The Pope urged to avoid the ‘supermarket of religions’ in Kazakhstan

The Pope urged to avoid the ‘supermarket of religions’ in Kazakhstan

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan (AP) – Pope Francis reaffirmed the critical value of interfaith dialogue Thursday to contrast the “folly of war,” even as one of his own bishops warned that Francis’ participation in a major interfaith peace conference in the To give an impression of Kazakhstan. the Pope’s endorsement of the “supermarket of religions.”

Francis gave the final speech at the Kazakh government’s triennial conference on traditional religions, which brought together about 80 Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Taoist faith leaders who called for greater interfaith efforts to end war, poverty, climate change and other ills. which the world is facing to combat. .

Francis praised the summit and underlined its conclusion that religion can never be used to justify war – a call that came against the backdrop of the Russian Orthodox Church’s support for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The final document states that “extremism, radicalism, terrorism and all other forms of violence and wars, whatever their goals, have nothing to do with true religion and must be rejected in the strongest possible terms.”

Without mentioning Russia or any other belligerent country by name, the final document calls on world leaders to “abandon all aggressive and destructive rhetoric that leads to world destabilization, and cease conflict and bloodshed in all parts of the world .”

Francis told the gathering that interfaith meetings like the Kazakh summit are “more valuable than ever in challenging times like ours, when the problems of the pandemic are exacerbated by the folly of war.”

With a delegation from the Russian Orthodox Church at the table, Francis said peace was “urgently needed”.

“We plead with you, in the name of God and for the good of humanity: Work for peace, not arms! It is only by serving the cause of peace that you will make a name for yourself in the annals of history,” he said.

A note of caution, however, came from Bishop Athenasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana and one of Francis’ most vocal critics. Schneider joined friends and other traditional and conservative bishops in criticizing Francis’ signature gestures and what they say are his doctrinal ambivalences on issues such as divorce and remarriage, homosexuality and interfaith outreach.

As the auxiliary bishop of the Kazakh capital, Schneider had to help host Francis during his three-day visit and played a significant role in the pontiff’s Thursday morning visit to the capital’s cathedral. He accompanied Francis’ wheelchair down the aisle at the start of the meeting and introduced a series of dignitaries who later met the pontiff, acting as a translator.

But Schneider also joined American Cardinal Raymond Burke in criticizing a landmark 2019 document signed by Francis with the grand imam of al-Azhar university in Cairo which said, among other things, that all religions are “willed by God”. Some Catholic critics have said that the idea that God actively wanted a plurality of religions could lead to a relativism that would assume that all religions are equally valid paths to God, when the Vatican considers Catholicism to be the t -no real way to salvation.

The so-called “Human Brotherhood” document was seen as an example of “great historical importance” by the president of Kazakhstan at the beginning of the interfaith conference, and the final communique recognized its “importance and value” while calling for “peace, dialogue”. , mutual understanding and mutual respect among believers for the common good.”

Speaking to reporters at the cathedral, Schneider defended his occasional criticism of the pontiff as a respectful, “fraternal” council to the Pope, based on love and providing “real help to the church”.

“This is normal because we (bishops) are not employed by the Pope,” he said. “We are brothers. We must say respectfully when we recognize that something is a danger to the whole church. This is a help.”

He welcomed the Pope’s visit to Kazakhstan, but warned that Francis’ participation in such a major international inter-religious event could call into question what he said was the unique role of the Catholic Church in providing the no path to salvation.

“The conference has a good aim to promote respect and mutual understanding around the world today. But there is also a risk because it could indicate a ‘super market of religion’ and that is not right because there is only one true religion, that is the Catholic Church, which was founded by God himself,” said Schneider.

He urged the Vatican to reconsider participation in such international events in the future and focus instead on building relationships at a more local level.


Associated Press religion coverage is supported by the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from the Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this matter.

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