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Francis’ Journey to Kazakhstan, ‘Country of Encounter’

Antonio Spadaro, SJ - La Civiltà Cattolica - Mon, Oct 3rd 2022

Francis’ Journey to Kazakhstan, ‘Country of Encounter’

At 7:15 a.m. on September 13, 2022, the flight carrying Pope Francis, his entourage and accredited journalists took off from Fiumicino Airport for Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan. Thus began the 38th apostolic journey of Francis.[1]

Located in Central Asia, the country borders Russia to the north and west, China to the east, and Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to the south. It has an area of 2,724,900 sq km and a population of about 19 million. Located along the ancient Silk Road that connected China to the Middle East and the Mediterranean, the territory was historically inhabited by nomadic peoples, and today its population includes about 30 nationalities and ethnicities.

Part of the Soviet Republic of Turkestan from 1917 to 1925 and an autonomous republic since 1926, Kazakhstan in 1936 became a republic of the USSR, from which it gained independence in 1991, after the dissolution of the latter, becoming part of the newly formed Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).[2] In 1994, Nur-Sultan, when it was still called Tselinograd, was chosen as the future capital of Kazakhstan by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, for geographical, economic and environmental reasons, in place of Almaty. It officially assumed the role of capital in 1997, and in March 2019 it changed its name again to Nur-Sultan, to pay homage to former President Nazarbayev, who is also responsible for its renovation and expansion.[3] Kazakhstan’s new capital is developing and growing, thanks to former president Nazarbayev’s aspirations for it to be a great and magnificent metropolis. This is why the project was entrusted to some of the world’s best-known architects, such as Briton Norman Foster and Kisho Kurokawa from Japan. In 2017 it hosted Expo. The city, which began as a Russian military outpost around 1830, is also associated with the Gulag, the prison camps the Soviets had set up in Kazakhstan to detain  political dissidents. On September 17, 2022, President Tokayev signed a decree by which the name of Kazakhstan’s capital is once again  Astana, as it was before 2019.

With the authorities: Kazakhstan, ‘Country of Encounter’

The pope landed in Nur-Sultan at 5.45 p.m. and was welcomed by President Kassym-Jomart K. Tokayev. From here Francis and the president went to the Ak Orda Presidential Palace, whose name means “white headquarters,” inaugurated in 2004. Well-known architects and designers from 26 nations and 10 countries of the world contributed to the realization of this great building, constructed with the use of the most modern methods. It is clad in fine white Italian marble, and features a blue and gold dome, topped by a spire that reaches 86 meters in height.

After the welcome in the courtyard and the greeting of the delegations, the president accompanied the pope to the East Hall, where the private meeting took place. At 7:20 p.m. Francis went to the Qazaq Concert Hall, a center for the performing arts, famed  both for its acoustics and its architectural features, inaugurated in 2009. The building’s exterior structure consists of a series of curved, sloping concrete walls clad in blue glass panels. The shape of the building, imagined as a steppe flower, suggests  both the dynamism of the petals, a metaphor for the dynamism of music itself, but also – through its inclined, stepped and curved walls – the sails of a ship. Here a meeting with the authorities, members of civil society and the diplomatic corps took place.

The president gave a speech in which he stressed that the pope had arrived in Kazakhstan “at a critical juncture in human history”: “The family of nations is poised on the edge of an abyss, as geopolitical tensions escalate, the global economy suffers and growing religious and ethnic intolerance becomes the ‘new normal’.” That is why it is necessary to “pool wisdom and energy to unite people around the ideas of peace, social harmony and mutual support.” The pope addressed those present, calling himself a “pilgrim of peace, seeking dialogue and unity.” Our world is in urgent need of rediscovering harmony, and Francis captured a depiction of this in a  traditional musical instrument characteristic of the country, the dombra, which is played by plucking its two parallel strings. It “accompanied the musical narratives of sagas and poetic works, linking the past to the present,” giving rhythm to the memories  of the country.

