The Catholic Church in Kyrgyzstan  



Bishop Nikolaus Messmer, S.J., Apostolic Administrator in Kyrgyzstan

Mailing Address:

ul. Vasiljeva 197,

720072 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Telephone: + 996 312 376705



Apostolic Administration of Kyrgyzstan by Catholic-Hierarchy


People in Kyrgyzstan are looking for Christ.

Four years ago, a Polish woman living in Dzanydzer (meaning “The New Land” in Kyrgyz language) started looking for a catholic priest in Kyrgyzstan. As it turned out, there was a catholic parish in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, 30 miles away from Dzanydzer. The priest was able to visit the Polish woman, and now there are more than 30 people in Dzanydzer who attend the Mass regularly. Seven years ago two Jesuit priests were working on an evangelization plan for Kyrgyzstan. At this moment, two little girls came in, looking for a priest who would hear the confession of their dying grandmother in a village away from town. Today, in this village called Iwanowka, the third parish has already been created. This situation is similar all around Kyrgyzstan - it all starts with just one priest’s visit to a family or elderly person, and pretty soon a small parish is created.

The Church in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is one of the five mid-Asian former Soviet republics that appeared on the world maps suddenly as independent countries in 1991, but remains relatively unknown to most of us. Kyrgyzstan borders with Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Size-wide Kyrgyzstan equals approximately 2/3 of New Mexico, with 90% of its surface being covered with mountains reaching over 20 000 feet. Population approaches 5 million, with a mix of Kyrgyzs, Uzbeks, Russians, Uygurs, Dungans, Germans, Ukrainians, Kurds, Tadjiks, Turks and Poles – a total of around 100 nationalities. Muslims dominate the religious landscape, but they are not radicals and their connection to the Muslim faith is loose. Christianity arrived to Kyrgyzstan in the early Middle Ages, when the nestorians got there. Their monasteries are still to be seen along the Silk Trail from China to Europe. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Franciscan missionaries started real evangelization work with local peoples. Most recently, Catholics arrived at the end of the 19th century – these were the Polish and German settlers. In the thirties and fourties of last century tens of thousands of Catholics were deported to Kyrgyzstan by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. The first legal parish was established in the sixties. At the end of the eighties Jesuits took over the care for Catholics in this country. Right now there are 13 missionaries and nuns in Kyrgyzstan.


Other than the Bikshek parish, missionaries are visiting about 30 Catholic gatherings that are spread around the country, each between a few and few tens of souls strong. The most distant one is in Dzalalabad and was visited by a priest only once per two months, because the road going through the mountains up to 16 000 feet high is pretty often impossible to pass. That was the reason that last year two new parish was open, with chapel, parish priest and sisters: in Dzalalabad and Talas. Parishioners are mostly Polish, but also Russian, German, Korean and native Kyrgyz. Most of them are elderly and very poor, but there is also quite a lot of young people and kids. In 2006 Pope Banedict XVI estabilished in Kyrgyzstan Apostolic Administration with Bishop Nikolaus Messmer – this should be a impuls for grow up Catholic Church in Kyrgyzstan.
Charity and missionary work

The most recent February – March 2005 revolution in Kyrgyzstan was caused primarily by poverty. Most citizens have no work and often they only eat what they can plant themselves in their gardens. Retirees are given approximately 5 to 10 $ per month, and 1$ will buy 10 small breads. Field workers, who spend 10 hours working hard in high heat, are paid 1$ per day. This pay is seen as decent. Lots of children are either homeless or working, instead of attending schools. There is no medical services outside cities, and in the cities all the healthcare has to be paid in full by the patient – there is no insurance system. Major problems besides poverty are: abuse of alcohol and destruction of family structure – both a legacy of 70 yearsof communism.

It therefore seems clear that charity is the major obligation of the Catholic Church in Kyrgyzstan. Material help coming from abroad, mostly from Germany, is distributed by us, missionaries, primarily among the sick, invalids, large families and lonely elderly people. We especially care about the houses for elderly or invalids. Each time we visit such a house, we try to bring a bread, an apple or a tomato. I have never before seen people eating bread with such hunger. Some of these old people have only one pair of clothes – the ones they wear all the time, so we do our best to deliver clothes from charity help from abroad. We show them religion-related movies, mostly animated since these are the easiest to understand, we tell them stories from the Holy Bible, sing and most of all, and if a priest is present we have a Holy Mass. For these poor people it is most important that they know someone who remembers them and likes them. In the houses for elderly even the smallest amount of time spent together, attention and common prayer has a great, special meaning.

Brother Damian Wojciechowski, SJ