We are really one Church

Posted By: Moose

We are really one Church - 05/23/02 03:31 PM

The following news release on the Holy Father's trip to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria is most interesting. Bolded parts has been added by me:

VATICAN CITY, MAY 22, 2002 (VIS) - Pope John Paul left this morning on a five-day pastoral visit to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, the 96th foreign apostolic trip of his 23 and a half-year papacy.

Two "firsts" will mark the Pope's stay of 25 hours in Azerbaijan. For the first time ever he will stay in a hotel, the three-star Irshad Hotel in Baku, which will have a diplomatic statute for the duration of his stay. The Pope usually resides at the local bishop's residence, the apostolic nunciature or, on occasion, a seminary or monastery. However, there is no bishop in Azerbaijan, In fact, the Catholic populace of this predominantly Muslim country numbers only 120 faithful, the smallest ever number of Catholics in a country visited by a Roman Pontiff.

Azerbaijan occupies an area of 86,000 square kilometers and has a population of 7,558,000 of whom 1.7 million live in the capital of Baku. The official language is Azerbaijani, though Russian is also spoken. Shiite Muslims are 62 percent of the populace, Sunni Muslims 26 percent and Orthodox the remaining 12 percent.

Once part of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan gained its independence in 1991. It is the eighth former Soviet republic to be visited by John Paul II, following Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Georgia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Armenia. It is the 24th country with a Muslim majority that the Pope has visited, but the first with a prevalently Shiite population.

According to an informational booklet on both Azerbaijan and Bulgaria prepared by Vatican Radio with statistics and historical background on the two countries, there is one ecclesiastical circumscription for the 120 Catholics in Azerbaijan - the "sui iuris" mission of Baku - one parish, two priests, one male Religious and three pastoral ministry workers.

Catholics in Azerbaijan were once a larger community, though always a discreet number, and were mostly linked to non-Azerbaijani ethnic groups, in particular of Polish origin. A beautiful Catholic basilica was erected in Baku in 1888 but Joseph Stalin ordered its destruction during the last century. During that difficult period Catholics turned to the Orthodox Church which generously assured them the sacraments. After the fall of communism, Catholics were under the care of the Apostolic Administration of the Caucasus of the Latins; they are now in the care of the Salesians.

The Catholic community is constituted of both local people, descendants of Catholic immigrants, who celebrate the liturgy in Russian, and the foreign community which uses English in its liturgy.

There are also communities of Lutherans, Baptists and Pentecostals.

Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti was appointed apostolic nuncio in Azerbaijan on December 13, 2001. He is also nuncio in Armenia and in Georgia. The superior of the "sui iuris" mission in Baku is Fr. Joseph Daniel Pravda, S.D.B.


It is wonderful that during the difficult days of the communists the Orthodox Church administered the Sacramental Mysteries to the tiny Roman Catholic population of Azerbaijan when Roman Catholic clergy was not allowed to function.

It reminds me of the story of a Serbian Orthodox priest who has nothing but the highest regard for the Byzantine Catholic Church. He tells the story of his father's village in Serbia during the time of the communist era. In this village there were two parishes, one Orthodox and the other Greek Catholic. For some reason the Orthodox parish did not have a priest but the Greek Catholic one had the same priest for over 30 years. The Orthodox people turned to the Greek Catholic priest, who baptized their children, married their people and buried their dead. When an Orthodox priest was eventually appointed to the Orthodox parish he and the old Greek Catholic priest became friends.

Those who quietly go about serving the Lord are the real saints.
Posted By: Orthodox Catholic

Re: We are really one Church - 05/23/02 03:43 PM

Dear Moose,

Yes, and as long as they're quiet about it, they won't become martyrs . . .

I've heard many similar such stories about close cooperation between Catholics and Orthodox in times of great difficulty and strain.

It is in times like those that one is given a view on true Christianity.

Posted By: Amadeus

Re: We are really one Church - 05/23/02 04:18 PM

Dear Moose:

Amen to your post! Below, the Pope thanks the Orthodox:

23-May-2002 -- Vatican Information Service


VATICAN CITY, MAY 23, 2002 (VIS) - John Paul II celebrated Mass this morning in the Sports Palace of Baku, Azerbaijan, which was filled to its capacity of 1,500 people. The 120 Catholic faithful were joined by other Catholics who work in the country and by a group of Orthodox Christians and various refugees of Nagorno-Karabaj who live in camps in the Azerbaijani capital.

