Catholic diocesan center opens in Siberia

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Bishop Alexander Chira diocesan center in Novosibirsk, Russia. Credit: ACN

A new diocesan center has opened in Novosibirsk, Siberia to serve as a space for church activities, classes and ministry.

“The new diocesan center is a place of pastoral care and togetherness,” Bishop Joseph Werth of Novosibirsk said. “Especially here in Siberia, it is important for the faithful to feel the presence of the Church.”

Bishop Werth and Archbishop Ivan Jurkovitch, the apostolic nuncio to Russia, inaugurated the building on Nov. 8 together with the Catholic bishops of Moscow, Saratov and Irkutsk.

The building is directly next to the city’s Catholic cathedral and has a floor area of 23,680 sq ft.

Archbishop Jurkovitch called the diocesan center “a gift to the City of Novosibirsk,” Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need reported.

The Orthodox Archbishop of Novosibirsk sent his best wishes for the inauguration, while city representatives brought flowers. Neithart Höfer-Wissing, the German consul general in Novosibirsk, also attended the event.

Aid to the Church in Need was a major supporter of the building project. Its country officer for Russia, Peter Humeniuk, represented the organization at the opening.

The cathedral, only slightly over a decade old, and its adjacent buildings no longer had enough space for church activities. The new complex houses diocesan administration, community and seminar rooms as well as a hall for large-scale events.

The new building is named for Bishop Alexander Chira, whom many Christians consider to be a martyr. He selflessly endured persecution and oppression and gave strength to the faithful through his courageous witness.

Under Soviet persecution, Bishop Chira was forced to spend years in prison camps, including in Novosibirsk.

Although he knew the consequences, he consented to be consecrated bishop in 1945. Shortly after, he was arrested and interned. He was deported to Kazakhstan in 1957.

For more than two decades he worked as a simple pastor for Russian-German Catholics and others. The bishop died in 1983.

The new pastoral center cost over $5.15 million. Aid to the Church in Need contributed $678,000.

The Catholic Diocese of Novosibirsk covers over 770,000 square miles and has more than 25 million inhabitants, though only several hundred thousand are Catholic.

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