The pope based his speech on the image of this instrument. In fact, the “notes” of two souls,  one Asiatic and one European, resound in the country, giving it a permanent “mission of linking two continents,” of being “a bridge between Europe and Asia,” and “a junction between East and West.” This instrument, in general, is  accompanied by other instruments, in an ensemble that, for Francis, is the image of a country in which “about numerous ethnic groups and more than eighty languages […] coexist, with varied histories, cultural and religious traditions.” This makes Kazakhstan “a unique multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious laboratory and discloses its particular vocation, that of being a country of encounter.” Religions are part of “the choral unity that leads to a ‘symphonic’ social life.” Hence the importance of religious freedom within a context of “healthy secularity,” which “counteracts the extremism that corrodes it.” This freedom, for Francis, is part of those conditions that favor “the sense of belonging to the country by all its ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious components,” which must be free to express themselves for a better “civil coexistence.”

Another element recalled by the dombra is the fact that it is “a popular musical instrument and, as such, communicates the beauty involved in preserving the genius and vivacity of a people.” Civil authorities are those who are “primarily responsible for promoting the common good.” This “is implemented in a special way through and finds expression above all in support for democracy, which constitutes the most suitable form for translating power into service to the entire people and not simply to a few.” In this sense the pontiff praised the process of democratization that is taking place in the country, aimed at achieving a greater distribution of power.[4]

Finally, the dombra is an instrument that unites Kazakhstan to several countries in the surrounding area. This recalls the fact that it “represents a significant geopolitical crossroads, and so it has a fundamental role to play in lessening cases of conflict.” If St. John Paul II came to sow hope immediately after the tragic violence of 2001, Francis arrived in the country “during the senseless and tragic war that broke out with the invasion of Ukraine.” Francis therefore also came “to echo the plea of so many who cry out for peace, which is the essential path of development for our globalized world.” “We need leaders,” the pope continued, “who, at the international level, allow peoples to understand each other, dialogue and generate a new ‘spirit of Helsinki,’ the will to strengthen multilateralism, to build a more stable and peaceful world for the sake of future generations. To do this requires understanding, patience and dialogue with all.”

For the first time Francis referred to the “spirit of Helsinki,” recalling the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in the Finnish capital, July-August 1975. On that occasion the heads of 35 States – the countries of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, along with the neutral and non-aligned States – engaged in a dialogue with the aim of overcoming East-West differences. This marked an important step forward in ending the Cold War and the mindset of the blocs. The result was the Helsinki Accord.[5] To follow the spirit of that accord means going  in the opposite direction to Yalta, which has been explicitly criticized several times by the pontiff. It means strongly affirming the will not to surrender to the dead-end mindset of military escalation of “war schemes,” and the rejection of a policy based on spheres of influence. It means proclaiming equal rights, equality for peoples and for people, according to a pattern of international relations that is shared, and allows no prejudicially privileged positions.

From the Qazaq Concert Hall the pope moved to the apostolic nunciature, opened after the establishment of diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and the Holy See on October 17, 1992.

The Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions

On Wednesday 14, at 9:40 a.m., the pope went to the Palace of Independence in Nur-Sultan (population 1,184,500), the modern and futuristic capital of Kazakhstan, which is located in the windy steppes of the northern part of the country.

The Independence Palace, along with the Eli Monument, the National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the National University of the Arts and the Hazret Sultan Mosque, is part of the architectural complex of the central Nur-Sultan Square. The huge, trapezoidal building in blue glass is decorated on the outside with a lattice of white tubes, reminiscent of the kerege, the lattice structure of the walls of the yurt, the mobile dwelling adopted by many nomadic peoples of Asia.

A Prayer in Silence took place in the Conference Hall of the Independence Palace, opening the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions (September 14-15). Since its inception in 2003, the event has taken as its model the Day of Prayer for World Peace, convened in 2002 by St. John Paul II in Assisi, to reaffirm the positive contribution of religious traditions to dialogue and concord among peoples.

The president gave a speech, which was followed by that of the Holy Father. Francis spoke of the fraternity of all, “sons and daughters of the same Heaven.” He recalled that they were “in a country traversed down the centuries by great caravans. In these lands, not least through the ancient silk route, many histories, ideas, faiths and hopes have intersected.” Kazakhstan, he hoped, may “be once more a land of encounter between those who come from afar. May it open a new route of encounter, centered on human relationships, on respect, sincere dialogue, respect for the inviolable dignity of each human being and mutual cooperation. This is a route that is fraternal, where people travel  together toward the goal of peace.”

