Vladimir (Agenzia Fides) - "We are going on a pilgrimage to Kazakhstan to live a moment of personal and communal conversion, praying together with the Successor of Peter, in communion with him and with the universal Church. I and the other pilgrims hope that this trip will be for us a moment of transition from an old life to a new one, oriented even more towards the encounter with Jesus". This is how Fr. Sergij Zuev, parish priest of the Catholic parish of Vladimir and director of the Pilgrimage Office of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God, tells Agenzia Fides, his expectations for the pilgrimage of the group of Catholics from Russia who will join Pope Francis' apostolic journey in Kazakhstan, which takes place from September, 13 to 15. Led by Msgr. Paolo Pezzi, Archbishop of the Mother of God in Moscow, the Archdiocese covers an area of 2,629,000 km2 and includes about a hundred Catholic communities in Russia.
The group of 78 pilgrims leaves today, September 12, from Omsk, led by the Auxiliary Bishop of the Mother of God, Msgr. Nikolaj Dubinin, and will return to the Russian Federation on September 16. "After the pandemic, we once again have the opportunity to live for a few days together with believers from other countries - continues Fr. Sergij - and, especially in these times, it is a very important opportunity for us to meet. We hope to experience not only a personal conversion, but also to see the testimony of faith that others will offer us. It is also important that believers from other nations have the opportunity to meet us directly, because today we are talked about a lot, but it is always better to see with your own eyes and not just trust what you hear or abstract theories. I am sure that the meeting with believers from other communities, first of all those from Kazakhstan, will enrich us and they will have the opportunity to see the testimony that we too can give on our common journey towards Jesus the Savior".
There are many Catholics in Russia who, for various reasons, have not been able to participate in the pilgrimage, but Fr. Sergij has assured them of the closeness of the entire group: "We also carry in our hearts all the Catholics in Russia who have not been able to physically participate in the pilgrimage: we pray for them from now on and we will share with them everything beautiful and useful that we will experience on this journey. Jesus left us the task of announcing the Gospel and that is what we will do when we return home with those who will ask us how it went: we are the ears, the legs and the heart of those who will not be able to be physically close to Pope Francis during these days".
The program of the pilgrimage includes not only participation in moments of prayer and reflection with the Pope, but also meetings with the local clergy and faithful and a visit to KarLag, the acronym by which the Soviet Gulag of Karaganda is known, active from 1939 to 1959. "I am happy to have participated in the organization of pilgrimages for several years. I myself - says Fr. Sergij - began my path of conversion during a pilgrimage: I went to sell products at the VI World Youth Day in Czestochowa in 1991, with Pope John Paul II. I did not know who the Pope was and I was not interested in Christianity, but I wanted to sell products to pilgrims and buy a pair of jeans for myself, which were not available in Russia at the time. We try to organize pilgrimages especially within the Russian Federation, to the places where so many martyrs have given testimony of their faith to the full". (CD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 12/9/2022)