PEARL OF KAZAKHSTAN
Travel with Canon Benoit Jayr, ICKSP, on a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Kazakhstan and Ancient Nicaea! Discover a far and beautiful land, the birthplace of ancient civilizations. Once part of the Great Silk Road linking the East & West, Kazakhstan has great natural beauty and a deep religious patrimony! Pray the Holy Mass in the soaring new neo-Gothic cathedral of Karaganda, an epitaph to all who dared challenge atheism and a virtual catechism in stone! Visit the only Marian Shrine in Central Asia. Stop in Istanbul (Constantinople) and Iznik (ancient Nicaea).
Guests of His Excellency, Most Reverend Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan
Friday, June 2, 2023 –Evening flight departure from NY to Astana, Kazakhstan (with a connection in Istanbul).
Saturday – Late evening (early Sunday) arrival in Astana. Transfer to our hotel for check-in (3 nights).
Sunday – A day in the new capital city of Astana on the shores of the Ishim River in north-central Kazakhstan. Visit Our Mother of Perpetual Help Cathedral, home of the Archdiocese of Mary Most Holy, the seat of one of the four dioceses for Kazakhstan’s 250,000 Catholics. See Astana’s historic and cultural sights including the Bayterek Tower, symbolizing the folkloric legend of the golden egg in the tree of life, and the new Opera House.
Monday – Set out on an excursion southwest to visit the ALZHIR Memorial Museum remembering the tens of thousands of women and children held here between 1937 and 1953. It is remarkable that many of these women would have been offered a way out by betraying their husbands, but chose loyalty instead. Back in Astana, enjoy free time at Independence Square where one can visit the Nat’l Museum showcasing Kazakhstan’s history and its people, shop, and enjoy some traditional Kazakh food.
Tuesday – Morning check-out and departure on a scenic road trip northeast across the Steppe, a 500,000-mile wide stretch of dry grasslands with surprise patches of colorful wildflowers. Stop at the Parish of St. Anthony of Padua in Kokshetau. Evening arrival at Our Lady of Peace Guesthouse in Ozernoye (2 nights).
Wednesday – A day in Ozernoye, place of a miracle! In the late 1930s, under the Stalin-era purges, 250,000 men, women, and children from Poland were deported to Kazakhstan, many to this area. A famine spread during the winter of 1941. Desperate, the people clung to the Rosary. Heaven’s response came on March 25th, 1941 (Solemnity of the Assumption), when the temperatures rose unusually high, causing the snow to melt so fast that a three-mile lake formed, filled with enough fish to feed thousands, thus ending the famine! In 1990, a church was built over the site, drawing pilgrims from all parts of Central Asia. In 2011, the bishops declared it a national shrine, naming Holy Mary as Kazakhstan’s patroness and “Queen of martyrs.”
Thursday – Departure on a day’s drive from Ozernoye southwest to Karaganda by way of Borovoe Nature Reserve, a lush mountain region amidst the Steppe. Two nights in Karaganda.
Friday – Morning excursion to the KarLag Museum, on the site of the most far-reaching Soviet network of labor camps (the subject of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s epoch novel). Whole populations of ethnic groups were deported here from 1931 to 1959, the majority being Roman Catholics of Volga German descent and Poles from Ukraine. Afternoon visit to the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima, the first post-Soviet cathedral in Central Asia, built in response to the Angel of Portugal’s plea to the Fatima shepherd children for reparation. Inaugurated in 2012, its location at the heart of the former Gulag has tremendous meaning. Notable for its architectural balance incorporating Gothic and Classical design, its soaring height and timeless quality make it a “Catechism in Stone.” Bl. Władysław Bukowinski, Apostle of Kazakhstan, was beatified Here in 2017. In his memoir, one can read about his experiences in secret evangelization.
Saturday– Visit the Basilica of St. Joseph, one of the first parishes to receive official registration in 1977, with the stipulation that its exterior does not resemble a church, thus explaining its plain facade but glorious interior. See the Interdiocesan Seminary “Mary the Mother of the Church,” the only one in Central Asia. Afternoon drive to Astana for an overnight flight to Istanbul, Turkey.
Sunday – Morning arrival in Istanbul. Drive to the medieval lakeside town of Iznik (former Nicaea), the site of two ecumenical councils; the first (325 AD) gave us the creed that we pray at Holy Mass, summarizing the main principles of Christianity. Learn of the recently discovered archeological ruins of a 1600-year-old Byzantine basilica now submerged in the lake, believed to be the site where the first council took place. Overnight in Iznik.
Monday – Depart for Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, and even before that, Byzantium! Once the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, it is the only city in the world connecting two continents, Asia & Europe, with “three seas” flowing into its peninsula! Sail on the Bosphorus and visit Hagia Sofia, the most important church in Christendom for a thousand years. Now a mosque, its architecture still reflects the splendor of Christendom. Two nights in Istanbul.
Tuesday – Visit the Grand Bazaar (centuries-old center of spice trade), Topkapi Palace (ancient home of Ottoman sultans and keeper of the Golden Arm), and St. George’s Orthodox Cathedral (with significant relics of the most influential theologians of the early church).
Wednesday, June 14, 2023 – Early morning flight departure from Istanbul to NY JFK (via Zurich). Late morning. Mid-day arrival at NY JFK Airport.