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Russian Orthodox community struggles to build Church on its own

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.theindiancatholic.com/report.asp?nid=10001 January 3, 2008 Russian Orthodox community struggles to build Church on its own KARAGANDA, Kazakhstan
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 3 3:47 PM

      January 3, 2008
      Russian Orthodox community struggles to build Church on its own

      KARAGANDA, Kazakhstan (UCAN) : A Russian Orthodox community in a
      Karaganda suburb is so keen on having its own church that its members
      are trying to build it brick by brick without external financial assistance.
      Parishioner Sergei Weselowski recently told UCA News they even "write
      (their) names on the bricks" they buy for the building in a gesture
      of ownership.

      For now, between 200 and 400 worshippers huddle together in the
      winter cold for Masses held in a makeshift chapel dedicated to St.
      Boniface in the basement of half-finished Holy Cross Church. The
      church is located in Maikuduk, a suburb of Karaganda, 200 kilometers
      southeast of Astana.

      The second story of the two-story church is still incomplete.

      "Despite the church being unfinished, it is crowded," Weselowski
      pointed out, "which indicates it is needed."

      The parish started building the church in 2004. Father Igor Lisitsin,
      the priest in charge, told UCA News construction had to stop a few
      times during winter cold spells, when temperatures can drop below
      minus-30 degrees Celsius. Nevertheless, the scarcity of funds is the
      more severe hardship, he admitted.

      Russian Orthodox parishes in the country normally depend on funds
      from the Church's headquarters in Moscow, but local Church leaders
      also turn to private benefactors for their projects.

      Some businessman initially sponsored the construction of Holy Cross
      Church, but later stopped, so parishioners are now working to
      complete the project on their own.

      This may take yet a while longer, but Father Lisitsin is not despairing.

      The parish does not yet have a finished building, "but we do have a
      church (community) and I see it as a miracle," he said.

      The Russian Orthodox priest added that he is not sure when the
      building will be finished, because parishioners have to use what they
      can spare from their income to pay for the construction and bricks.

      One of them, 88-year-old Zinaida Ananyeva, has been living in
      Maikuduk for more than 30 years. The elderly woman, who recalls
      having to attend Mass in churches in other districts in the past,
      does not have much, but she tries to save at least some of her
      monthly pension to help build her church. She has also contributed in
      another way.

      "I prayed a great deal for the construction of the church in our
      district and waited long for it," she told UCA News.

      Other women, who make up the majority of the parishioners, cook meals
      for the male parishioners who do the construction work.

      One of the male parishioners, Grigory Aphinogenov, is looking forward
      to the completion of the church, because "there are many
      non-Christians in our district and it's good that this church is
      being built here."

      The small Russian Orthodox community in this suburb has long
      struggled to practice its faith. Before the makeshift chapel was
      built, people prayed in apartments and later in tents. Before the
      parish was registered in 1993, some even traveled to other districts
      of Karaganda to attend Mass.

      Today parishioners number about 600, mostly ethnic Russians.

      Sergei, a miner who also serves as sacristan and catechism teacher,
      blames the communist suppression of religion during the Soviet era,
      which ended in 1991, for damaging people's faith life. "Our people
      are illiterate in terms of religion, and it is important to educate
      them about it," he said.

      Many of the ethnic Russians around Karaganda are related to people
      Soviet leader Joseph Stalin deported here in the 1930s and 1940s for
      "political crimes," which included religious belief. Many Germans,
      Poles, Ukrainians and Lithuanians, most of whom were Roman and Greek
      Catholics, were also exiled to Kazakhstan.

      Russian Orthodox Church members comprise 30 percent of Kazakhstan's
      15 million people, while Muslims account for 60 percent. Roman
      Catholics make up 250,000 and Greek Catholics about 3,000.

      The Russian Orthodox Church in Kazakhstan is divided into three
      dioceses with 202 parishes between them.
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