Vatican releases schedule for Pope’s trip to Kazakhstan

ROME – Pope Francis’ September visit to Kazakhstan will primarily focus on a meeting of religious leaders from around the world, but it will also include a Mass and meeting with Catholics in this Muslim-majority country.

The Vatican on August 2 released the pope’s schedule for the September 13-15 trip, which also includes private meetings with religious leaders and his fellow Jesuits.

Kazakhstan is a former Soviet republic in Central Asia that gained independence in 1991. After experiencing Soviet-led atheist politics, the new nation adopted a secular form of government.

While there was a revival in religious practice and identity, religious movements and missionaries from abroad also gained influence in the nation, according to a 2018 report by the Stockholm-based nonprofit and nonpartisan research and policy organization Institute for Security and Policy Development .

Instead of following a more Western approach of wide-ranging religious freedom, the country has increasingly imposed restrictions to counter extremist influences following a series of terrorist attacks. It has also taken action in hopes of promoting the revival of traditional religious communities and ensuring stability and harmony in society, the report said.

Of the country’s more than 19 million inhabitants, around 70 percent are Muslims and 26 percent are Christians – with the Russian Orthodox population making up the majority. Almost 3 percent identify as atheists and less than 1 percent as others.

Upon his arrival in Nur-Sultan, the country’s capital, the Pope will meet with the country’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, government officials and members of the country’s diplomatic corps.

The next day he will participate in a silent prayer with religious leaders attending the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions and address the gathering. He will also meet privately with religious leaders and deliver an address on the final day of the convention presenting a closing statement.

Here is the detailed schedule released by the Vatican on August 2nd. Times listed are local, with Eastern Daylight Time in parentheses:

Tuesday 13 Sept (Rome, Nur-Sultan)

— 7:15 am (1:15 am) departure from Fiumicino Airport in Rome.

— 5:45 p.m. (7:45 a.m.) Arrive at Nur-Sultan International Airport.

— 6:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m.) Welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace, followed by a courtesy visit to President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

— 19:30 (9:30) Meeting with officials and members of the diplomatic corps at the Kazakh Central Concert Hall. Speech of the Pope.

Wednesday 14 Sept (Nur-Sultan)

10:00 (0:00) Silent prayer by the religious leaders followed by the opening and plenary sessions of the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions at the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. Speech of the Pope.

12pm (2pm) Private meetings with various religious leaders at the Palace.

4:45 p.m. (6:45 a.m.) Fair at the Expo site in Nur-Sultan. Pope’s sermon.

Thursday 15 Sept (Nur-Sultan, Rome)

9 am (11 am Sept 14) Private meeting with Jesuit priests at Apostolic Nunciature.

10.30 am (12.30 am) Meeting with Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Consecrated Persons, Seminarians and Chaplains at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Speech of the Pope.

3:00 p.m. (5:00 a.m.) The Congress in the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation ends with the reading of a final declaration. Speech of the Pope.

4:15 PM (6:15 PM) Farewell ceremony at Nur-Sultan International Airport.

4:45 p.m. (6:45 a.m.) Departure by plane to Rome.

20:15 (14:15) Arrival at Fiumicino Airport in Rome.

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