Nur-Sultan (Agenzia Fides) - The different religious traditions remind us that "we are not omnipotent". Faced with the "mystery of the infinite which dominates us and which attracts us", they "remind us that we are creatures", men and women journeying" towards the same heavenly goal", united by a common bond of real fraternity "as children of the same Heaven ". So said Pope Francis, at the start of his much-anticipated address to the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, which began after a silent prayer this morning, Wednesday, September 14 in Nur-Sultan, capital of Kazakhstan. Seated next to eighty-one representatives of different faiths from fifty countries, gathered around the table in the large circular hall in the Palace of Independence, the Pope underlined the recognition of creaturality, a focal point of authentic religious sense, as the source of the precious and unique contribution that the different communities of believers can offer together for the benefit of the entire human family.
Recognizing and embracing one's condition as vulnerable creatures - the Pope said - establishes "a real fraternity" between the different communities of faith. A fraternity that the Nur-Sultan meeting wants to attest, "in a land traversed down the centuries by great caravans: in these lands, not least through the ancient silk route", the Pope remarked, "many histories, ideas, faiths and hopes have intersected". The Pontiff's long speech was strewn with suggestive quotes from Abai (1845-1904), Kazakhstan's most famous poet, who expressed in his writings a "harmonious wisdom, which desires peace and research by questioning himself with humility". Witness, like the "wandering shepherd of Asia" in the poem by Giacomo Leopardi (also quoted by Pope Francis - of the "thirst for the infinite that dwells in the heart of every man". A thirst from which spring questions that sweep away narrow visions and petty calculations, and which helps us to remember - the Pope added "that we human beings do not exist so much to satisfy earthly interests or to weave purely economic relationships, as to walk together, as wayfarers, with our eyes raised to the heavens".
From believers and above all from the heads of communities of faith - the Pope continued - the world "expects us to be examples of souls alive and minds clear, it looks to us for an authentic religiosity". For this reason - the Pontiff remarked - "it is time to realize that the fundamentalism defiles and corrupts every creed". And it is also time to "consign to the history books the kind of talk that for all too long, here and elsewhere, has led to distrust and contempt for religion, as if it were a destabilizing force in modern society". The Pope, referring to the history of Kazakhstan in the years of the Soviet Union, referred to the legacy of state atheism, to recall that "religion is not a problem, but part of the solution for a more harmonious life in society". The pursuit of transcendence and the sacred value of fraternity can "inspire and illumine the decisions that need to be made amid the geopolitical, social, economic, ecological, but fundamentally spiritual crises that many modern institutions, including democracies, are presently experiencing, to the detriment of security and concord among peoples". The Pontiff spoke of religious freedom as an "essential condition" for genuinely human and integral development. "We are free. Our Creator “stepped aside for us”; in a manner of speaking, he “limited” his absolute freedom in order to enable us, his creatures, to be free. How can we then - asked the Pope - presume to coerce our brothers and sisters in his name?"
As the poet Abai, quoted by Pope Francis, taught, "As believers and worshipers, we must not claim that we can force others to believe and worship". The Pope also recalled "the right to render public testimony to his or her own creed, proposing it without ever imposing it. This is the correct method of preaching, as opposed to proselytism and indoctrination". While "relegating to the private sphere our most important beliefs in life would be to deprive society of an immense treasure". On the other hand, "to work for a society marked by the respectful coexistence of religious, ethnic and cultural differences is the best way to enhance the distinctive features of each, to bring people together while respecting their diversity, and to promote their loftiest aspirations without compromising their vitality".
In the present time - continued the Bishop of Rome in the second part of his speech - the communities of believers and leaders are called to face four global challenges: the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which "has put us all in the same boat", showing that no one is completely independent, no one is completely self-sufficient: The task of believers - the Pope remarked - is also "to help our brothers and sisters at the present time not to forget our vulnerability: not to fall into illusions of omnipotence fostered by a technological and economic progress that is of itself insufficient". Faced with the conflicts and wars that are tearing the world apart - the Pontiff continued - believers and religious leaders are also called to face the global challenge of repeating to the world that "God is peace and always leads to peace, never to war", and to ensure that "the Almighty will never again be held hostage to the human thirst for power". The Pope invited everyone to purify themselves "of the presumption of feeling self-righteous with no need to learn anything from anyone", and from those reductive and destructive notions that offend the name of God by harshness, extremism and forms of fundamentalism, and profane it". The sacred - the Pontiff remarked - "must never be a prop for power, nor power a prop for the sacred!". Conflicts must be resolved "not by the inconclusive means of power, with arms and threats, but by the only means blessed by heaven and worthy of man: encounter, dialogue and patient negotiations, which make progress especially when they take into consideration the young and future generations".
The feeling of being creatures united by the bond of fraternity - the Pontiff added in the concluding part of his speech - must guide communities of faith to face together also the global challenges of welcoming and safeguarding creation, our common home. A commitment to take on without following false and banal "syncretistic" shortcuts. "Let us not aim - concluded Pope Francis, at artificial and conciliatory forms of syncretism, but instead firmly maintain our own identities, open to the courage of otherness and to fraternal encounter. Only in this way, along this path, in these dark times in which we live, will we be able to radiate the light of our Creator". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 14/9/2022)
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