"This is a real Gothic structure which stirs a lot of interest. Many people are unaware that there is a Catholic priest in the city, as there is no real Catholic church; and when we get together at home people think we are some kind of a sect," the priest said. Before the arrival of the inflatable church local Catholics gathered in homes, hotel rooms or outdoors near rivers or lakes for Mass. Because the inflatable chapel is portable Fr. Kowal will be able to move it to suit the needs of his congregation in the winter months when the weather is often -40'C. I can only guess that there aren't many Catholics in the region, as the inflatable church appears to be tiny.
Clearly this isn't an ideal scenario - you can only imagine the potential for abuse in the wrong environment - but the various news reports about this consistently point to a local government unwilling to allow the construction of a Catholic church, simply because it is a Catholic church. This isn't an unusual situation in Russia -- two days before the inflatable chapel arrived in Kamchatka, a chapel boat carrying the relics of eight saints began a voyage down the Volga in an attempt to reach communities where there is no church. The chapel boat is an ecumenical project between the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church and carries the relics of John the Baptist, Anne, Bartholomew the Apostle, the martyrs Stephen and Lawrence, George, John Chrysostom and Cyril, the missionary to the Slav people, all of whom are important to both Churches. The relics are a gift from the Catholic Church to the Russian Orthodox Church, and the boat has been paid for by Aid to the Church in Need who help the persecuted church with both practical and spiritual aid. Help them to help priests like Father Kowal.
Hopefully the publicity generated by this story - and by Father Kowal's novel solution to bureaucratic intransigence - will encourage the authorities to allow the construction of a dignified, permanent church for the Catholics of the Kamchatka Peninsula. Things could be much worse -- and much more expensive: an inflatable church might not be your cup of tea, but at least it looks like a church unlike this