Francis in Kazakhstan wants to “amplify” the people’s cry for peace

Francis in Kazakhstan wants to "amplify" the people's cry for peace

First meeting of his apostolic trip to Kazakhstan, Pope Francis met this Tuesday, September 13 with the authorities, representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps of the country. In his speech, he reminded this Central Asian nation of its vocation to be a “country of encounter”, where religious freedom and democracy at the service of the people reign, at a time when conflicts are multiplying all over the world. the world.

Adelaide Patrignani – Vatican City

Barely two hours after landing in Nur-Sultan, the Holy Father went to the Qazaq Concert Hall, a sort of auditorium with futuristic architecture in the Kazakh capital, for the first public meeting of his 38e apostolic journey.

It opened with a speech by the President of the Republic, Kassym-Jomart Tokaïev, with whom the Sovereign Pontiff had spoken in private shortly before at the Presidential Palace.

Then Pope Francis addressed the audience of authorities, representatives of civil society and members of the diplomatic corps.

From seclusion to inclusion

He first said he came to the country “as a pilgrim of peace, in search of dialogue and unity”, at a time when the world has an “urgent need” of“harmony”. The Holy Father then reminded Kazakhstan, having belonged to the USSR, of its contrasting history, made “of culture, humanity and suffering”. “How not to remember, in particular, the prison camps and the mass deportations which saw in the cities and in the endless steppes of these regions the oppression of so many populations? But the Kazakhs did not allow themselves to be imprisoned by these exactions: the care for inclusion blossomed from the memory of confinement.recognized François.

He hoped that Kazakhstan could rely on its past to put “in the foreground the dignity of man, of every man and of every ethnic, social, religious group”.

Healthy secularism encouraged

This land where nearly 150 ethnic groups live side by side and where more than 80 languages ​​are spoken constitutes a “unique multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-religious laboratory, revealing its particular vocation, that of being a country of encounter”, pointed out the Pope, who compared this to a “symphony”, referring to a traditional instrument, the dombra.

Francis also recalled the importance of secularism, enshrined in the constitution of Kazakhstan, and which implies “freedom of religion and belief”. He particularly encouraged a “healthy secularism, which recognizes the precious and irreplaceable role of religion and opposes the extremism that corrodes it”seeing it “an essential condition for treating each citizen fairly, as well as for fostering the feeling of belonging to the country on the part of all its ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious components”. Religious freedom, declared the Sovereign Pontiff, “constitutes the best cradle of civil coexistence”, major challenge of the Central Asian country.

Strengthen democracy

The Pope went on to mention “the recognition of rights, accompanied by duties” – in this he hailed the abolition of the death penalty in Kazakhstan – then “support for democracy, which is the most appropriate form for power to translate into service for the benefit of the whole people and not just a few”. This is also a crucial aspect in Kazakhstan, shaken at the start of 2022 by deadly riots which shattered its image of stability.

A “democratization process aimed at strengthening the powers of Parliament and local authorities and, more generally, a better distribution of power, has been initiated” in recent months, François pointed out. “It is a meritorious and demanding route, certainly long, which requires persevering towards the goal without turning back” he admitted, asking that “the promises are not instrumentalised”, but “effectively implemented”. “Everywhere, democracy and modernization must not be reduced to proclamations, but converge towards a concrete service of the people”, insisted the Sovereign Pontiff, because democracy “is the most effective response to possible extremism, personalism and populism, which threaten the stability and well-being of peoples”.

The Pope was also concerned about a “widespread injustice” in the distribution of energy resources around the world.

Spokesperson for those who ask for peace

Finally, he addressed the geopolitical role of Kazakhstan, a crossroads country that can contribute to “conflict mitigation”. “I wish that the name of this great country will continue to be synonymous with harmony and peace”he said, denouncing “the mad and tragic war caused by the invasion of Ukraine, while other confrontations and threats of conflicts threaten our time. I come to amplify the cry of so many people who implore peace, an essential path to development for our globalized world.declared the Sovereign Pontiff.

François pleaded for more dialogue and awareness of collective interests. “We need leaders who, at the international level, allow peoples to understand each other and dialogue, and engender a new ‘spirit of Helsinki’, the will to strengthen multilateralism, to build a more stable and peaceful world by thinking to new generations. And to do this, we need understanding, patience and dialogue with everyone,” he insisted.

The Holy Father praised Kazakhstan’s renunciation of nuclear weapons, as well as its attention to interreligious dialogue. He finally assured President Tokayev “that Catholics, present in Central Asia since ancient times, wish to continue to bear witness to the spirit of openness and respectful dialogue which distinguishes this land”.

On Wednesday, September 14, Pope Francis will speak at the opening of the plenary session of the VIIe Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, before celebrating a mass in the afternoon. About a hundred delegations from 50 countries take part in this Congress for two days.


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