Kazakhstan expects 3,000 pilgrims from around the world for papal visit

Nur-Sultan, Sep 5 (EFE).- Kazakhstan, the largest republic in Central Asia and where Islam is the main creed, expects some 3,000 pilgrims from abroad to be on hand for Pope Francis’ visit September 13 to 15 to take part in the 7th World Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions and celebrate Mass before the faithful.

“Kazakhstan expects about 3,000 pilgrims from all over the world” in Nursultan, Aibek Smadiyarov, official representative of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry, told a press conference on Monday.

“This testifies to the recognition by the Holy See of the important role of Kazakhstan on the world stage, first of all, in strengthening dialogue for the sake of peace,” Smadiyarov stressed.

According to the Vatican Press Office, the pope is to deliver four speeches in the country during his visit, which is to start on the 13th.

That same day he is to hold a courtesy meeting with the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and is to meet with authorities, civil society, and the diplomatic corps, to whom he will offer the first of his speeches.

The following day, he is to give another speech at the opening of the congress, which is held once every three years in Nur-Sultan.

More than one hundred delegations from 50 countries, including spiritual leaders from the traditional world religions of Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and Shintoism, as well as political and public figures, and representatives of international organizations are to attend the congress, according to the Kazakh ministry.

In addition to Pope Francis, the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, David Lau, will attend the congress; the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yitzhak Yosef; the great Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed al Tayeb; and Patriarch Theophilus III of Jerusalem, among other religious leaders.

The pope is to hold private meetings with some religious leaders, ending with an afternoon Mass.

The theme of the congress is “the role of the leaders of world and traditional religions in the spiritual and social development of humanity in the post-pandemic period.”

There will be four working sessions on the role of religions in strengthening spiritual and moral values; religious education and studies to promote the peaceful coexistence of religions; counter extremism, radicalism and terrorism, especially on religious grounds; and the contribution of women to the welfare and sustainable development of society.

On his last day of the trip, on September 15, the pope is to meet with members of the Society of Jesus at the Apostolic Nunciature and will offer two more speeches at the Congress, the last of which will serve as the conclusion of the forum.

More than 230 journalists from 60 foreign media have been accredited, according to Nur-Sultan.

The last pope to travel to Kazakhstan was John Paul II, in 2001.



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