There is a small Catholic community living in Kizilorda in the southwest of Kazakhstan, a town with a population of some 270,000 people. Most of the local Catholics are people of German, Polish and Lithuanian extraction. For the past 10 years, they have been ministered to by a Catholic priest who travels regularly from the town of Shymkent, a little over 300 miles away.
“We will bow to no regime that refuses to bow to God.” In 1951, just a few hours after uttering these words to the Catholic faithful in Prague‘s St. Vitus Cathedral, Archbishop Josef Beran of Prague was abducted by the secret police and interned for the next 16 years. Thousands of priests and religious in what was then Czechoslovakia shared a similar fate and suffered in prisons and labor camps.
This pilgrimage will strengthen these young Russian Catholics in their faith and give them the opportunity to meet and pray together with thousands of other pilgrims from all over the world. It will be an experience that will remain with them throughout their lives.
The Diocese of Nikopol in northern Bulgaria has only some 30,000 Catholics out of a population of almost 3 million. While there are 20 parishes in the diocese, not every parish has its own priest due to a general shortage of priests.