The pope’s speech revolved around the figure of the poet Abai (1845-1904),[6] who “has left us writings that are steeped in religious devotion and reflect the noble soul of this people: its sage discernment, its yearning for a peace found through humble questioning, and its pursuit of a genuinely humane wisdom, never closed-minded but open to being inspired by a variety of experiences.” The pope was struck above all by his timeless question: “What is the beauty of life, if one does not search at a deep level?” This poet reminded him of Giacomo Leopardi, who had “placed on the lips of a shepherd in these vast lands of Asia an equally essential question: ‘Whither will this brief wandering of mine take me?’” Questions like these, Francis commented, “point to humanity’s need for religion; they remind us that we human beings do not exist so much to satisfy earthly interests or to weave purely economic relationships as to walk together, as wayfarers, with our eyes raised to the heavens. We need to make sense of the ultimate questions, to cultivate a spirituality; we need, as Abai says, to keep ‘the soul alive and the mind clear’.” Religion is therefore needed to “respond to the thirst for world peace and the thirst for the infinite that dwells in the heart of each man and woman.”

In this sense we must keep away from “rigidity, extremism and fundamentalism” which profane the name of God through “hatred, fanaticism and terrorism.” Likewise, the pope continued, “May we never allow the sacred to be exploited by the profane. The sacred must never be a prop for power, nor power a prop for the sacred!”

The Congress of Religious Leaders, in particular, drew attention to four serious global challenges. The first is the pandemic: we have all felt fragile, all in need of assistance, not self-sufficient. Now, therefore, “we are challenged not to squander the powerful sense of solidarity that we experienced by pressing on as if nothing happened.” Not forgetting vulnerability means feeling called to care.

The second challenge is peace. Our days are marked by the scourge of war. “Mindful of the wrongs and errors of the past, let us unite our efforts to ensure that the Almighty will never again be held hostage to the human thirst for power,” the pope exhorted. Abai stated that “he who allows evil and does not oppose evil cannot be considered a true believer.”

The third challenge is fraternal welcome in a context in which “each day children, born and unborn, migrants and elderly persons, are cast aside, discarded. There exists a throwaway culture. Many of our brothers and sisters die sacrificed on the altar of profit, amid clouds of the sacrilegious incense of indifference.” Abai reiterates this by saying that “all people are guests of one another” and “man himself is a guest in this life.”

The fourth challenge is the care of the common home. Abai wrote: “What a wonderful world the Creator has given us! He magnanimously and generously gave us his light, when mother-earth fed us from her breast, our Father in heaven thoughtfully hovered over us.”  Francis stated that “the mindset of exploitation is in fact destroying the home in which we live.” It leads to “eclipsing that respectful and religious vision of the world willed by the Creator.”

In light of these four global challenges, Francis finally prayed: “May we never aim at artificial and conciliatory forms of syncretism, but instead firmly maintain our own identities, open to the courage of otherness and to fraternal encounter. Only in this way, in these dark times in which we live, will we be able to radiate the light of our Creator.”

At the end of the meeting, the pope, together with the other leaders, went to the atrium of the Independence Palace for a group photo. This was followed by private meetings with some of those leaders around noon.

The Congress this year was dedicated to the role of religious leaders in the spiritual and social development of humanity in the post-pandemic period. The first Congress had been held in the Kazakh capital in 2003, at the initiative of President Nazarbayev. The various meetings – convened every three years (apart from this one, postponed by a year because of the pandemic) – have always focused on the promotion of interreligious dialogue for the sake of peace and development and the important role of religious leaders in strengthening international security.

‘Saved from the bite of the serpent of distrust’

In the afternoon, at 4 p.m., the pope went to the Expo Grounds, on the left ban of Nur-Sultan. The area is famous for hosting the EXPO2017 International Exposition, on the theme “The Energy of the Future,” dedicated to energy efficiency, sustainability, renewables and climate change. The Holy See also had its own pavilion, entitled Energy for the Common Good: Caring for our common home.

