengo, “depth also means accompanying the journey of each brother and sister who, touched by Grace, begin to re-read their personal and collective history in the light of the Gospel.” The priority, points out Mgrs. Marengo, is to promote a proclamation and a pastoral care that are attentive to the character of the Mongolian people and its infinite nuances. At the end of the second day Fr. Andrzej Madej OMI, Superior of the Missio sui iuris in Turkmenistan, shared his experience of more than 20 years in the country.