In his final remarks in Kazakhstan on Thursday, Pope Francis said inter-religious dialogue is an urgently needed path to peace.
“The path of inter-religious dialogue is a shared path to peace and for peace; as such, it is necessary and irrevocable,” he said Sept. 15 at the closing ceremony of the Seventh Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in the capital city of Nur-Sultan.
“Inter-religious dialogue is no longer merely something expedient,” he continued, “it is an urgently-needed and incomparable service to humanity, to the praise and glory of the Creator of all.”
Pope Francis spoke at the Palace of Independence following the announcement of the final document of the three-day inter-religious summit, a declaration. The next congress will take place in Kazakhstan in 2025.
The pope said in his remarks that the world’s great religious traditions should give witness to the shared spiritual and moral patrimony of transcendence and fraternity.
“Transcendence, the Beyond, worship. It is impressive that each day millions and millions of men and women, of different ages, cultures, and social conditions join together in prayer in countless places of worship. This is the hidden force that makes our world move forward,” he said.
“And then fraternity, the other, proximity,” he added. “For one cannot profess genuine fidelity to the Creator without showing love for his creatures. This is the spirit that pervades the Declaration of our Congress.”
During his Sept. 13–15 visit to the Central Asian country, Pope Francis met with political and civil leaders of Kazakhstan, religious leaders, Jesuits of the province of Russia, and Catholic priests, religious sisters, and missionaries living in Kazakhstan.
He also celebrated Mass for the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on Sept. 14 for the country’s small Catholic community, which makes up less than 1% of the population.
Kazakhstan is a majority-Muslim country home to an ethnically diverse minority of Catholics — an estimated 125,000 out of the Central Asian country’s population of 19 million.
On Sept. 15, Pope Francis also blessed an icon depicting Mary and the Child Jesus as native Kazakhs, entrusting the Church in Kazakhstan and all of Central Asia to Our Lady.
The triptych — or three-part artwork — depicting the Kazakh-faced Mother of God and Child is known as “The Mother of the Great Steppe.”
In his final speech of the trip on Thursday, Pope Francis said the good of humanity needs to come before other political, economic, and military objectives.
“Pope John Paul II, who visited Kazakhstan 21 years ago this very month, stated that ‘for the Church all ways lead to man’ and that man is ‘the way for the Church,’” Pope Francis said, quoting paragraph 14 of “Redemptor Hominis.”
“I would like to say that today man is also the way for all the religions,” he said. “Yes, man, men and women, concrete human beings, weakened by the pandemic, worn out by war, wounded by indifference. Human beings, frail and marvelous creatures, who, ‘once God is forgotten, are left in darkness’ and apart from others cannot survive.”
“The good of humanity should be taken into consideration ahead of strategic and economic objectives, national, energy and military interests, and in advance of crucial decisions,” he said.
The pope noted that the Catholic Church, “which tirelessly proclaims the inviolable dignity of each person, created ‘in the image of God,’ also believes in the unity of the human family.”
Quoting from “Nostra aetate,” a declaration of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis said: “The Church believes that all ‘humanity forms but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock that God created to people the entire earth, and because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all mankind.’”