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Spanish prelate elected first president of Central Asian bishops

Plenary meeting delegates set pastoral priorities and hold talks over the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to Kazakhstan

Spanish prelate elected first president of Central Asian bishops

Bishop José Luis Mumbiela Sierra of the Diocese of the Holy Trinity in Almaty. (Photo supplied)

Published: May 02, 2022 08:02 AM GMT

Updated: May 02, 2022 08:04 AM GMT

The newly created Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Central Asia (CBCCA) has elected Spanish-born Bishop José Luis Mumbiela Sierra of the Diocese of the Holy Trinity in Almaty of Kazakhstan as its first president during its first plenary meeting.

Bishops and church delegates from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Afghanistan attended the meeting, as well as church leaders from the Vatican and South Korea, held in Kazakhstan capital Nur-Sultan from April 27-29.

They discussed and set pastoral priorities for churches in the region and held talks over the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to Kazakhstan in September. The meeting also welcomed some government officials from Kazakhstan.

The CBCCA also elected Monsignor Jerzy Maculewicz, apostolic administrator of Uzbekistan, and Monsignor Evgeny Zinkovsky, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Karaganda in Kazakhstan, as vice president and general secretary respectively for a four-year term. The officials are entrusted with pastoral activities including evangelization and social development, reported Vatican’s Fides news agency.

Bishop Sierra, 52, is the first bishop of the Holy Trinity Diocese of Almaty, which was created in 2003.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples created the CBCCA through a decree on Sept. 8, 2021, to help regional bishops respond to common challenges and to ensure mutual support to address problems in each country. The CBCCA is also the youngest member of the Federation of Asian Catholic Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).

"Although Catholics in this region are a minority, this does not detract from the role that the Church plays in society"

Congregation prefect Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle connected virtually with the participants of the plenary meeting from the Vatican.

The Filipino cardinal said the conference “is called to play a special role in the ministry of the Church in the territories of the countries of Central Asia. Although Catholics in this region are a minority, this does not detract from the role that the Church plays in society."

Cardinal Tagle also offered guidelines to the conference to carry out activities such as developing friendly relations with other religions and constant and proper formation of clergy, religious and laity for catechesis in parishes.

The CBCCA will also undertake a range of initiatives including the translation and publication of Catholic books, prayer books and manuals in national languages to contribute to the spread of the Gospel in various sectors of society, to the synodal process, to work with young people and families and the implementation of Caritas projects.

The Catholic Church officially began in Central Asia when the Vatican established an apostolic administration in Kazakhstan based in the city of Karaganda in 1991.

Islam is the faith of the majority in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan with an estimated total population of 72 million, mostly Sunni Muslims. The region has a significant concentration of Russian Orthodox Christians.

Kazakhstan is the largest among the five central Asian nations with nearly 15 million inhabitants. Catholics are estimated to number around 250,000.

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