Small Catholic community endures in western Russia


A French missionary has told the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that the Catholic minority in a Caucusian republic, though it shows great potential, could not survive without help from the West.

Brother Carl Emmanuel, of the Community of St. Jean, said the Catholic community in the Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, located in the European part of the Russian federation, numbers only a few hundred members among the republic’s 900,000 predominantly Muslim people. Despite its small size, Brother Carl said the community has “great potential” because the Catholic faith is being transmitted “with great purity.”

Around 50 Catholics meet every Sunday in the capital of Nalchik for Holy Mass. Brother Carl said it is not usual for Catholics to receive communion without first going to confession, and he noted that there was one adult baptism performed at both Christmas and Easter.

A local theater group has rehearsed a short play written by St. Therese of Lisieux and has even performed it in Moscow at a French-language theater competition. They have organized to take the play on a tour through France.

Catholics in Kabardino-Balkaria at present urgently need to complete a new chapel in Prochladnyj, a town near the capital, because the present congregation cannot fit into the old chapel, a former shop. The half-built new structure could be seriously damaged by winter frosts.

When the new chapel is finished, the present chapel will again become a shop so that the woman who looks after the parish can support herself. The parishioners are too poor to provide her with a salary.

The Church is helping many families of the parish, especially in cases of domestic violence or alcoholism. Brother Carl said many formerly broken families are now living together in peace and come together to Sunday Mass.

Though the region is generally peaceful, Brother Carl explained, ethnic Russians are discriminated against. For instance, children who do not speak the national language well are teased and mocked in the schools. Due to discrimination, many Russians have emigrated. In one village 500 of 2000 people have left.

However, Brother Carl said, the Catholic Church still strives to maintain good relations with others in the community, both Christian and non-Christian.

Brother Carl, who will soon be ordained to the priesthood, said there are two priests in Kabardino-Balkaria in addition to two religious brothers, four contemplative nuns, and four Missionaries of Charity from Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s religious order.

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