Catholics in Kazakhstan: Few in Number but Deep in Faith
Despite making up only 1% of the country’s population, Catholics in Kazakhstan are devoted to the Virgin Mary.
When Pope Francis arrived in Kazakhstan earlier this week, he was welcomed by a devout community of Catholics full of love for the faith — especially toward the Blessed Mother.
Alexey Gotovskiy, EWTN News In-Depth producer and a native of Kazakhstan, in a recent report introduced viewers to the Asian country, whose diverse culture is made up of a multitude of languages, faiths, and breathtaking natural vistas.
Despite making up only 1% of the country’s population, Catholics in Kazakhstan are devoted to the Virgin Mary. This is most evident when visiting the town of Ozernoe, which is home to the only Marian shrine in the country.
Father Mariusz Stawasz, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace, said that the source of the town’s devotion to Our Lady stems from a perceived miracle that occurred during the Great Famine of World War II.
“Here, the people were praying through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary for help,” Father Stawasz said. “And on March 25, 1941, a miracle occurred: the temperature rose … the snow melted, and [formed] a lake.”
Father Stawasz noted that, while the appearance of the lake may be attributed to a naturally occurring phenomenon, the lake was seemingly miraculously filled with an abundance of fish.
Additionally, the village houses a Carmelite monastery founded only 15 years ago — an example of Ozernoe’s present devotion to the faith. There, five sisters live and pray in solitude with Our Lord. One of these, Sister Elizabeth, gave insight into the Carmelite community and how its members view the importance of their faith.
“You could say that we are sheltered with Jesus in the tabernacle,” Sister Elizabeth said. “It gives us a chance to be close to the heart of Jesus … Together with him, we pray for all peoples.”
Sister Elizabeth also revealed that the miracle of the fish in Ozernoe occurred again during the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparition in Fatima. For Sister Elizabeth, it was a reminder that Our Lady dwells in Kazakhstan.
While Pope Francis was not able to visit Ozernoe during his papal visit, he blessed the newest icon in the shrine — Mother of the Great Steppe.
During his papal visit, Pope Francis also emphasized the urgent need for interreligious dialogue among the many faiths in Kazakhstan — calling the journey to this goal “a shared path to peace and for peace; as such, it is necessary and irrevocable.”