In the large square Francis celebrated Mass, during which he delivered the homily. On the occasion of the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the pope spoke of the “situations in our lives when, as individuals, as Church and as a society, we can be bitten by the serpent of distrust, poisoned by disillusionment and despair, pessimism and hapless resignation, and caught up only with ourselves, lacking all enthusiasm.” But Jesus, on  the cross, “took away the poison from the serpent of evil; thus being Christians means living without poisons,  not biting one another, not complaining, blaming and backbiting, not disseminating evil, not polluting the earth with the sin and distrust that comes from the evil one.”

In his greeting at the end of the celebration, Francis turned his thoughts to “so many places martyred by war, especially dear Ukraine,” and made a heartfelt appeal: “Let us not get used to war; let us not resign ourselves to its inevitability,” asking: “What more must happen, how many more deaths must we wait for before oppositions give way to dialogue for the good of people, peoples and humanity?”

The ‘hidden grace of being a small Church’

On Thursday September 15, at 9 a.m., the pope had a private meeting with the Jesuits of the Russian Region. Then, around 10.10 a.m., he went to the cathedral, dedicated to the Mother of God of Perpetual Help, the seat of the archdiocese of Mary Most Holy. The history of this church began in the 1930s, when the inhabitants of the western regions of Ukraine, Belarus, the Volga region and other places that were part of the former Soviet Union were deported to Kazakhstan.

The origins of the Catholic Church in present-day Kazakhstan are actually much older and can be traced back to the 13th century. In 1253, in fact, Saint Louis, King of France, sent some missionaries to this territory, so that from there they could reach Mongolia. In 1278, 25 years later, Pope Nicholas III entrusted the entire mission in the region of Central Asia to the Franciscans. In 1340 the first persecutions began, and there was no more news of the Christians in the region until the middle of the 19th century, when the Kazakh territory came under the dominion of the Russian Empire. The beginning of the 20th century saw the arrival of the first Catholics, partly as soldiers in the Russian army, and partly as exiles, deportees, prisoners of war, or as voluntary settlers and refugees. Many refugees and prisoners of war of the Catholic faith came to Kazakhstan during the First World War. Others of various nationalities came as deportees during the seven decades of the Soviet regime. The end of the Soviet Union and the subsequent birth of independent Kazakhstan in 1991 brought about a turning point also for the small local Catholic Church.[7]

On September 20, 1979, after many difficulties, the Kazakh Catholic community received official permission to register as such. On October 14 of the same year a house of prayer, situated on the outskirts of the city, purchased with money collected from the faithful, was consecrated. The house was named after the Mother of Perpetual Help, in honor of the icon, which had been guarded – despite  many risks – by the believers over the years. In 1994 construction began on the new church, which became a cathedral on August 6, 1999, after the institution of the Apostolic Administration of Astana by Saint John Paul II.

In this cathedral, at 10.30 a.m., the pope met with bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, seminarians and pastoral workers. The Church in Kazakhstan numbers about 125,000 Catholics, or 0.7 percent of the population, 70 percent of whom are Muslims. Christians – mostly Orthodox – make up 26 percent of the population. In the country there are 81 parishes and 146 other pastoral centers, 5 education centers and 43 charitable and social centers. There are three dioceses, as well as the Apostolic Administration of Atyran. On June 1, 2019, Pope Francis erected the Apostolic Administration for the Catholic faithful of the Byzantine rite in Kazakhstan and Central Asia, based in Karaganda. There are 6 bishops, 104 priests (diocesan and religious), 7 seminarians and 133 women religious.

After the greeting of Bishop José Luis Mumbiela Sierra, president of the Episcopal Conference of Central Asian Bishops,[8] and the reading in Russian of a passage from the letter to the Ephesians (3:5-6.11-17), four testimonies followed. Then the pope gave a speech and said a prayer of dedication to Mary, Queen of Peace.

Francis began by affirming that the Church in Kazakhstan is composed of people who come from different regions and countries, “but the beauty of the Church is this: we are one family, in which no one is a foreigner.” And “if today in this vast multicultural and multi-religious country, we can see vibrant Christian communities and a religious sense that runs through the life of the population, it is above all thanks to the rich history that has preceded you,” the pope said.

