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Pope urges Kazakhstan to avoid ‘supermarket of religions’

Pope Francis is warning the bishops of Kazakhstan against giving up nostalgia for the past

Pope Francis is warning the bishops of Kazakhstan against giving up nostalgia for the past

Pope Francis on Thursday warned Kazakhstan’s bishops against fanning nostalgia for the past, after one of their conservative critics here suggested that Francis’s participation in an interreligious conference could be part of a “supermarket of religions”. The Pope can support.

The warning from Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Astana, was perhaps to be expected, as he is one of Pope Francis’ most vocal critics, who regularly points out Mr. Francis’s doctrinal ambiguity and overly progressive leanings on the issues. . such as homosexuality and interreligious access.

Mr. Francis began his third and final day in Kazakhstan by meeting with bishops, priests and nuns at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral in the capital, Nur-Sultan. Later on Thursday he was to deliver a concluding speech to a government-sponsored interreligious gathering, which was expected to emphasize that religion should never be used to justify war – a call that would spur Russia on Ukraine. Against the backdrop of the invasion of

Catholics in Kazakhstan, in a country of 19 million, number about 125,000, most of whom are Muslims or Orthodox Christians. On Thursday, Mr Francis urged his priests and bishops to find favor in the small size of the church and not focus on rigid rules and regulations or nostalgia for the church’s past tradition.

“The belief was not passed down from generation to generation as a set of ideas to be understood and followed as a fixed and timeless code,” said Mr. Francis. Because of the small size of the church, it needs people from other religions, he said.

“May we realize with a sense of humility that only in dialogue and mutual acceptance can we achieve something good for the benefit of all. This is the special task of the church in this country: not to be a group that works for Trapped in the old ways, or withdrawn into its shell because it seems small, but rather a community that is open to God’s future.

Among the audience was Bishop Schneider, who has joined with other traditionalist and conservative cardinals and bishops to criticize many of the gestures of Francis’ signature and what they say was his doctrinal views on issues such as divorce and remarriage, homosexuality and inter-religious relations. There is ambiguity.

Notably, Bishop Schneider joined US Cardinal Raymond Burke in criticizing a 2019 document that Francis signed with the grand imam of Al-Azhar University in Cairo which, among other things, said That all religions are “God’s will”. Some Catholic critics argue that this view may lead to relativism which would accept that all religions are an equally valid path to God, when the Vatican believes that Catholicism offers the only true path to salvation. Is.

The so-called “Human Fraternity” document was put forward by the President of Kazakhstan at the start of the Interfaith Conference as an example of “great historical significance”.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Francis’ visit to the cathedral, Bishop Schneider defended his criticism as respectful, “fraternal” advice to Francis, born out of love and providing “true help to the Church”.

“This is normal because we are not employees of the Pope,” he said. “We are brothers. We have to say that with respect when we recognize that there is something that threatens the whole church. It is a helping hand.”

They welcomed the visit of Mr. Francis to Kazakhstan, hosting an inter-religious conference to gather Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Taoist and other religion leaders to promote dialogue as a force for peace. doing. But Schneider warned that Francis’ participation in such a large international event could raise questions about what he said was the Catholic Church’s unique role in providing the only path to salvation.

“Congress has a good purpose to promote mutual respect and understanding in the world today. But it also has a danger as it can give the impression of a ‘supermarket of religions’ and is not correct because there is only one true religion.” , which is the Catholic Church, founded by God Himself,” Bishop Schneider said.

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

Despite his criticism, Bishop Schneider was instrumental in Thursday’s event at the capital’s cathedral: he helped push Mr. Francis’s wheelchair down the cathedral’s aisle at the start of the meeting and led a line of dignitaries meeting the pontiff. Introduced. Later, while serving as translator, and bid farewell to Mr. Francis as his little white Fiat 500 was tossed away.

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