In the Redemptorist parish in Togliatti, in the European part of Russia, a church under the name of St. John Paul II was consecrated. This was done on 24 October 2021 by the Ordinary of the Saratov diocese of St. Clemens, Bishop Clemens Pickel. The church in the parish of Our Lady of Fatima in Togliatti is the first Catholic temple on the territory of the Russian Federation to have St. John Paul II as its patron saint. The ceremony was attended by the Polish Ambassador to Russia, Krzysztof Krajewski.
Construction took more than 10 years and was financed from various sources thanks to the efforts of the Diocese of Saratov, the Warsaw Province of the Redemptorists, and donations from local believers. The Ambassador of Poland to Russia, Krzysztof Krajewski, who participated in the ceremony, said that the consecration of the church under the dedicated to St. John Paul II is an unusual event, an important symbol for Catholics living in Russia, and for Poles.
The consecration of the church was also attended by priests and faithful from the deanery and the whole diocese, which covers the southern part of Russia. The relics of the blessed martyrs from Novogrudok – Sister Maria Stella and ten companions from the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth – were placed in the altar.
Father Zenon Gieniec, C.Ss.R., who is ministering in Togliatti, explained that the choice of St. John Paul II as the patron of the church is to emphasize the connection of the Polish Pope’s pontificate with the Fatima apparitions, which concerned Russia. He said that this idea was reflected in the architecture of the church’s interior. In the central part behind the altar, there is a cross, next to which two bas-reliefs are placed. One depicts Our Lady of Fatima surrounded by children, while the other shows St John Paul II.
One of the church’s bells – “Most Holy Redeemer” – was founded in 2015 by the Warsaw Province of the Redemptorists as a votive offering for the gift of vocations to the Congregation.
The city of Togliatti was founded in 1737 as a fortress to defend the southern borders of the Russian lands and was called Stavropol on the Volga until 1964. It is a city of over 700,000 people on the left bank of the Volga. In the 1950s the city was moved to higher ground due to the construction of a dam and a hydroelectric power station. Since 1964, the city has borne the name of the Italian communist Palmiro Togliatti, and it was then that the development of the automobile industry began, producing cars of the brand Lada, as well as Renault.
The rapid development of the industry resulted in a large influx of people from the former Soviet republics. Among the job seekers were also Catholics, among them of Polish origin. After perestroika in the early 1990s they asked the Polish Primate Cardinal Józef Glemp to send a priest to Togliatti. The request was passed on to bishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, then apostolic administrator for Roman Catholics of the European rite in Russia, who asked a parish priest from Samara, 100 km away from Togliatti, to give pastoral care to local Catholics.
In 1998 a wooden chapel brought from Germany, a gift from German Catholics, was assembled in Togliatti, where the Eucharist was celebrated until July 2021. This chapel was recently demolished so that work could continue around the new church under construction.
Polish Redemptorists began their ministry in Togliatti in 2004. During the years several confreres were ministering in the parish. In 2008 preparations for the construction of the church began. In 2009, the city administration allocated land and design work was initiated. On 20 May 2012, Bishop Clemens Pickel blessed the construction site of the church dedicated to Blessed Pope John Paul II – now a saint. On 27 April 2014 – on the day of the canonisation of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII – the ceremony of laying the foundation stone into the walls of the temple under construction took place, and the consecration of the church took place on 24 October 2021.
Courtesy: www.redemptor.pl (edited)
Photo: Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Togliatti, Russia