First Native Priest To Be Ordained in Kazakhstan Print
Written by Sherry   
Wednesday, 23 April 2008 22:38
Good news from Khazakhstan via Aid to the Church

CATHOLICS in Kazakhstan are preparing for the ordination of what Church leaders believe is the first priest to come from the country’s native population in modern times.

Up to 80 percent of Catholic priests and most of the faithful in the central Asian republic are foreigners with the rest made up of descendants of immigrants.

As a result, their outreach to the country’s native people is severely hampered but if all goes to plan the situation could change dramatically when on 29th June 25-year-old Ruslan Rakhimberlinov, a teenage convert to Catholicism, is ordained.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, Ruslan’s bishop, Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda, central Kazakhstan explained: “This is a very historic event – the first ever.”

With his Mongolian physical features as is typical among natives in Kazakhstan, Ruslan is expected to make a big impression in a country where often the Catholic Church is often seen as very foreign.

Bishop Schneider, who will preside at the ordination ceremony, said: “I do not expect there will be an immediate reaction but when the people see him, they will I am sure become accustomed to him.”

For Bishop Schneider, the ordination is hugely important: “The Church has yet to be properly implanted and this is only possible with clergy native to Kazakhstan.”

Today’s Catholic community is made up of descendants of people from Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, who were deported to Kazakhstan during the Soviet era. Bishop Schneider said that around Karaganda there was a concentration camp and a series of control centres about the size of France.

Hence the wide gulf in society in Kazakhstan.