President Tokayev of Kazakhstan sends a welcome message to the Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops of Central Asia
NUR-SULTAN – President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev addressed the participants of the First Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Central Asia which is being held from April 27 to 29 in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan, reports the press service of the Kazakh Senate . The President’s message was delivered by Maulen Ashimbayev, President of the Senate.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference was established in September last year to help regional bishops respond together to common challenges and provide mutual support to solve each country’s problems. Their meeting in Nur-Sultan should discuss and establish pastoral priorities for the local churches.
Kazakhstan is the largest of the five Central Asian countries, where the majority of the population professes Islam, and Christianity comes next, mostly Orthodox Christians.
Some 200,000 Catholics, mostly of Polish, German and Lithuanian origin, arrived in Kazakhstan after being deported under Soviet rule. They make up just over one percent of the country’s population.
In his address to the meeting, Tokayev noted that during 30 years of independence, the country has managed to build a unique model of inter-ethnic and public consent, based on a principle of “unity in diversity”, the term that he expressed for the first time to an extended meeting of the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan in October.
He highlighted the significant contribution of Catholics, as well as other believers in the country, to promoting the image of modern Kazakhstan as a country that supports tolerance and mutual understanding among representatives of different religious and ethnic groups.
More than ten Catholic bishops and apostolic administrators, representing ten countries, gathered for the first plenary session of the Catholic Episcopal Conference of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Mongolia).
In a month of April 11 talks Along with Tokayev, Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Vatican City State, confirmed his participation in the VII World Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions scheduled for September 14-15 in Nursultan.
Addressing the Catholic Bishops, Ashimbayev described Pope Francis’ historic second visit to Kazakhstan as a unique event that confirms Kazakhstan’s status as a reliable platform for interreligious and intercivilizational dialogue. The first official visit to Kazakhstan by the head of the Roman Catholic Church, namely Pope John Paul II, took place 21 years ago on September 22, 2001.
“Kazakhstan and the Vatican have considerable potential for future cooperation. I am confident that bilateral relations will be further strengthened through various educational, cultural, social and humanitarian initiatives and projects,” Ashimbayev said citing the words of Pope John Paul II during his 2001 visit on the common goal of to be “craftsmen of peace because a society solidly founded on peace is a society of the future.
The program of the session, which will last until April 29, also included a visit to important places for Catholics in Karaganda.