Pope heads to Kazakhstan Interfaith Congress without Patriarch | WGN Radio 720

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis hoped this week’s visit to Kazakhstan would provide an opportunity to meet with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, which justified the war in Ukraine, and plead for peace. The Bishop bowed a few weeks ago, but Francis is going ahead with the trip despite the shadow of the Seven Months’ War in Russia.

Francis will travel to the Muslim-majority former Soviet republic on Tuesday to serve a small Catholic community and attend a World Religious Leaders’ Conference hosted by Kazakhstan. While the conference’s original goal was to foster interfaith dialogue in a post-pandemic world, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a more direct means of bringing peace to a united voice of religious leaders around the world. gave a purpose.

“This will be an opportunity to meet so many religious representatives and engage in fraternal dialogue, energized by the common desire for peace, the peace our world longs for,” said Francis. spoke to thousands in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.

In a way, Kirill’s absence will make life easier for all involved.Kazakhstan has Muslims, Christians, and Muslims from 50 countries overshadowed by the headline-grabbing photoshoot between the Pope and the Patriarch. Not having a showcase gathering of Buddhist, Shinto and Jewish leaders… Francis must explain to Ukraine why Francis met with ideological supporters of the Russian War before visiting Kyiv. And Kirill is embarrassed to be present when the world conference of imams, rabbis, ministers and popes releases the much-anticipated final statement condemning the war. will avoid

But for Kazakhstan’s Catholic leadership, Kirill’s absence is a missed opportunity.

Bishop Adelio Deloro of the Kazakh Diocese of Karaganda said, “Personally, I am heartbroken.” I think it has been a notable contribution to the peace process of manifestation, so I am disappointed, but you have to accept it.”

The Interfaith Congress is an important triennial event for Kazakhstan, which borders Russia to the north and China to the east, and is home to about 130 ethnic groups. It is a showpiece of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy and a reflection of the country’s multicultural and multiethnic population. It has long been touted as the crossroads of East and West.

“Kazakhstan can actually say that dialogue is not a formal slogan but a brand of Kazakhstan,” said Monsignor Piotr Pitrowani, spokesman for the Kazakh Bishops Conference. “Kazakhstan wants to share dialogue not only during this conference but also after it, and it wants to offer dialogue as one of the possible ways to solve the various difficulties facing the world today. thinking about.”

When St. John Paul II visited in 2001, ten years after independence, he emphasized Kazakhstan’s diversity while recalling its dark past under Stalinist oppression. During World War II, it deported hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans, Chechens, and other accused Nazi collaborators to Kazakhstan. Many descendants of the deportees remain, some of whom make up the Catholic community in a country of only about 125,000 people in a country of about 19 million people.

Bishops in Kazakhstan asked Francis to visit former Soviet camps during a three-day visit, but the 85-year-old pope declined due to strained knee ligaments, requiring a wheelchair and a cane to move. had to use.

His program includes time for personal meetings with religious leaders attending the conference. The Vatican has not released a list, but expected attendees include Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the seat of Sunni study in Cairo.

One visitor not currently on his agenda: Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to Kazakhstan on his first foreign visit since the coronavirus pandemic. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said there were no meetings scheduled at this time, and said Xi was not attending a religious congress. China and the Holy See have cut off diplomatic relations for more than half a century.

Francis has repeatedly condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine as an unjustified “violent attack”, expressed solidarity with the “martyrred” Ukrainian people, and sent individuals to Ukraine to provide humanitarian and moral aid. sent a special envoy. At the same time, he has refrained from calling Russia or President Vladimir Putin by name, trying to maintain a path of dialogue with Moscow, in keeping with the Vatican’s diplomatic tradition of not taking sides in a conflict.

Kirill justifies Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on spiritual and ideological grounds, calling it a “metaphysical” battle with the West. He congratulated the Russian soldiers who took part in the battle and evoked the idea that Russians and Ukrainians are one.

The Kazakh parliament should have provided a neutral place and, coincidentally, the pretext for a second meeting, and both Cyril and Francis were the first to confirm their presence. withdrew. A former Vatican ambassador to Moscow has suggested that dissatisfaction within the Russian Orthodox hierarchy may have influenced Kirill’s decision.

Perhaps they saw the writing on the wall. Just last week, the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches, a fellowship of more than 350 churches representing more than 500 million Christians worldwide, condemned what it called an “illegal and unjust” aggression and called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops. Requested from Ukraine.

The WCC’s member Russian Orthodox Church refused to vote for a “politicized” declaration, complaining of what it called “unprecedented pressure” on its members to denounce Moscow and the Russian Church.

Kazakhstan, on the other hand, had to walk a narrow path with the war. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has vowed to respect Western sanctions against Russia while seeking to maintain close ties with Moscow, an important economic partner and his ally. At the same time, Tokayev refused to recognize the Russian-backed Ukrainian separatist “People’s Republic.” This was approved by Moscow days before the invasion of Ukraine.

Had Francis and Kirill met, Kazakhstan might have emerged as a mediator, but he said, “Kazakhstan was seen as a country embroiled in the Ukraine crisis, so it might be better if this didn’t happen. Kazakhstan wants to do it now,” said Temur Umarov, an expert on Central Asia and a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


Manenkov reported from Nursultan, Kazakhstan. Pope heads to Kazakhstan Interfaith Congress without Patriarch | WGN Radio 720

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