Kazakhstan Bishop: We await Pope's contribution to peace and solidarity
By Vatican News staff reporter
After Pope Francis alluded to the possibility of a visit to Kazakhstan on his flight back to Rome from Canada on Saturday, the Holy See Press Office confirmed on Monday that the Holy Father will be embarking on an Apostolic Journey to the Central Asian country on 13–15 September.
The Pope's upcoming visit will see him present in Kazakhstan on the occasion of the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, taking place in Nur-Sultan, the Kazakh capital.
“We were anxiously awaiting this official statement that was given by both the Holy See and the President of Kazakhstan," said Bishop Adelio Dell’Oro of Karaganda, commenting on the official announcement of the Holy Father’s visit in an interview with SIR news agency.
Explaining his expectation of the announcement, he recalled that the Holy Father had previously expressed his wish to visit the country when he, along with other priests of the diocese of Milan, met with the Pope in Santa Marta in a 2-hour meeting, on 14 July - the 50th anniversary of Bishop Dell’Oro’s priestly ordination.
The Bishop said that when he was given the floor to speak at that occasion, he told the Pope that the people were eagerly waiting for him in Kazakhstan, and the Pope, in reply, expressed his wish that he could come there.
“If they have now made the official announcement,” said Bishop Dell’Oro, “it means that the Pope is determined to come.”
“We are waiting for the Pope with all our hearts, with the hope that he can give us and the world a contribution of peace and solidarity,” he said.
Preparations to begin
Preparations for the Pope’s visit are still in their earliest stages, and the country’s bishops are still waiting for the official program to be released.
However, Bishop Dell’Oro affirms that the President has already asked the heads of the country’s regions to provide assistance to all those who would want to go to meet the Pope, including by providing transportation.
Opportunity for ecumenism
Reflecting on the country, the Bishop notes that Kazakhstan is “a country where people of over 130 nationalities and many religions live.” In this light, it presents “a very great ecumenical possibility for Pope Francis.”
The VII Congress of World Leaders and Traditional Religions is expected to bring together religious and civil leaders from all over the globe.
Previous papal visits
The first Pope to travel to Kazakhstan was Pope St. John Paul II, who visited the country in September 2001.
Recalling that event – 21 years ago – Bishop Dell'Oro recalled that “there was a great curiosity in people to meet the Pope of Rome” but says that today, globalization, especially at the level of young people, has dampened that curiosity.
Nonetheless, the Bishop of Karaganda noted that people today are aware of the happenings around the world much more than before and “there is this desire to meet a person who has an authoritative voice at a global level."