Vatican official: 'Pope's Kazakhstan visit will foster hope and interreligious dialogue'
By Deborah Castellano Lubov - Nur-Sultan
A Vatican official insists that Pope Francis' visit to the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions brought a meaningful contribution to the work of religious leaders from around the world.
Msgr. Khaled Boutros Akasheh, who heads up the Islamic Relations department within the Vatican's Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, spoke to Vatican News about the Congress, which wrapped up on Thursday morning.
He said the many encounters and work among religious leaders offers a reason to have hope, as the war in Ukraine continues, along with many other conflicts around the world.
Pope Francis concluded his 38th Apostolic Journey abroad to the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan on Thursday, where he traveled as a "pilgrim of peace".
Speaking at the Palace of Independence at the conclusion of the Congress, Msgr. Akasheh, gave his impressions of the importance of the Pope's visit to the Central Asian nation.
Q: Pope Francis just concluded his 38th Apostolic Journey here in Kazakhstan, where he came for this interfaith Congress, how would you evaluate the significance of Pope Francis's visit and what legacy do you think it will have?
Msgr. Akasheh: It is superfluous to speak about a historical visit and historical event. And as Pope Francis does always, he puts all his heart into what he does and what he says.
I think everyone in the Congress and those who could watch on TV or other social media were convinced that Pope Francis brought a meaningful and particularly historic contribution to this Congress.
And our hope, our prayer, is that the fruits of this Congress will continue for the benefit of the country, of the region and of the entire world.
Q: With the war in Ukraine in the backdrop, do you think that this encounter can help in some way?
The presence of the representative of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate, Metropolitan Antonij, is a sign of hope. I had the occasion to exchange views with him yesterday. And he is hopeful. We are hopeful. Obviously, if the war is going on, this means complications. But our hope should be stronger than our anguish.
Q: There was a very strong declaration that was issued today and read aloud among the religious leaders. What importance should that hold going forward? How should it be used? And what would you say were some of the most striking elements?
I'd say [they are] what Pope Francis insisted: peace, fraternity, and I would say also, a mutual pardon and mutual understanding.
These are values much needed in this particular moment, to overcome the difficulties and to restore confidence and peace not only between Russia and Ukraine, but also in other conflicts still still ongoing in our world.