VATICAN The Pope, to religious leaders: that the sacred should not be supported by power

Francis’ words to the leaders of all faiths from 50 countries, gathered in Nur-Sultan: “Religions are not a problem, but part of the solution to crises, which have spiritual roots. Let us never justify violence”. The vulnerable world left by the pandemic, peace, the fraternal welcome of migrants, the custody of creation, are the challenges that people of faith share today.

Nur-Sultan () – “Let the sacred not be supported by power and power not be supported by sacredness!” So that religions, beyond the prejudices instilled in these same lands by decades of state atheism, once again be recognized as “an essential condition for a truly human and integral development.” This is the message that Pope Francis wanted to convey this morning From Nur-Sultan, speaking to the religious leaders participating with him in the interreligious conference that the Kazakh government has been organizing for 20 years, the pontiff spoke to an audience of more than 100 delegations from 50 countries: Around the same table personalities such as Metropolitan Anthonij -the “Foreign Minister” of the Russian Orthodox Church-, the Russian Grand Mufti Ravil Gaynutdin, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilus III, the two chief rabbis of Israel, Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau and Sephardic Yitzhak Yosef, representatives of Hinduism, Shintoism and Zoroastrianism.

The central theme of the Pope’s speech was precisely the role of religions in society. In his speech at the opening session of the meeting at the Independence Palace in Nur-Sultan, Francis quoted several times the verses of the Kazakh national poet Abai (1845-1904): “What is the beauty of life, if not goes deep? “The time has come to wake up from that fundamentalism that contaminates and corrodes every creed,” Francis said, “the time to make the heart transparent and compassionate.” But it is also time to overcome the “suspicion” and “contempt for religion, as if it were a destabilizing factor in modern society.”

“In this place”, he recalls, “the legacy of state atheism, imposed for decades, is well known”. “In reality, religions are not a problem, but part of the solution for a more harmonious coexistence. The search for transcendence and the sacred value of fraternity can, in fact, inspire and illuminate the decisions to be made in the context of the geopolitical, social, economic and ecological crises —but, at root, spiritual— that many institutions are going through. today, also democracies, endangering security and harmony between peoples”.

Religious freedom, as a “fundamental, primary and inalienable right” should not be limited to freedom of worship, since “relegating the most important creed of life to the private sphere would deprive society of immense wealth.” Precisely for this reason, for Pope Francis, religions today are called to face four great global challenges. The first is the inheritance that the pandemic has left us: “It is up to us, who believe in Divinity, to help the brothers and sisters of our time not to forget the vulnerability that characterizes us, not to fall into false presumptions of omnipotence caused by technical and economic progress, which in themselves are not enough; not to be entangled by the ties of profit and gain, as if they were the remedies for all ills; not to support an unsustainable development that does not respect the limits imposed by creation; to not let oneself be anesthetized by the consumerism that stuns, because goods are for man and not man for goods”. And the path is caring for humanity in all its dimensions, and it begins by listening to those who are weakest: “the poor, those in need who have suffered the most from the pandemic”, “how many, even today, do not have an easy time access to vaccines!” remarks the Pope. Because “the greatest risk factor of our time continues to be poverty”. “As long as inequality and injustice continue to wreak havoc, viruses worse than Covid will not cease: those of hatred, violence and terrorism.”

Alongside this is the question of peace: The Pope recalled how many times in recent years religious leaders have met to discuss this issue: “However, we see that our days are still marked by the scourge of war, by a climate of exasperated discussions, by the inability to take a step back and reach out to the other”. For this reason, Francis invited men of faith, first of all, to “purify themselves from the presumption of feeling just and having nothing to learn from others; let us free ourselves from those reductive and ruinous conceptions that offend the name of God through rigidity, extremism and fundamentalism, and profane it through hatred, fanaticism and terrorism, also disfiguring the image of man. Let us never justify violence. Let us not allow the sacred to be instrumentalized by what is profane. God is peace and he leads always to peace, never to war”. And he pointed out that “the only means blessed by heaven and worthy of man” to resolve conflicts are: “encounter, dialogue, patient negotiations, which are carried out thinking especially of children and young generations.”

Another challenge is that of fraternal welcome. “Every day, unborn babies and children, migrants and the elderly are discarded,” the Pope observed. “And yet, every human being is sacred”, and “it is above all our task, that of religions, to remind the world of it”. Today we are witnessing a great exodus fueled by “wars, poverty, climate change, in search of a well-being that the globalized world allows us to know, but which is often difficult to access.” “It is not a chronicle fact, it is a historical fact that requires shared solutions and open-mindedness. Certainly, defending one’s acquired securities and closing the doors out of fear comes instinctively; it is easier to suspect the foreigner, to accuse and condemn him than to know and understand him. But it is our duty to remember that the Creator, who watches over the steps of every creature, exhorts us to have a look similar to his, a look that recognizes the face of the brother. There are many proverbs that testify to the cult of hospitality among the peoples of the steppe, which carries within itself compassion: “It is up to us to teach how to cry for others, because we will only be truly human if we perceive the fatigue of life as our own. humanity,” he added.

Finally, the last challenge is the common house care: “The Most High has lovingly arranged a common house for life. And we, who profess ourselves to be theirs, how can we allow it to be contaminated, mistreated and destroyed? “It is not the last challenge by importance”, warned the pontiff. “The mentality of exploitation, which devastates the house we inhabit”, “leads to eclipse that respectful and religious vision of the world wanted by the Creator. That is why it is essential to favor and promote the care of life in all its forms”.

“Dear brothers and sisters”, Pope Francis concluded, addressing the leaders present, “let us go forward together, so that the path of religions may be more and more friendly”. “The Most High free us from the shadows of suspicion and falsehood, that he grant us to cultivate luminous and fraternal friendships, through assiduous dialogue and frank sincerity of intentions”.

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Written by Editor TLN

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