Pope to visit Kazakhstan in September
In a statement on Monday, Matteo Bruni, the Director of the Holy See Press Office announced: "Accepting the invitation of the civil and ecclesial authorities, Pope Francis will make the announced Apostolic Journey to Kazakhstan from 13-15 September this year, visiting the city of Nur-Sultan on the occasion of the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions."
The Congress is to be held in the Kazakh capital.
The theme of this year’s event will be "The Role of Leaders of World and Traditional Faiths in the Socio-Spiritual Development of Humanity after the Pandemic".
Every three years, religious leaders from around the world gather at the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, in Nur-Sultan.
In 2003, former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev called for the first such Congress.
He drew inspiration from Pope St. John Paul II's 1986 Day of Prayer for Peace convened in the Italian hill town of Assisi, which brought together various religions and leaders to promote interreligious dialogue, peace and harmony.
The 'Spirit of Assisi' meetings became an annual tradition held each year in a different city in Europe.
Pope's continued interest in visiting
In early April, the Pope spoke about this possible journey during a live video conversation he held with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
On the return flight from his Apostolic Visit to Canada, the Pope reiterated his hope to go.
"For the moment, I would like to go to Kazakhstan. That wouldn't be too rigorous of a journey," he said.
He reaffirmed his interest in being present at the congress of religions, and observed that it would likely not be overly physically demanding.
Quick facts about Kazakhstan
On 16 December 1991, Kazakhstan gained its independence from the former Soviet Union.
According to the Pew Research Center, the country is at least 70% Muslim, and about 25% Christian, of which less than 1% is Catholic.
St. John Paul the II was the first Pope to visit Kazakhstan, 22-25 September 2001, with the motto of “Love one other.”