The Easter season takes on a special joy this year in Russia, for 30 years ago the Catholic Church was resurrected after persecution under communist totalitarianism.
On April 13, 1991, the Catholic Church inaugurated a new chapter in its history. On that day, Msgr. Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz was enthroned Archbishop of Moscow in the Church of St. Louis of the French.
A few weeks later, it was Msgr. Joseph Werth’s turn to be received with great pomp in Novosibirsk, to take over the new apostolic administration dedicated to the care of souls in the eastern part of the former Soviet Union.
In 2002, two new dioceses were created: Saratov, on the Volga, and Irkutsk, on the shores of Lake Baikal.
In order to properly commemorate the 30th of the rebirth of the Church in Russia, the month of April 2021 was marked by solemn thanksgiving celebrations in all parishes - more than 300 today - as well as the many chapels and “pastoral points,” places where small groups of Catholics scattered throughout the immense Eurasian territory of the Russian Federation live.
“We are grateful to God for this precious gift received thirty years ago, for our presence here today in the communion of the Church,” declared Paolo Pezzi, the current Archbishop of Moscow, on April 13, recalling, “all the sacrifices that so many believers have offered to God for the unity of our Church.”
The prelate thus evoked the memory of the servant of God Antonij Maletskij, titular bishop of Dionisiana, apostolic administrator of Leningrad and 9 companions, killed by the Communists in hatred of the faith, and who died on January 17, 1935.
The Catholics of the Russian Federation are largely the heirs of their Polish, Lithuanian, and German ancestors, who arrived, often by deportation, in the 19th century, and who, for the most part, Russified their names and surnames in order to blend in with the tsarist empire, hostile to Roman Catholicism.
The Russian Church still has many faithful from Africa or Latin America, and also from the Caucasus and Asia, and from numerous other countries that had privileged relations with the Soviet Union.
In 2021, the priests serving in the parishes are still largely foreigners, but in recent years a very significant group of local priests and religious has grown, one of whom, the Franciscan Nikolai Dubinin, in 2020 became auxiliary bishop of Moscow and St. Petersburg. He is the first Latin Catholic bishop of Russian nationality in history.