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Neo-Gothic cathedral dedicated in Kazakhstan, once a center of Communist persecution

September 10, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI appointed Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the 84-year-old dean of the College of Cardinals, as his legate for the dedication of the neo-Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady of Fatima in Karaganda, a city of 472,000 in Kazakhstan.

Other members of the pontifical delegation were Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Msgr. Konrad Krajewski of the papal Office of Liturgical Celebrations, and Professor Giovanni Rocchi.

“During the tragic era of the religious and political persecution carried out by the Soviet regime, the city of Karaganda with its out-lying districts earned for itself hideous notoriety as being a place of repression and banishment for anyone and everyone, of whatever nationality, ethnic group or religious denomination, who dared to challenge atheistic materialism,” the Kazakh bishops said in a pastoral letter, adding:

It was known at that time under the code-name of “KARLAG”, an anagram made up from the two words: KARaganda and LAGer. The Karaganda Concentration-Camps, covering area as big as the national territory of present-day France, was, apart from being one of the largest, one the most important and notorious of all Soviet concentration-camps under Stalin’s dictatorship. Taking into consideration the countless numbers of prisoners who passed through the Karlag forced-labour camps, suffering and eventually perishing there, it is fair to say that soil of Kazakhstan has in no other place been so thoroughly soaked in the blood and tears of more innocent victims of Communist repression than here in Karaganda.

On the eve of the September 9 dedication, Mozart’s Requiem was performed in memory of the victims of KARLAG.

The nation of 17.3 million is 47% Muslim, 44% Eastern Orthodox, 2% Protestant, and 1% Catholic.


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