Karaganda (Agenzia Fides) - "There are no words to express the joy of the entire Catholic community in Kazakhstan at the visit of Pope Francis to our country. What pleases us the most is the fact that even the non-Catholic citizens of the country received the news of the planned trip of the Holy Father with great enthusiasm.The first positive sign is that the authorities of Karaganda have offered to help us organize the trip from our city to Nursultan, where the Pope will spend his three-day stay. The second positive sign is that we see many journalists on the streets asking ordinary people what they think of Francis' visit and the answer is that they are all very happy that such an important man of God visits the Kazakh people". This is what Mgr. Yevgeniy Zinkovskiy, Auxiliary Bishop of Karaganda and first native prelate of Kazakhstan, told Fides about the Pope's visit to the Central Asian country.
The reason for the trip is the 7th Congress of Representatives of World Religions and Traditional Religions, which will take place on September 14th and 15th, 2022 in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan. According to the Holy See's official program, Francis will arrive in Kazakhstan on the afternoon of September 13. There he will be received by the country's authorities and will deliver the first of his five official
speeches. In the following days, the Pope will take part in the workings of the Congress, with moments dedicated to the local Catholic community and a Holy Mass in Expo Square, as well as a meeting with Bishops, religious, seminarians and pastoral collaborators, the will take place in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
"We had hoped that the Pope could also visit Karaganda, but this is not possible due to his health condition. However, we are very happy that he will come to our country and celebrate a Mass for all of God's people. We invite everyone, to take part in the meeting and we are waiting for our Pope to tell us what we can do for the Church and the local society", concludes Msgr. Zinkovskiy.
The official invitation to Kazakhstan for Pope Francis was extended by Kazakh Senate President Maulen Ashimbayev on November 6 during a papal audience at the Vatican. On this occasion, the President of the Senate thanked the Holy See for the support it had shown over the past few years.
The First Congress of Representatives of World and Traditional Religions was convened by former President Nazarbayev on September 23-24, 2003 in Astana (now Nur-Sultan). On this occasion, delegates from 17 religious and sectarian bodies and institutions from around the world met with the aim of reviving dialogue and religious freedom in the heart of Central Asia, an area located near the epicenter of ethno-religious conflicts after 9/11 September 2001. The Congress is inspired by the program statements of the organizers of the "Day of Prayer for Peace" in the world convened by John Paul II on January 24, 2002 in Assisi to highlight the contribution of the different religious traditions to dialogue and understanding between peoples and nations. (LF/PA) (Agenzia Fides, 8/8/2022)