Pope Francis will visit Kazakhstan in September, the country’s president confirmed on April 12, 2022.
After Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced the news about the papal visit, Bishop José Luis Mumbiela Sierra of the Bishop of Santissima Trinità (Holy Trinity) in Almaty and the President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Kazakhstan, also confirmed the same.
Kazakhstan is a transcontinental country located mainly in Central Asia, and partly in Eastern Europe. It is a former Soviet nation.
Bishop Sierra confirmed the news based on the information included in a press statement issued by the Office of the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Before making the announcement, the country's president had a bilateral video conference with the Vatican officials.
The information on the pope's visit is “good news,” said the prelate.
The papal trip will take place after 20 years of Pope John Paul II’s visit to the nation.
Bishop Sierra said that the pope's presence would reveal his “prime concern and affection for the peripheral churches.”
“We want to show him [Pope Francis] the splendor and vitality of the Catholic community in our country and across Central Asia,” said Bishop Sierra.
Meanwhile, Father Guido Trezzani, director of Caritas Kazakhstan, expressed his delight upon learning of the pope's visit.
“We are delighted to have the Pope among us. It would be a savior's breath of hope and fortitude,” he said.
The pope's visit, stated in a released statement issued by the presidential office of Kazakhstan, was intended to deepen relations between Kazakhstan and the Vatican and promote interfaith dialogue.
Pope Francis reiterated in the same announcement his desire to attend the VII Congress of World Leaders and Traditional Religions, which will take place in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan on September 14 and 15, 2022.
The Holy Father hopes that this event will play a significant role in encouraging interreligious dialogue, togetherness, and state reconciliation, which are critical at the moment.
While observing the country's diversity and unity, he acknowledged that it provides the foundation for stability.
In a press release from the Kazakhstan president's office, Pope Francis said, "You have my support, and I am grateful for your work."
The Republic of Kazakhstan is home to about 100 ethnic groups and over 40 religions. The majority of ethnic Kazakhs are Sunni Muslims.
The country's Slavic population is historically Orthodox Christians. There are other congregations, as well as a modest Jewish community.
Kazakhstan has about 250,000 Catholics out of a total population of 15 million. The country's majority of Catholics are ethnic Poles, Germans, and Lithuanians.
Kazakhstan has four dioceses / apostolic regions: Archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Atyrau (Apostolic Administration), Karaganda, and Santissima Trinità in Almaty.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Central Asia (CBCCA) is founded in June 2021. It is the youngest episcopal body and a member of the Federation of Asian Catholic Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).
CBCCA brings Catholics from all the former Soviet countries of the region: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan.
In these countries, Christians are the minority whereas Muslims are the majority. They also have the significant presence of the Russian Orthodox Church, which reflect Russia’s influence after the long Soviet rule.
The creation of CBCCA was possible with the cooperation of Vatican officials, the apostolic nuncio, Indian Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikat, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and bishops from Central Asia.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.