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Pope: Interreligious dialogue fosters peace and respect for diversity


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By Devin Watkins

The Vatican Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue and the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions held their First Colloquium in Rome this week, capped with a papal audience on Thursday.

In his address to participants, Pope Francis thanked the Republic of Kazakhstan for promoting interreligious dialogue, calling the Colloquium a “first important fruit” of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Dicastery and the Nazarbayev Centre.

He also recalled his Apostolic Journey to Kazakhstan on September 13-15, 2022, during which he took part in the Seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, held in Astana.

Promoting peace and social harmony

Turning to the work of the Colloquium, the Pope highlighted three aspects of their work: “respect for diversity, commitment to our ‘common home,’ and the promotion of peace.”

He spoke first about the importance of respecting diversity, calling it an “indispensable element in democracy” that helps people live in harmony.

Kazakh society, he said, embraces a “healthy secularity” that does not confuse religion and politics but recognizes the role religion plays in serving society’s common good.

“Peace and social harmony,” he added, “are fostered in your model by fair and equitable treatment of different ethnic, religious and cultural components with regard to employment, access to public services and participation in the political and social life of the Nation, so that no one feels discriminated against or favoured because of his or her specific identity.”

Speak of peace, not war

Pope Francis went on to emphasize the need to preserve creation, calling it an “indispensable consequence of love for the Creator,” for our neighbors, and future generations.

He praised the Congress for offering an important contribution to stemming the environmental crisis.

Interreligious dialogue, noted the Pope, also helps to promote peace, especially in a time when “bellicose rhetoric has sadly come back into fashion.”

Hateful words lead to people dying in war, he said. “We need instead to speak of peace, to dream of peace, to give creativity and substance to hopes for peace, for these are the real hopes of individuals and of peoples,” he said. “Every effort should be made to do so, in dialogue with everyone.”

Fraternity filled with plans for better future

In conclusion, Pope Francis encouraged the work of the Colloquium, expressing his hopes that it might offer an example of how to see people of other religions as a “valued partner for reciprocal growth.”

“It is my hope,” he concluded, “that you make the most of these days of fraternity, rich with friendship and promising plans for the future, and fruitfully share the results of your work.”