Pope: religious freedom is not an abstract concept, but a concrete right
The appeal of the final document of the Congress of Religious Leaders in Nur-Sultan signed by Francis at the conclusion of the trip. "Man is also the way for all the religions, look to his good more than to interests". To the Church of Kazakhstan: "Faith is not a lovely exhibition of artefacts from a distant past or a museum, but an ever-present event, an encounter with Christ There is a grace hidden in the little flock'.
Nur-Sultan (AsiaNews) - "Religious freedom is not an abstract concept, but a concrete right," said by Pope Francis in his concluding address to the Congress of World Religious Leaders held in Nur-Sultan. The Pope spoke to present the contents of the final document signed at this interreligious meeting in Kazakhstan. And among the salient passages was the exhortation to ensure that religious freedom is truly safeguarded throughout the world.
Francis said, "How many people are even now persecuted and discriminated against on account of their faith! We have insistently appealed to governments and relevant international organizations to provide assistance to religious groups and ethnic communities whose human rights and fundamental freedoms have been violated, or subjected to violence by extremists and terrorists, also as a result of wars and military conflicts . Above all, we must ensure that religious freedom will never be a mere abstraction but a concrete right. We defend everyone’s right to religion, to hope, to beauty: to Heaven.'.
In his speech - his last in Kazakhstan before leaving for Rome - the Pontiff reiterated that "he Catholic Church, which tirelessly proclaims the inviolable dignity of each person, created “in the image of God". And expressly quoting the words of John Paul II in the encyclical Redemptor Hominis, he added that today "man is also the way for all the religions. Yes, man, men and women, concrete human beings, weakened by the pandemic, worn out by war, wounded by indifference. Let us look to the good of the human being more than to strategic and economic objectives, national, energy and military interests, before making important decisions'.
As for the other contents of the final declaration of the congress, it states that 'extremism, radicalism, terrorism and any other incentive to hatred, hostility, violence and war, whatever their motivation or objective, have nothing to do with the authentic religious spirit and must be rejected in the strongest possible terms' (No. 5). Furthermore, based on the fact that the Almighty has created all people equal, regardless of their religious, ethnic or social affiliation, the religious leaders jointly affirm that "mutual respect and understanding must be considered essential and indispensable in religious teaching" (No. 13).
Before the final session of the Congress in the morning in the Cathedral named after the Mother of God of Perpetual Help there had been a meeting with priests, consecrated men, seminarians and pastoral workers of the Catholic community of Kazakhstan. With them, Francis had outlined the horizon of a "Church that walks in history between memory and future". Memory - he specified - not about looking back with nostalgia, getting stuck in the past and letting ourselves be paralyzed and immobile. When we do that, we are tempted to take a step backwards. Instead, when Christians look back and remember the past, they marvel all the more at the mystery of God, their hearts filled with praise and gratitude for what the Lord has accomplished."
And it is precisely memory that reveals that "faith grows with witness". "There is a hidden grace in being a small Church, a small flock," he added. "Instead of showing off our strength, our numbers, our structures and every other form of human importance, we let ourselves be guided by the Lord and humbly place ourselves beside people. Small,' the pope concluded, 'but not self-sufficient: "We need God, but we also need others, all others: sisters and brothers of other confessions, those who confess religious beliefs different from ours, all men and women animated by goodwill".