But we must understand well, because recognizing the importance of memory does not mean “looking back with nostalgia, getting stuck in the past and letting ourselves be paralyzed and immobile. When we do that, we are tempted to be backward-looking.” The faith was not passed down “as a set of ideas to be understood and followed as a fixed and timeless code. No, our faith was passed on through life.” And this is how it is communicated, remaining alive and having a future. Memory opens us to the promise of the Gospel: “Despite our weaknesses, Jesus does not tire of being with us, of building the future of his Church and our Church together with us.”

The Church in Kazakhstan is small, but there is “a hidden grace in being a small church, a little flock, for instead of showing off our strengths, our numbers, our structures and other things that are humanly important, we can let ourselves be guided by the Lord and humbly draw close to others. Rich in nothing and poor in everything, let us walk with simplicity alongside our sisters and brothers, bringing the joy of the Gospel into the situations of everyday life. Like the leaven in the dough and like the smallest of seeds sown in the earth, may we immerse ourselves in the joyful and sorrowful events of the society in which we live, in order to serve it from within.” In these words is a vision of the Church that Francis has presented in various circumstances during his travels to countries where Catholics are a tiny minority.

Being small also implies  that it is not possible to imagine ourselves as self-sufficient: “We need God. We also need others, all others: our Christian sisters and brothers of other confessions, those who hold other religious beliefs than our own, all men and women of good will. May we realize, in a spirit of humility, that only together, in dialogue and mutual acceptance, can we truly achieve something good for the benefit of all.”

We must not be a flock that is “withdrawn into its shell since it feels small, but a community open to God’s future, afire with his Spirit,  a community that is alive, filled with hope, open to the newness of the Spirit and to the signs of the times, inspired by the Gospel’s example of the little seed that grows and bears fruit in humble and creative love. For in this way, the promise of life and blessing that God the Father pours out on us through Jesus not only grows in our lives, but also comes to fulfillment in the lives of others.” This is the Church to dream of and to build: “a Church increasingly filled with the joy of the risen Lord, fearless and uncomplaining, rejecting rigidity, dogmatism and moralizing.”

Before greeting the bishops individually and posing with them for a group photo, the pope blessed the icon of Mary, Mother of the Great Steppes, a work painted by a Muslim . He then returned to the Nunciature.

Transcendence and fraternity

In the afternoon, at 2:30 p.m., Francis went to the Independence Palace, where, at the Conference Hall, the reading of the final declaration of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions took place. Here he delivered a speech.

“Thank you for having taken part so intensely in these days of work, commitment and sharing in the service of dialogue. This is more valuable than ever in challenging times like our own, when the problems of the pandemic have been compounded by the utter folly of war,” said the pope. He then commented on the Final Declaration, which affirms that “extremism, radicalism, terrorism and all other incentives to hatred, hostility, violence and war, whatever their motivations or goals, have nothing to do with the authentic spirit of religion and must be rejected in the most decisive terms possible.”

Today “the great wisdoms and religions are called to bear witness to the existence of a common spiritual and moral patrimony, which is based on two cornerstones: transcendence and fraternity.” Taking up the final Declaration of the Congress, Francis then underlined three words. The first is peace: the Declaration “exhorts world leaders to stop conflicts and bloodshed everywhere, and to abandon aggressive and destructive rhetoric.” The second is women: “because women give care and life to the world, they are the way to peace.” He also commented: “How many choices of death would be avoided if women were at the center of decisions!” The third word is youth: “They are the messengers of peace and unity of today and tomorrow. They are the ones who, more than others, invoke peace and respect for the common home of creation.”

At the end, Francis greeted the religious leaders individually. Then, at 4:15 p.m., he went to the international airport of Nur-Sultan, from which, after the official greetings, he left for Rome, where he landed at 8:10 p.m. Italian time.

* * *

The last words of the pope in his final address, summarizing the whole journey of  three days, resonate: “The people of Kazakhstan, open to the future and witness to so much past suffering, with their extraordinary multi-religious and multi-cultural character, offer us an example of the future. They invite us to build it without forgetting transcendence and fraternity, the worship of the Most High and the acceptance of others. Let us go forward like this, walking together on earth as children of Heaven, weavers of hope and craftsmen of concord, messengers of peace and unity!”

