On the morning of September 21, Pope Francis dedicated the traditional general audience to the results of his apostolic visit to the Republic of Kazakhstan, during 13-15 September 2022. Addressing thousands of pilgrims in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square, the Bishop of Rome said, that Kazakhstan “placed religions at the center of efforts to create a world where they listen to and respect each other in diversity”, and that the Kazakh Government “now offers the path of a civilization that unites politics and religion, without mixing or separating them, unambiguously condemning fundamentalism and extremism. This is the balanced position of unity”.
The Pope added that “it must be recognized, already now, that Kazakhstan has made an extremely positive choice, for example, by renouncing nuclear weapons and pursuing virtuous energy and environmental policies. At a time when the current tragic war is making some people think of nuclear weapons, real madness, Kazakhstan has been saying no to nuclear weapons from the very beginning”.
Hereby is Pope Francis’ full speech on September 21 at the Vatican.
Gratitudes to President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
“Last week, from Tuesday to Thursday, I visited Kazakhstan, a huge country in Central Asia, on the occasion of the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. I once again express my gratitude to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and other authorities of Kazakhstan for the cordial welcome extended to me and for the generous diligence in its organization. I also sincerely thank the bishops and all the staff for the great work done and especially for the joy that it brought me the opportunity to meet with them and see them all together”.
“As I have already said, the main reason for the trip was participation in the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. This initiative has been implemented for twenty years by the authorities of the country, which appears before the world as a place of meeting and dialogue, in this case at the religious level, and thus as a protagonist in promoting peace and human brotherhood. It was the seventh congress in a row. The country with 30 years of independence has already held seven such congresses, every three years. In other words, it placed religions at the center of efforts to create a world where they listen to and respect each other in diversity”.
The Merit of The Kazakh Government
“This is not relativism, but the ability to listen and respect. This is the merit of the Kazakh government, which, having freed itself from the yoke of the atheistic regime, now offers the path of a civilization that unites politics and religion, without mixing or separating them, unambiguously condemning fundamentalism and extremism. This is the balanced position of unity”.
“The Congress discussed and approved the Final Declaration, which is successive to the Declaration on Human Fraternity signed in February 2019 in Abu Dhabi. I like to interpret this step forward as the fruit of a long journey: naturally, I think of the historic Interreligious Meeting for Peace convened in Assisi in 1986 by St. John Paul II, who was criticized by short-sighted people; I think of the foresight of Saints John XXIII and Paul VI, and of the great inspirers of other religions, to mention only Mahatma Gandhi”.
“But how can one not remember the numerous martyrs, men, and women of all ages, languages , and peoples, who paid with their lives for fidelity to the God of peace and brotherhood? We know that solemn moments are important, but it is daily commitments, it is concrete testimonies that build a better world for all”.
Building an Increasingly Mature Democracy
“In addition to the Congress, this trip gave me the opportunity to get acquainted with the authorities of Kazakhstan and the Church living on this earth. After visiting the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – whom I once again thank for his kindness – we went to the new Concert Hall, where I was able to communicate with the governors, representatives of civil society, and the diplomatic corps. I emphasized the vocation of Kazakhstan to be a meeting place: about one hundred and fifty ethnic groups coexist there, speaking more than eighty languages. This vocation, based on geography and history – a vocation to be a land of meetings, cultures, and languages - has been accepted and accepted as a path that deserves encouragement and support”.
“I also expressed my hope that we will continue to build an increasingly mature democracy capable of responding effectively to the needs of the entire society. This is not an easy task that takes time, but it must be recognized already now that Kazakhstan has made an extremely positive choice, for example, by renouncing nuclear weapons and pursuing virtuous energy and environmental policies. It was bold. At a time when the current tragic war is making some people think of nuclear weapons, real madness, Kazakhstan has been saying no to nuclear weapons from the very beginning”.
Glad to Meet Joyful Kazakh People
“As for the Church, I was glad to meet a community of happy, joyful, enthusiastic people. There are very few Catholics in this vast country. But their situation, taken in faith, can bear gospel fruit: first of all, it is about the blessedness of smallness, about being leaven, salt, and light, with trust in the Lord alone, and not in any form of human significance. Moreover, the small number encourages the development of relations with Christians of other denominations, as well as a brotherhood with all”.
“So, this is a small congregation, but it is open, not closed; opens up and trusts the work of the Holy Spirit, who breathes freely where and how He pleases. We remembered the martyrs of this holy People of God – who suffered for decades under atheistic oppression, until liberation 30 years ago – men and women, who suffered greatly for their faith during a long period of persecution. Killed, tortured, and thrown into prison for their faith”.
With this small but joyful flock, we celebrated the Eucharist in the capital city of Kazakhstan (Astana), on the territory of the EXPO-2017 exhibition complex, surrounded by cutting-edge architecture. It was the feast of the Holy Cross, and it makes us think: in a world where progress and regression are intertwined, the Cross of Christ always remains the anchor of salvation; a sign of hope that does not disappoint, because it is based on the love of God, merciful and faithful”