The Vatican has elevated St. Joseph Church in Kazakhstan to the status of a minor basilica. The honor marks the installation of the first minor basilica in Central Asia, a region that includes Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan.
Catholic News Agency reports that St. Joseph’s Basilica was constructed in the 1970s while Kazakhstan was a territory of the Soviet Union, at the request of Catholics in exile. The church was approved in 1977 and dedicated in 1980, at which point it became a focal point for the country’s Catholic community. The parish church became the cathedral of the Diocese of Karaganda in 1999.
Fr. Vladimir Dzurenda, the current rector of the Minor Basilica of St. Joseph, spoke with CNA about the significance of St. Joseph’s to the people of Kazakhstan. He said:
“The parish of St. Joseph was one of the few churches that was allowed to be built in the 70s in Kazakhstan when it was part of the Soviet Union.” Dzurenda continued, “During communism, people came here, traveled many kilometers to receive the sacraments and spiritual support. In the 80s, the largest community of Catholics in Central Asia was formed here.”
According to Aleteia’s own Philip Kosloski, a church can only be named a minor basilica if it demonstrates great beauty and historical significance to the Catholic community which it serves. Philip writes:
Being named a basilica by the pope brings certain “privileges” to the church, such as “conferring a certain precedence before other churches (not, however, before the cathedral of any locality) … the right of the conopaeum [and] the bell. The conopaeum is a sort of umbrella (also called papilio, sinicchio, etc.), which together with the bell” was used in processions for official occasions.