DOI: La Civiltà Cattolica, En. Ed. Vol. 6, no.10 art. 7, 1022: 10.32009/22072446.1022.7

[1].    The logo of the journey features a dove with an olive branch. The wings are represented by two joined hands, symbolizing those of the messengers of peace and unity. Inside the wings there is a heart. The stylized olive branch is depicted with a typical Kazakh ornamental image. In the background is a light blue shanyrak, an element of the traditional dwelling of the Kazakh people, and on the inside a yellow cross. Blue and yellow are the colors of the flag of Kazakhstan; yellow and white, those of the Vatican flag. The motto of the journey – “Messengers of peace and unity” – is written at the top in Kazakh and at the bottom in Russian.

[2].    Our magazine has dedicated two articles to this country: V. Pachkov, “Kazakhstan, the path after independence”, in Civ. Catt. En. Oct. 2019 “2022: A Watershed Year for Kazakhstan? Civ. Catt. En. Sept. 2022,

[3].    The contribution  of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, an official of the former Soviet regime who remained at the head of the country until 2019, was very important for the country in the 1990s. Internationally, he  pursued a multidirectional foreign policy, aimed at creating and maintaining good relations with both neighboring countries (particularly Russia and China) and those further away (such as Iran and Turkey), but also with the European Union and the United States. However, the country’s main  political ally has remained Russia, with which it has established a relationship of economic partnership within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), which also includes Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, and of military collaboration, within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), to which the same countries belong. The promotion of this multidirectional foreign policy has been strengthened, in recent years, through the deepening of bilateral relations with the People’s Republic of China, increasing cooperation in trade, energy and security matters. Nazarbayev’s nominated successor,  Tokayev, now seems intent on a new course in relations with Russia, as indicated by his stance at the St. Petersburg International Economic Summit in June 2022, at  which he stated that his country supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity and does not recognize pro-Russian separatist regions occupied by Russian and local pro-Russian   troops.

[4].    Cf. V. Pachkov, “2022: A Watershed Year for Kazakhstan?…”, art.. cit.

[5].    The Declaration on Principles Guiding the Relations between Participating States, included in the Final Act, listed these 10 points: 1) Sovereign equality, respect for the rights inherent to sovereignty. 2) Non-recourse to the threat or use of force. 3) Inviolability of borders. 4) Territorial integrity of States. 5) Peaceful settlement of disputes. 6) Non-intervention in internal affairs. 7) Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief. 8) Equality of rights and self-determination of peoples. 9) Cooperation among States. 10) Fulfillment in good faith of obligations under international law. The Declaration led in 1990 to the creation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is currently the largest regional security arrangement under Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter.

[6].    Abai Kunanbayuly left an indelible mark on the history of Kazakhstan as a scientist, thinker, poet, founder of its modern national literature, translator and composer. His poems and prose reflect the national identity, worldview, soul, faith, language and traditions of his country. His major work is The Book of Words, which is a philosophical treatise and collection of poems.

[7].    A decisive event of change was the establishment of diplomatic relations between the former Soviet Republic and the Holy See on October 17, 1992, followed on September 24, 1998, by the signing of an important agreement between the two parties that guarantees the Catholic Church the freedom to carry out its social, educational, social and health activities, to have access to the media and to ensure spiritual assistance to its faithful in health facilities and prisons. The fruitful bilateral cooperation was also witnessed by the three official visits to the Vatican of former President Nazarbayev (in 1998 for the signing of the agreement with the Holy See, in 2003 and 2009), and by the apostolic journey of St. John Paul II (September 22-25, 2001), the first visit of a pontiff to a Central Asian country.

[8]. A very important event for the local Church, not only on the organizational level, was the establishment in September 2021 of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Central Asia (CECAC), which brings together the Churches of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Afghanistan. The new Transnational Conference met from April 26-30, 2022, appointing as its first president José Luis Mumbiela Sierra, bishop of the Holy Trinity diocese in Almaty. The roles of vice-president and general secretary are held, respectively, by Jerzy Maculewicz, apostolic administrator of Uzbekistan, and by Evgeny Zinkovsky, auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Karaganda.

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