Ethnic Kazakhs are predominately Sunni Muslim, the most commonly practiced religion in the country. According to a 2009 national census, the second most practiced religion is Russian Orthodox Christianity, at more than 20%. The Central Asian country is also home to many immigrants.
Pope Francis erected an apostolic administration for Byzantine Catholics in Karaganda, Kazakhstan, in 2019, highlighting the growing number of Ukrainian Greek Catholics in the country, which some estimates put at around 10,000.
Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country, but it has one of the lowest population densities. The country shares borders with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan and adjoins part of the Caspian Sea.
Pope Francis has expressed his intention to visit at least three continents in the next six months.
The Vatican has confirmed that the pope is due to travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo on July 2-5 and South Sudan on July 5-7.
The president of Lebanon has said that Pope Francis will visit the Middle Eastern country in June.
And the pope has indicated that he hopes to travel to Canada for the July 26 feast of St. Anne as a gesture of apology for the role Catholics have played in the abuse of Indigenous peoples in Canada, especially in residential schools.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.