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Vatican, Kazakhstan encourage interfaith dialogue

Pope Francis, Kazakhstan’s Tokayev discuss the importance of the urgent commitment to promote peace and stability in the world
AKORDA/KAZAKHSTAN PRESIDENTIAL SERVICE
Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev pays an official visit to the Vatican, January 19, 2024.

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Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev visited Italy last week where he signed several agreements and made his first official visit to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis, discussing the importance of “the urgent commitment to promote peace and stability in the world”.

Indeed, the current geopolitical turbulence undermines the entire global security architecture causing enormous human suffering and economic hardship,” Tokayev said on January 19. “Kazakhstan as a responsible state makes a significant practical contribution to sustaining global peace and security. We participate in various UN peacekeeping missions in different hotspots,” he added.

In turn, the Pontiff thanked Tokayev for his contribution to peace and harmony.

According to a statement issued by the Holy See Press Office cited by Vatican News, the discussions were “cordial,” and “appreciation was expressed for the positive bilateral relations between the Holy See and Kazakhstan.”

In particular, it noted, the Pope and President highlighted “mutual cooperation in the area of interreligious dialogue,” and “hopes were expressed for an increasingly active role of believers in the life of the Nation in favour of the common good.”

“Since the Nazarbayev era, Kazakhstan demonstrated to be an open country in terms of religious freedom, Paolo Ghirelli, President of the Italian Kazakh Chamber of Commerce, told NE Global in Rome on January 23. “Good examples are the Pyramid of Peace and Accord in Astana representing the world’s religious faiths and the construction of the Catholic cathedral in the city of Karaganda,” he added.  He noted that the opening of a Catholic church in Astana also shows that the Central Asian country is open to all religions.

“Astana has been the ideal location for several religion conferences,” he said, reminding that Pope Francis made an Apostolic Journey to Kazakhstan in September 2022, for the occasion of the Seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, marking his 38th Journey abroad as Pope. “This visit of the Kazakh President to the Vatican is a consequence of the facts I just mentioned but also a result of a dialogue already started during the last visit of Pope Francis to Kazakhstan,” Ghirelli explained.

During his visit to the Vatican, Tokayev reiterated that “today multiethnic and multiconfessional Kazakhstan which has been historically located at the crossroad of various civilizations is a proud home to the largest Catholic community in Central Asia.”

The Kazakh President noted that his country has managed to form its own model of peace and national dialogue, based on the principles of “unity-in-diversity.”

“People of various faiths have their places of worship in Kazakhstan. Fostering religious freedom is an integral part of my presidential agenda,” Tokayev said.

Catholics make up a mere 1 percent of Kazakhstan’s population, which is 70 percent Muslim and 25 percent Christian, primarily Russian Orthodox.

The Kazakh President recalled Pope Francis’ annual “State of the World” address, expressing full solidarity with the Pontiff’s words that “Peace is primarily a gift of God … Yet it is also a great responsibility incumbent upon all of us.”

Italy, Kazakhstan sign bilateral agreements

On January 18, the first day of the visit to Rome by Tokayev, the two countries signed a joint declaration, seven intergovernmental agreements and 16 commercial memoranda of understanding (MoUs).

Tokayev met with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, noting that Kazakhstan and Italy enjoy close political dialogue, robust economic partnership, and fruitful cultural and humanitarian ties.

“We are proud to be Italy’s main partner in Central Asia. Our economic cooperation is developing very dynamically and has great potential for further growth,” he said.

During the meeting, special attention was paid to deepening cooperation in trade and economic, investment, energy, transport and logistics, agrarian, cultural and humanitarian, educational spheres, as well as green energy issues.

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