By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
In Kazakhstan, as in many other countries around the world, precautionary measures are in place to check the spread of the Covid-19 virus: The largest cities are under quarantine, schools and universities operate exclusively online, and people are allowed to go out only for essentials, such as food and medicine.
Despite these hard times and the social anxiety caused by coronavirus, “the Catholic Church in Kazakhstan is still alive,” said Archbishop Tomasz Peta of Nur-Sultan.
Church still alive
Archbishop Peta explained that the faithful still participate at Masses which are broadcast from Karaganda, the second largest city of Kazakhstan. “There are also those who come to ask for confession and Holy Communion” which they ordinarily receive on their knees. The Archbishop however noted that only a few people were able to be present at Mass in the Cathedral at Easter due to coronavirus precautionary measures.
Archbishop Peta added that the participation of priests and nuns has been instrumental in ensuring the 24-hour adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the capital’s cathedral. This practice, which has lasted for 18 consecutive years, began on 14 April 2002 “as a result of the visit of Saint John Paul II, which took place in September 2001,” noted the Metropolitan of Nur-Sultan.
The Archbishop explained that there are three priests and three nuns who are stuck in Poland and cannot return to Kazakhstan due to travel restrictions. Stressing that they are “very much needed” back in the country, he cited the example of Kazakhstani authorities who are extending visas of foreign nationals without requiring them to return to their countries.
At the same time, he commended the efforts of religious like the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta who are helping those in need in these difficult times. Kazakhstan currently has 1,275 confirmed coronavirus cases with 15 deaths and 165 recovered patients
Emphasizing the importance of hope and resilience, Archbishop Peta added that the society of Kazakhstan has seen difficult times before, as in the period of Stalinism and deportations. However, noted the Archbishop, “the current situation, although difficult, is not the worst. There is a spirit of solidarity among the people.”