A futuristic Nursultan ready to welcome Pope Francis to Kazakhstan
As Pope Francis prepares to leave for Kazakhstan on Tuesday, our correspondent in Nursultan talks about his forthcoming participation in the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, as well as the great joy of the small Catholic community to receive the Saint -Dad .
By Deborah Castellano Lubov – Nur-Sultan
Catholics and non-Catholics in the huge Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan are preparing and looking forward to welcoming Pope Francis to their country on Tuesday.
Pope Francis will begin his 38th apostolic visit abroad, marking his 57th country visited and his fourth apostolic trip since the start of the year.
Work day and night
“They worked day and night,” the father said. Pawel, a Franciscan priest, told Vatican News during a visit to the pavilion where the Holy Father’s Mass will be held for Catholics in the country, but not only Catholics will attend.
According to the rector of the cathedral where the pope will meet bishops, clergy, religious and vocations on Thursday, not only Catholics are eagerly awaiting Mass, but even Kazakhs of other faiths.
For some non-Catholics, Pope Francis is like a father
He says even some Muslims will be there.
Joy for the arrival of the Pope
This peaceful coexistence between religions and ethnicities in the Central Asian nation, which is the largest landlocked nation and the ninth largest country by landmass, can be seen all around.
Therefore, it seems fitting that this peaceful, huge and sparsely populated country is appropriate to host the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, in an effort to promote peace and interreligious dialogue, especially as various wars and conflicts rage. in the world.
On the streets, although it was not very obvious that a papal trip would take place, people still expressed their joy for the visit of the pope, including a young Muslim man who said he felt goodness to the pope and appreciated Kazakhstan for its peaceful cooperation. existence between religions.
A tried but peaceful and persistent people
It goes without saying that the Holy Father will also encourage the country’s Catholics.
When we were present for the preparations for the Papal Mass, even the onset of heavy rain did not deter the young volunteers from enthusiastically continuing to settle in, some of whom, the organizers told us, were others religions.
The country, which sits just south of Russia and borders China and several former Soviet republics, gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, following a sad history of persecution under communist rule.
Mindsets are changing
It now has the largest economy in Central Asia and is home to the only Catholic seminary in Central Asia.
We spoke to the rector, who acknowledged that there were historically stereotypes about what religion a person should have based on their ethnicity.
However, now, he says, there is little by little more respect and understanding of everyone’s right to freely choose their religion.
Great blessing for all Kazakhstan
Local Catholics describe themselves as a small but fervent community. They represent 1% of the population, including 70% Muslims, including 25% Christians, mainly Russian Orthodox.
Bishop Tomasz Peta, in an interview with Vatican News, described how the Pope’s trip is a great blessing not only for Catholics in Kazakhstan, but for the whole country, and expressed his belief that this Congress, combined with the efforts of peace of the Pope, could contribute to the achievement of a lasting peace.