Bishop Schneider: Catholics in Kazakhstan Are Safe Amid Unrest

Bishop Athanasius Schneider issued the message on his Twitter account on Jan. 8.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider tweeted the news on Saturday.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider tweeted the news on Saturday. (photo: Monegasque2, CC BY-SA 4.0 / via Wikimedia)

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

Bishop Schneider, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, issued the message on his Twitter account on Jan. 8.

“The Catholics in Kazakhstan are thanks to God safe,” he wrote. “In our churches we continue to celebrate the Holy Mass, doing Eucharistic Adoration and praying particularly for peace in our country and for harmony in the social live [sic], which the Kazakh people desire.”

Protests broke out in the nation of almost 19 million people on Jan. 2, after a steep rise in gas prices. 

Demonstrations began in 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 security forces to “fire without warning,” the BBC reported on Jan. 7.

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

Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth-largest country by area, is a Muslim-majority nation neighboring Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. There is a sizable Russian Orthodox minority.

The country has an estimated 250,000 Catholics, many of whom are ethnic Poles, Germans and Lithuanians. The Catholic population rose considerably as a result of deportations under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. 

Most of Kazakhstan’s Catholics are 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 was reportedly considering a trip to the country before the outbreak of the pandemic.

In recent years, Kazakhstan has emerged as a bastion of traditionalist Catholicism. Bishop Schneider has gained an international profile through his advocacy of traditional liturgical practices.

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

In 2019, Bishop Schneider joined Cardinal Raymond Burke in backing 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.

Nicaraguan police place Bishop Rolando José Álvarez under house arrest Aug. 4 at the diocesan chancery in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

Nicaragua Needs More

EDITORIAL: Although the Vatican has offered a muted response, Pope Francis must do more to condemn human-rights abuses in Nicaragua before the Ortega regime exploits papal silence to justify its immoral actions.