Pope urges to avoid ‘supermarket of religions’ in Kazakhstan

Pope urges to avoid ‘supermarket of religions’ in Kazakhstan

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan (AP) — Pope Francis reaffirmed the critical value of interfaith dialogue Thursday to counter the “stupidity of war,” even as one of his bishops warned that Francis’ involvement in a major interfaith peace conference in Kazakhstan could mean papal approval of a ‘supermarket of religions’.

Francis delivered the closing address at the Kazakh government’s triennial conference of traditional religions, which brought together about 80 Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Taoist leaders who called for greater interfaith efforts to fight war, poverty, climate change and of other diseases facing the world.

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

Without naming Russia or any other belligerent country, the final document calls on world leaders “to abandon all aggressive and destructive rhetoric that leads to world destabilization and to stop conflict and bloodshed in all corners of our world.”

Francis told the gathering that interfaith meetings like the Kazakhstan synod are “more precious than ever in difficult times like ours, when the problems of the pandemic have been exacerbated by the sheer folly of war.”

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

“We beseech you, in the name of God and for the good of mankind: Work for peace, not for 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 caveat, however, came from Bishop Athenasius Schneider, the auxiliary bishop of Astana and one of Francis’ staunchest critics. Snyder has joined other traditional and conservative cardinals and bishops in criticizing several of Francis’ signature gestures and what they say are his doctrinal ambiguities on issues such as divorce and remarriage, homosexuality and interfaith outreach.

As assistant bishop of the Kazakh capital, Snyder was to host Francis during his three-day visit and was prominent in the pontiff’s Thursday morning visit to the capital’s cathedral. He escorted Francis’ wheelchair down the aisle at the start of the meeting and introduced a number of dignitaries who met the pontiff afterward, serving as a translator.

But Schneider has also aligned himself with US Cardinal Raymond Burke in criticizing a landmark 2019 document Francis signed 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 willed a plurality of religions could lead to a relativism that would accept that all religions are equally valid paths to God, when the Vatican sees Catholicism as providing the only true path to God. salvation.

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

Speaking to reporters at the cathedral, Snyder defended his occasional criticism of the pontiff as respectful, “fraternal” advice to the pope, coming from love and providing “real help to the church.”

“This is normal because we (bishops) are not employees of the pope,” he said. “We are brothers. We have to say respectfully when we recognize that something is dangerous for 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 interfaith event could call into question, he said, the Catholic Church’s unique role in providing the only way to salvation.

“The conference as such is well aimed at promoting mutual respect and understanding in the world today. But it also has a danger because it could give the impression of a ‘supermarket of religions’ and that is not right because there is only one true religion, the Catholic Church, founded by God himself,” Snyder said.

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


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

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