On the History of the Bishopric, Transfiguration
of the Lord
Zur Geschichte des Bistums, Verklaerung des Herrn
Rotzsche, Wolfgand J. "On the History of Bishopric, Transfiguration of the Lord." Volk auf dem Weg, October 2007, 18-19.
Translation from the original German to American English is
provided by Alex
Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
On April 13, 1991, an Apostolic Administration was established
Catholics of West Siberia, and Joseph Werth was appointed Apostolic
Administrator, with his headquarters in Novosibirsk.
Bishop Jospeh Werth
in Front of the Church Entrance
At the time, the Administrative Administration comprised the entire
portion of Russia, and the diocese was the world's geographically
diocese covering 13 million square kilometers [ca. 4.7 square miles],
with a mere three clerics. From many parts of the world, priests,
catechists would come to bring about the build-up of the Catholic
Church in Russia. Between 1992 and 1997 the Cathedral "Transfiguration
of the Lord" was erected in Novosibirsk. The building of the
modern church structure was essentially made possible by donations
from German Catholics.
On February 11, 2002 Pope John Paul II established four autonomous
dioceses, whereby the Catholic church structure was transformed
from a provisional one to a regular form. Today, the size of the
bishopric "Transfiguration of the Lord" is eleven times
that of all of Germany. It contains thirteen parishes that exist
for the care of 250,000 Catholics and other people - other sources
put this number at half a million. Caring for souls are 75 priests
and an equal number of nuns from religious orders. In the meantime,
local young people are entering those ranks. Every year, several
men from the diocese report as candidates for the priesthood and
enter the only seminary for priests in Russia in St. Petersburg,
which was established in 1993. A prerequisite for admission to the
seminary "Mary, Queen of the Apostles" is a two-year stint
in a pre-seminary. The supra-diocesan pre-seminary in Novosibirsk
was founded in 1993 and since 1997 is housed in a building next
to the Cathedral "Transfiguration of the Lord."
The history of the Church beyond the Urals began with the opening
up of Siberia in the year 1600. At the time, merchants, engineers,
officials, and workers came to Siberia. They were of Polish, Lithuanian,
and German nationality, and among them were many Catholics. Polish
and Lithuanian freedom fighters had been banished to Siberia by
the Tsars. With all their power, Catholics in Siberia insisted on
having their own parishes and building churches. In the Volga region,
it should be said, there already was a flowering church life. From
1763 on, Germans emigrated to get away from famine in Central Europe,
and they settled in the Volga region and adjacent to the Black Sea.
Soon villages, cities and, along with them, churches and communities,
were founded. A bishopric was established in Saratov.
Following the October Revolution of 1917, the Germans were dispossessed
and their churches were destroyed. More than a hundred priests were
exiled, killed, or, like their faithful, managed to get away to
Kazakhstan. In that area, however, even before the outbreak of the
Second World War, the final church was destroyed and the last priest
was shot. Gathering for prayer was forbidden. Any resistance was
punished with many years of imprisonment or even with death. The
faith was to be wiped out. Still, many remained steadfast in the
faith, gathered for private communal prayer in homes, celebrated
Holy Mass, even if these gatherings often resulted in arrests. Many
faithful did not see a priest for decades.
The Church "Transfiguration
of the Lord"
Only after glasnost and perestroika did it become possible for
people in Russia to confess their faith freely again and to gather
for communal prayer without fear. Numerous diocesanfacilities, initiatives,
and projects were created during the course of the years in the
bishopric "Transfiguration of the
Lord." Since 1994, INIGO, a center for clerical formation,
has existed. World-wide it is one of the numerically largest religious
centers of the Jesuits. The heaviest focus of the center rests on
cultural-scientific activities, on liturgy, and on spiritual, economical
and religious education.
In an effort to maintain contact between the bishop and the faithful,
Bishop Werth established the "Siberian Church Newspaper "
in 1995. It is published on a monthly basis, with a circulation
of about 5,000 copies. Since many of the faithful don't have a lot
of money, the monthly paper is offered free of charge. The paper
informs the people in the widely scattered communities on important
matters from the past and the present, current ecclesiastical happenings,
and positions regarding various topics. Hymns and prayers are also
During 1996 the Catholic Siberian Tele-studio TV KANA came into
existence. Its main task is the production of video journals in
which the life of the Catholic Church in Siberia and throughout
the world is depicted.
A further diocesan facility is the Catholic elementary school of
the Franciscans. The care of souls is carried out primarily by religious
order nuns on a local basis. They worry about the homeless, the
sick, the depressed and orphans. They do their work in schools,
kindergartens and, of course, in parishes. The Sisters of the Eucharist
view their man task in accompanying the building up of the Church
with catechesis and their active assistance of all matters in the
Church that are necessary but often not apparent to the outside
world. The Sisters of Mother Teresa have established a center for
the homeless. The Sisters of Elizabeth direct and take care of the
children's home "St. Nicholas" that was built in 1995.
To keep up the local work and to promote it further required great
financial means. In Russia there is no state support of the Church.
The population has been impoverished by the effects of economical
and political changes, making generous donations from them impossible.
The organization "Church in Need" has financed a large
number of projects during past years. Before the consecration of
the Cathedral "Transfiguration of the Lord" this assistance
project contributed 310,000 US dollars for the construction of the
church and the associated diocesan center. Every year "Church
in Need" supports the diocese of Bishop Joseph Werth in covering
During 2005 Bishop Joseph Werth, S.J., was elected president of
the Conference of Bishops in the Russian Federation. During the
previous year the Jesuit was an active participant at the Second
International Congress "Meeting Place of the Worldwide Church"
Wolfgang J. Rotzsche of "Kirche in Not" ["Church
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.