“We thank the Pope for praying for the Kazakh people at such a difficult time. We too join this prayer: This morning Auxiliary Bishop Evgenij Zinkowski, Sister Alma Dzamova and I celebrated a mass in memory of the victims of recent days,” said Bishop Adelio Dell’Oro of Karaganda on the worrying news from Kazakhstan, where the social unrest has been going on for days, reported Fides News Agency.
Pope Francis also expressed concern about recent events and said at the Sunday Angelus prayer on January 9th: “I have learned with sorrow that there have been victims during the protests that have broken out in recent days in Kazakhstan. I pray for them and for their families, and I hope that social harmony will be restored as soon as possible through the search for dialogue, justice, and the common good. I entrust the Kazakh people to the protection of Our Lady, Queen of Peace of Oziornoje”.
The protests began in the early hours of January 5 and affected several Kazakh cities, but their epicenter was Almaty, the financial capital of southeast Kazakhstan. The demonstrations turned violent, with dozens of demonstrators and police officers injured or killed. The government has imposed a state of emergency, whose deadline is set for January 19: until that date, it is not possible to organize meetings and gatherings that involve crowds.
Therefore, the possibility of participating in Eucharistic celebrations is currently prohibited. Mgr. Dell’Oro says: “In Karaganda, the situation has never been as critical as in Almaty, which makes payments with ATMs impossible, so many have not been able to shop in recent days. Now, slowly and for a few hours a day, the connection is slowly returning and we hope that normalcy will also return soon”.
There are four Catholic dioceses in Kazakhstan with a total of 70 parishes and 91 priests, including 61 diocesan priests and 30 religious. The Catholics are a small minority: According to official information from the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, of the more than 17 million inhabitants of the country, about 26% are Christians, and 1% of them are Catholics.