"The universal Church pays tribute," the Pope said in his homily, "to all those who succeeded in remaining faithful to their Baptismal commitments, ... in particular those who experienced the tragedy of Marxist persecution. ... I wish to repeat once again, honor also to you, the holy Orthodox Church; you opened your doors to the Catholic faithful, who were without fold or shepherd. May the Lord reward your generosity."

"The Pope today," he continued "is here to share in your joy at freedom restored, and to support you on the journey which has as its final goal the promised land of Heaven. ... Sustained by this certainty, you know that this is a time of joy, a time of hope. A sign of this is the foundation stone of the future parish church, which I shall bless at the end of Mass. The Pope brings you the greetings and the esteem of the entire Catholic Church."

"O Church present in Azerbaijan, today I would like to leave you as your task what we asked for in the opening prayer of today's Eucharist. Know that you are 'a people gathered from all the nations of the earth in the unity of the one spirit.' Your community, Brothers and Sisters, is a symbolic expression of that universality," formed by people of many places and "by those who are on their way to other lands."

The Holy Father urged Catholics to be faithful to their mission "to preserve the faith and bear witness to it with a life which is truly prophetic, so that the world may believe. ... You share the joys and hopes of the people who live close to you and with you. ... Be cautious, but have the courage to make things new. ... Not the novelty that only brings uncertainty and insecurity, no! Rather, the newness that will restore to all, especially the young, a desire to live and work for world of greater justice and solidarity."

"Look at them, these young people! They run the risk of succumbing to the illusion of aimless idleness, of easy but dishonest gain. But they are also able to commit themselves to an ideal and risk the heroism of sacrifice in order to bring about the victory of justice and promote the establishment of freedom and peace. ... We have to reveal to them the radiant perspective of faith, of the friendship of Christ. There is no enthusiasm for good that Christ does not understand, for He Himself is eternally young!"

After the Eucharistic celebration, John Paul II went to the parish house to participate in a gathering with the Sheik of the Muslims of the Caucasus, the Orthodox Eparch and the president of the Jewish community. This was followed by lunch with the Salesian community and members of the papal entourage. In the afternoon, he is scheduled to go to the international airport at Baku and, after saying goodbye to the civil and religious authorities of the country, will leave for Sofia, Bulgaria at 5 p.m., arriving after a three-hour flight.

Posted By: Orthodox Catholic

Re: We are really one Church - 05/23/02 05:33 PM

Dear Friends,

Could someone explain the background to the Latin and Byzantine Churches of Bulgaria?

Posted By: Orthodox Catholic

Re: We are really one Church - 05/23/02 05:51 PM

[ 05-23-2002: Message edited by: Orthodox Catholic ]
Posted By: Amadeus

Re: We are really one Church - 05/23/02 06:41 PM


A synopsis on the Church in Bulgaria follows:

"Most of the population is Orthodox.

"Christianity was introduced early in the 4th century, but disappeared in the 7th century with the incursion of Slavs (Bulgars) into the area. The baptism of Boris I , in 865, restored Christianity, with some division in loyalties between Rome and Constantinople. The latter
faction was stronger, and the country went Orthodox at the schism of 1054.

"In 1396 Bulgaria fell to the Ottoman Turks, under whose rule Orthodoxy survived.

"In the 19th century a movement for reunion with Rome produced a small Byzantine Catholic Church.

"The country became independent in 1908. In both World Wars, it fought on the losing side, until the end of WWII, when Bulgaria joined the Allies under Soviet pressure.

"From 1947 it had a Communist government. Catholic schools were abolished. The apostolic delegate was expelled. Bishop Eugene Bossilkoff was imprisoned in 1948, and sentenced to death in 1952. (He was beatified in 1998.)

"There was some improvement in relations with Rome in 1975. In 1979, a bishop was appointed for a vacant see. Diplomatic relations with Rome were established in 1990.

"Catholics (Latin and Eastern) are just 1% of the population."

Posted By: Orthodox Catholic

Re: We are really one Church - 05/23/02 06:53 PM

Dear Amado,

Well, it's quality rather than quantity that counts - would you not say so?

And for such a small Church to have so many martyrs - and more on the way, as Remie would have it, that is truly an accomplishment!

Posted By: Diak

Re: We are really one Church - 05/23/02 08:13 PM

There was the Bulgarian Catholic exarch, I think his name was Kyril Kurtev of blessed memory.
Subdeacon Randolph, a sinner
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