By Kulpash Konyrova
Nur-Sultan, Sep 12 (EFE).- Nursultan is in the midst of preparations for Pope Francis’ visit to the Kazakh capital, where fences are being erected and workers are readying the city. The Catholic faithful, which make up 1% of the population, are eagerly looking forward to the pontiff’s arrival and are expecting a message of peace for the whole region as the war in Ukraine rages.
“The pope’s visit to Kazakhstan is always a very important historical event. It is of particular importance for Catholics living here, who only make up 1% of the population,” Archbishop of the Blessed Virgin Mary Archdiocese, Tomasz Bernard Peta, told Efe.
“We are hopeful that the Pope will bring a long-awaited peace to the former Soviet Union, especially to Ukraine, even though he is not a politician. But he is an envoy of peace and unity,” the Polish priest said.
In a country where 70% of the population follow Islam and 26% Christianity, the arrival of Pope Francis in Kazakhstan on Tuesday is a reason for Catholics to rejoice.
CATHOLICS OF POLISH AND GERMAN DESCENT
Kazakh Catholics are mostly descendants of Poles and Germans, who were exiled to the Kazakh steppe during the Second World War.
Parishioners came to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral in Nur-Sultan on Monday to prepare the church for the arrival of their distinguished guest.
Maria, a resident in the Kazakh capital and whose parents were deported from Poland to faraway Kazakhstan, where she was born and raised, told Efe she was “very happy” with the Pope’s visit.
“For us his visit is a great joy. Now, in our time, we, all the peoples and confessions of Kazakhstan, must be united. I will participate in the mass” that the bishop of Rome is to give on Wednesday at the exhibition center, she said.
Inna, in turn, revealed that she is “preparing for baptism on the eve of the pope’s visit and hoping for his blessing.”
She said that this is not the first papal visit to Kazakhstan. John Paul II traveled to the largest country in Central Asia in 2001, but Inna said the church’s congregation, who will receive the pope, “has increased remarkably.”
PAPAL VISIT PREPARATIONS
In front of the exhibition center, preparations were in full swing.
Workers were setting up a stage and a marquee for distinguished guests, improving pavements, and setting up chairs and security fences.
Nur-sultan authorities have developed a tight security plan with police patrols and ambulances on duty 24 hours a day.
Kazakhstan is expecting the arrival of some 3,000 pilgrims from all over the world for the pope’s visit.
The pontiff is to also participate in the VII World Congress of World and Traditional Religious Leaders, which was postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
An official representative of the congress’ organizing committee, Nazym Zhangazinova, told Efe that since the first edition in 2003 the number of delegations had been steadily increasing.
Twenty years ago there were 17 delegations from 13 countries, and this week there will be 100 from 50 nations.