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Kazakhstan’s Catholics Safe Amid Unrest | Catholic National Register

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Bishop Athanasius Schneider posted the message on his Twitter account on January 8.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider said on Saturday Catholics in Kazakhstan are safe amid unprecedented unrest in the Central Asian country.

Bishop Schneider, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, posted the message on his Twitter account on January 8.

“The Catholics of Kazakhstan are safe thanks to God,” he wrote. “In our churches, we continue to celebrate Holy Mass, to make Eucharistic adoration and to pray in particular for peace in our country and for harmony in social life. [sic], which the Kazakh people desire.

Protests erupted in the country of nearly 19 million people on January 2, after a sharp rise in gas prices.

The protests started in the world’s largest landlocked country in the city of Zhanaozen and spread to other urban areas, including the country’s largest city, Almaty.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared a nationwide state of emergency and summoned troops from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, an alliance comprising Russia and allied states.

Tokayev ordered the security forces to “shoot without warning,” the BBC reported on January 7.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the day before for “a peaceful and rights-respecting resolution to the crisis”.

Kazakhstan, the ninth largest country in the world by area, is a predominantly Muslim nation neighboring Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. There is a large Russian Orthodox minority.

The country has around 250,000 Catholics, many of Polish, German and Lithuanian descent. The Catholic population increased dramatically following the deportations under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

Most Catholics in Kazakhstan are of the Latin Rite, but there is also an Eastern Rite minority of around 3,000 people.

John Paul II became the first pope to visit Kazakhstan in 2001. Pope Francis is said to have considered a trip to the country before the outbreak of the pandemic.

In recent years, Kazakhstan has become a stronghold of traditionalist Catholicism. Bishop Schneider has acquired international notoriety through his advocacy in favor of traditional liturgical practices.

He was one of the three bishops of Kazakhstan to have signed a “Profession of Immutable Truths on Sacramental Marriage” in 2017.

In 2019, Bishop Schneider joined Cardinal Raymond Burke to support a 40-point “Declaration of Truths”.

Bishop Schneider signed an “Appeal for the Church and the World” regarding the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. He defended the document against critics who said it was marked by conspiracy theories.