| Bishkek, First Bishop Installed as Head
of Local Church
"Bishkek, First Bishop Installed as Head of Local Church." Asia News, 7 July 2006.
With two decrees dated March 18, Pope Benedict XVI elevated Kyrgyzstan
an apostolic administration and appointed the Jesuit father Nikolaus
Messmer as its bishop-administrator.
Bishkek (AsiaNews/UCAN) - The former parish priest of the only
Kyrgyzstan has returned as the first bishop of the Kyrgyz Church.
2, Jesuit Father Alexander Kan, head of the former sui iuris
(self-governing) mission of Kyrgyzstan, turned over his duties to
Bishop Nikolaus Messmer, the new apostolic administrator. The Church
this Central Asian country was elevated to an apostolic administration
March 18, 2006.
From 1989 to 1997, then-Father Messmer served as parish priest
Michael the Archangel Church in Bishkek, after which he was reassigned
rector of a minor seminary in eastern Russia.
Among guests and concelebrants at his July 2 installation were
Jozef Wesolowski, apostolic nuncio to Kyrgyzstan, and Bishop Jerzy
Maculewicz, apostolic administrator of Uzbekistan. Also present
prelates from Kazakhstan -- Bishop Henry Theophilus Howaniec of
Archbishop Jan Pawel Lenga, bishop of Karaganda, and Auxiliary Bishop
Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda.
The Apostolic Administration of Kazakhstan and Central Asia was
established in 1991, when the former Soviet republics of Central
became independent countries with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
1997, sui iuris missions were erected for Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Archbishop Wesolowski serves as nuncio
these countries except Turkmenistan. He is also nuncio to Kazakhstan,
where the local Church now comprises an archdiocese, two dioceses
At the beginning of the installation Mass, Father Kan read out
dated March 18, 2006, with which Pope Benedict XVI elevated Kyrgyzstan
an apostolic administration and appointed Father Messmer, 51, its
bishop-administrator. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo
ordained Father Messmer a bishop on June 2 at the Vatican.
At the installation Mass in Bishkek, Father Kan expressed his wish
Bishop Messmer's "faith, hope and love" of will support
Archbishop Lenga, who was apostolic administrator of Kazakhstan
Central Asia 1991-1997, praised Church growth in Kyrgyzstan. "I
it was not useless to build and enlarge the church as there is now
Bishop Maculewicz expressed his hope for more cooperation between
Churches in Central Asia for the common good.
Bishop Messmer was born in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, in 1954 to an
German Catholic family. In 1975 he joined the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
Following his ordination as a priest in 1989, he was assigned to
From 1997 until 2001, and again from 2004 until his recent appointment,
served as rector of the minor seminary in Novosibirsk, Russia. For
three intervening years he studied spirituality at Gregorian University
At his installation, the bishop thanked his parents for bringing
children as "dignified Catholics." All three of his brothers
two of them Jesuits, and his three sisters are nuns.
St. Michael the Archangel, the only Catholic church in Kyrgyzstan,
built in 1969 by ethnic Germans. They had been in Central Asia since
Soviet leader Josef Stalin ordered their forced relocation from
Volga region in the 1930s and 1940s, along with Poles, Lithuanians
Koreans from several parts of the former Soviet Union.
The church was built as a one-story building in order not to be
conspicuous among private houses. In 1981 the community built a
floor to accommodate more churchgoers.
The new apostolic administration has three parishes as well as
Catholic communities of about 30 villagers each spread across the
Priests visit these communities during the week. Six Jesuit and
diocesan priests offer pastoral care while Franciscan nuns provide
medical, legal and other help.
Kyrgyzstan has about 5 million people, 75 percent of them Muslims
close to 20 percent members of the Russian Orthodox Church.