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Apostolic journey: Why did His Holiness visited Kazakhstan

Pope Francis in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

By H.E. Mr. Askar Zhumagaliyev, Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of the Netherlands

On September 13 at 17:45 plane of His Holiness landed at the Nur-Sultan international airport. The President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev personally met Pope Francis.

During the meeting ceremony, the heads of state introduced the members of the delegations of the two countries to each other, then the leader of Kazakhstan and the Head of the Catholic Church had a brief conversation in the Fireplace Hall of the presidential terminal. Right after the cortege of the distinguished guest went to the residence palace – Akorda.

Pope Francis and the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

His Holiness came to Kazakhstan to take part in the «VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions». The event has been running since 2003. The idea of ​​the Congress was first voiced during the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Kazakhstan on September 22-25, 2001.

The head of the Catholic Church visited Kazakhstan shortly after the events of September 11, 2001, which brought extremism and terrorism to the forefront of the international agenda.

Welcoming Pope Francis at the Presidential Palace, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.

Humanity is faced with the threat of an intercivilizational split. It was at that moment that Kazakhstan initiated a forum of spiritual leaders, which was supported by authoritative religious and political figures.

The six congresses held since then have become one of the largest international events in the history of independent Kazakhstan and have played an important role in the global discourse.

The topic of this year’s Congress: «The role of leaders of world and traditional religions in the spiritual and social development of mankind in the post-pandemic period». The theme of the event was not chosen randomly.

«The spread of the coronavirus has significantly affected all spheres of life – economy, politics, and social relations. Unfortunately, the global health care system was not prepared to effectively cope with this global challenge. The crisis hit developing economies hardest, reinforcing poverty and inequality, accelerating global inflation. We are faced once again with food shortages in the least developed regions of the world.

Metropolitan of Astana and Kazakhstan Alexander, during the congress in Nur-Sultan.

At the same time, geopolitical confrontation between major powers has intensified, increasing tensions in different parts of the world. The previous system of international security is collapsing. Extremism and terrorism remain serious threats. The sanctions-induced energy crisis threatens the achievement of carbon neutrality we had just set», said the President of Kazakhstan during his speech at the opening ceremony.

This is «not a goal we can afford to ignore». Kassym-Jomart Tokayev stressed that Kazakhstan has always favored solving any disputes exclusively at the negotiating table in the spirit of the UN Charter and as the Chairman of CICA will continue to strengthen the dialogue with international and regional organizations and forums in accordance with the Regulations on External Relations.

«VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions»

Threats, sanctions, and the use of force do not solve problems.

«At such moments we must turn to humanistic ideals», he added.

His Holiness supported the point of President’s view.

«Kazakhstan represents a significant geopolitical crossroads, and so it has a fundamental role to play in lessening cases of conflict», said His Holiness. «A lot of ethnic groups make Kazakhstan a unique multiethnic, multicultural and multi-religious laboratory and disclose its particular vocation, that of being a country of encounter», underlined Pope Francis.

His Holiness paid his special attention the Kazakh musical instrument – the dombra. He referred to the dombra as a symbol between «two parallel strings».

«The dombra is played by plucking its two cords. Kazakhstan is known for its capacity to keep creating harmony between “two parallel strings”: temperatures that are as frigid in winter as they are torrid in summer; and between tradition and progress, as symbolized by the encounter between historic cities and modern cities like this capital. Above all, in this country we can hear the “notes” of two souls, Asiatic and European, which give it a permanent “mission of linking two continents” of being “a bridge», said the Pope.

His Holiness raised his hope that the name of Kazakhstan may continue to be a synonym of harmony and peace.

These two words – harmony and peace – are the things that our world need right now more than ever.

His Holiness Pope Francis and President Tokayev.

His Holiness demonstrated the deep understanding and knowledge of Kazakh history and culture by quoting the words of great Kazakh poet and thinker Abay Kunanbayev.

«Yesterday I spoke using the image of the dombra; today I would like to associate a voice to that musical instrument: that of the country’s most renowned poet and the father of its modern literature, an educator and composer often portrayed with the dombra. Abay (1845-1904), as he is popularly known, has left us writings that are steeped in religious devotion and reflect the noble soul of this people: its sage discernment, its yearning for a peace found through humble questioning, and its pursuit of a genuinely humane wisdom, never closed-minded but open to being inspired by a variety of experiences. Abay challenges us by asking a timeless question: “What is the beauty of life, if one does not go deep?” (Poems, 1898)», cited Pope Francis the words of Abay Kunanbayev.

Pope Francis and President Tokayev, during one of their meetings in Nur-Sultan.

Another poet, pondering the meaning of life, mentioned The Pope, «placed on the lips of a shepherd in these vast lands of Asia an equally essential question: “Where will this, my brief wandering, lead?” (G. LEOPARDI, Canto notturno di un pastore errante dell’Asia).

«Questions like these point to humanity’s need for religion; they remind us that we human beings do not exist so much to satisfy earthly interests or to weave purely economic relationships, as to walk together, as wayfarers, with our eyes raised to the heavens. We need to make sense of the ultimate questions, to cultivate a spirituality; we need, as Abay says, to keep “the soul alive and the mind clear” (Book of Words, Word 6)», said HisHoliness.

After the panel session at the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions Pope Francis held a Holy Mass.

About 100 delegations took part in the congress.

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