Reflecting on his recent trip to Kazakhstan, Pope Francis on Wednesday said that offering Mass for the feast of the Holy Cross surrounded by the capital city of Nur-Sultan’s “ultra-modern architecture” led him to think about the meaning of the cross today.
“In a world in which progress and regression are intertwined, the cross of Christ remains the anchor of salvation,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 21.
Speaking at his Wednesday general audience, the pope underlined that the cross is “a sign of hope that does not disappoint because it is founded on the love of God, merciful and faithful.”
Pope Francis said his Sept. 13–15 visit to the Central Asian country reminded him of Kazakhstan’s many martyrs who “suffered so much for the faith during the long period of persecution: murdered, tortured, imprisoned for the faith.”
“And credit … must be given to the Kazakh government, which, having freed itself from the yoke of the atheistic regime, now proposes a path of civilization clearly condemning fundamentalism and extremism,” he said.
The primary purpose of the pope’s trip to Kazakhstan was to take part in an interreligious conference, the Seventh Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.
On the final day of the congress, delegates representing the world’s major religions voted to adopt a declaration calling religious pluralism an expression “of the wisdom of God’s will in creation.”
Pope Francis said that the congress aimed to put “religions at the center of efforts to build a world where we listen to each other and respect each other in diversity.”
“And this is not relativism,” he added. “It is listening and respecting.”
Throughout his trip last week, the pope repeatedly appealed for dialogue and peace in the “senseless and tragic war” in Ukraine. At the end of his general audience, the pope repeated his appeal, expressing solidarity with the “noble and martyred” Ukrainian people.
The pope said this envoy in Ukraine, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, called him yesterday and described “the pain of the people, the savage actions, the monstrosities, and the tortured corpses that had been found.”
He was likely referring to Krajewski’s recent visit to a mass grave in Izium, Ukraine, where 146 bodies, mostly civilians, have been exhumed so far.
Pope Francis also highlighted World Alzheimer’s Day, noting that the disease “affects so many people who, because of this condition, are often placed on the margins of society.”
“We pray for Alzheimer’s patients, their families, and their loving caregivers, that they will be increasingly supported and helped,” he said.