ASIA/KAZAKHSTAN – The Bishop of Almaty: “We would be happy to welcome Francis, twenty years after the visit of John Paul II”

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Almaty – “We are grateful to the government of Kazakhstan for having invited Pope Francis to the next Congress of the leaders of world and traditional religions. We do not yet know if the Pontiff will be there, but the mere possibility fills us with enthusiasm: twenty years after John Paul II’s visit to Kazakhstan, we would be ready to welcome the Pope and show him the beauty of the Catholic community in this country. The conditions for this to happen are good: first of all, there is a lot of closeness between the values of dialogue promoted by both Francis and Congress. We also know how attentive the Holy Father is to peripheral churches, like ours”. This is what Mgr. José Luis Mumbiela Sierra, Bishop of the Holy Trinity in Almaty and president of the Episcopal Conference of Kazakhstan, says to Fides. On November 6, during an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, the President of the Senate of Kazakhstan, Maulen Ashimbayev, invited Pope Francis to take part in the next Congress of the leaders of world and traditional religions, to be held in Nursultan in October, 2022. The President of the Senate thanked the Holy See for the support to the initiative already shown in past years. Pope Francis, as reported by Ashimbayev himself on the sidelines of the audience, underlined the importance of this initiative and highlighted the fundamental role of Kazakhstan in promoting interreligious dialogue in Asia and in the world.
The First Congress of Traditional World and National Religions was convened by former President Nazarbaiev in Astana on 23 and 24 September 2003. On that occasion, delegates sent from 17 religious and confessional realities and institutions from all over the world met with the goal to relaunch the themes of dialogue and religious freedom from the heart of Central Asia, an area close to the epicenter of the ethnic-religious conflicts that followed September 11, 2001.
That Congress, from the programmatic declarations of the organizers, had as its model the “Day of Prayer for Peace” in the world convened in Assisi by John Paul II on January 24, 2002, to reaffirm the positive contribution of the various religious traditions to dialogue and harmony between peoples and nations.
The goal of the next Congress is to discuss the role of leaders of world and traditional religions in the social and spiritual development of humanity in the post-pandemic period. Indeed, according to Maulen Ashimbaev, religious leaders can make a decisive contribution to understanding the lessons of the pandemic and fighting its consequences.