Participants in the interreligious congress taking place in Kazakhstan, whom Pope Francis addressed Wednesday morning, have called the event an opportunity for encounter and finding common ground.
The Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions is held in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan, formerly known as Astana, every third year. The seventh congress is taking place Sept. 14-15.
In an interview at the event on Sept. 14 with EWTN, Cardinal Luis Tagle, a pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, spoke about a broader dimension to the meeting of religious leaders.
“Whenever there is a space for people to come together, and in this case religious leaders, I will consider it always not just a human space, but a divine space, where people could, in their diversity, talk about something very profound – which is not always a topic of conversation in our world today – which is how God, or what some people would call the divine, would lead us towards God's plan of harmony in creation through human beings,” Tagle said.
“So for me, this is not just a gathering; I hope everyone would experience it as a divine space,” he added.
In his address to the congress, Pope Francis discussed the need for peace, saying: “Let us commit ourselves, then, even more to insisting on the need for resolving conflicts 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.”
Regarding the mission for peace, Tagle referred to Pacem in terris, St. John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical on establishing universal peace in truth, justice, charity, and liberty, saying that the pope “says peace is first of all the gift of God, so you have to pray for it, and we should note our place. We are supposed to collaborate with God. We should not invent our own brand of peace. But peace is a fruit of justice, truth, respect for one another, love. Then peace will come, though; but without all of those ingredients — wow, we won't have peace.”
Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, told EWTN that the summit “is a very important moment of sharing among all the leaders of world and traditional religions. And I do believe that such big occasions represent a favorable moment of encountering and sharing to find common paths for humanity.”
Marengo commented that “it is very important that all religious leaders in the world work hard for peace, because all major religions in the world, they are rooted in peaceful teaching, teachings filled with the exhortations to work for peace and reconciliation. So I think the Catholic Church has a duty to act on this important value of fraternity and peace, and this occasion may represent an extra opportunity to foster these convictions.”
Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States at the Secretariat of State, told EWTN the congress was “a good opportunity for people to realize that religious leaders are significant players on the world scene, not marginal, as some people would like to think.”
“But there are also obviously many differences in the approach, and the vision of things,” he added. “So I think we can say this is a positive step forward … I think it's a good opportunity for these people to meet, to talk to each other, to understand things, and maybe for the wider world to take notice that, as I think the Holy Father said in his speech, it's important that religious leaders, religious communities, be part of the solution of world problems and not part of the problem itself.”
As a global Church, the Catholic Church, Gallagher said, has a “particular” responsibility for achieving peace.
“We do have a tradition of stepping over the borders and the boundaries, so I think the Catholic vision for peace in the world is potentially very great," he said. "Whether we fulfill that is a different matter, but certainly [because of] the advocacy of the Holy Father, the great respect that he receives … people are listening, and that's important. If people listen, and then they act, maybe we'll get some world peace, one of these days.”
Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, prefect of the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue, told EWTN that “the fact of being together, so many leaders belonging to all religions and different traditions, it is a very, very, very positive aspect.”
He said discussion at the summit “is based on two pillars, peace and unity. And I think these are the two pillars of which humanity, this wounded humanity in which we are living, is in need of. We are in need of peace, so we need to work, to pray, for ending with all kind of conflict, here and there, and at the same time working and creating this spirit of unity, because divisions are increasing, and what the human family needs is this unity.”
Ayuso has many expectations for the meeting, and hopes and believes “it will be very positive, because anything that will come out of this congress will be very, very, very positive for the future of humanity.”
Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, told EWTN that participants in the congress “gave a common witness that the sister of religion is peace, and in no case violence and war.”
Urmas Viilma, the Estonian Lutheran Archbishop of Tallinn, explained that “it's important that the religious leaders at the interfaith level could meet and continue with the dialogue and seeking a peace.”
Regarding the Russo-Ukrainian War, Viilma said he agreed with Pope Francis that “we need to have a dialogue with everyone, so we can't end the dialogue, otherwise you can't come to the common ground. I think in Europe also we need to continue negotiations and dialogue to seek a peace, not at any price, but we need to talk with each other.”