The Vatican

Bishop of Karaganda (Kazakhstan) explains Pope's upcoming trip

Adelio Dell'Oro, Bishop of Karaganda in Kazakhstan, gave a breakfast briefing for journalists on the Pope's upcoming apostolic journey.

Antonino Piccione-September 11, 2022-Reading time: 4 minutes
Adelio Del Oro Karaganda Kazakhstan

Photo: Monsignor Adelio Dell'Oro. ©Wikipedia Commons

"We Catholics, according to our abilities and sensibilities, seek to cooperate on the path of peace, harmony and development, mainly in three directions: beauty, selfless help and prayer."

With his intervention at the meeting promoted online this morning by the ISCOM Association (about thirty correspondents were present), Msgr. Adelio Dell'OroBishop of Karaganda (Kazakhstan), helped shed light on a number of issues related to Pope Francis' upcoming trip: the origin and intentions of the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions (the event that brings together various religious leaders from around the world) and the presence of the Catholic Church in the former Soviet country. 

Born in Milan in 1948, Dell'Oro was curate for 25 years in two parishes of the diocese of the Lombard capital. In 1997, he left as a fidei donum missionary to Kazakhstanwhere he remained until 2009, when he returned to Italy. Pro-rector of the Guastalla College in Monza and resident in the parish of Cambiago, at the end of 2012 he was appointed bishop with the office of apostolic administrator of Atyrau. He has been bishop of Karaganda since January 31, 2015. 

Sense of the congress

"Accepting the invitation of the civil and ecclesial authorities, Pope Francis will make the announced apostolic journey to Kazakhstan from September 13 to 15." This is how, at the beginning of August, a communiqué from the director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, formalized the visit of the Holy Father to the city of Nur-Sultan on the occasion of the VII Congress of leaders of world and traditional religions, convened to discuss the socio-spiritual development of humanity in the post-pandemic era and in the context of the convulsive geopolitical situation.

A Congress - explains Dell'Oro - organized for the first time in 2003, coinciding with the second anniversary of the apostolic journey of John Paul II (September 22-27, 2001), by the then President of the Republic Nursultan Abievich Nazarbaev, inspired by Pope Karol Wojtyła, who two years earlier, addressing young Kazakhs, had invited Muslims and Christians to build a "civilization based on love" and to make Kazakhstan "a noble country, without borders, open to encounter and dialogue." 

The Assisi meetings

The model? The "Day of Prayer for World Peace" convened in Assisi by John Paul II in January 2002, with the aim of reaffirming the positive contribution of different religious traditions to confrontation and harmony among peoples and nations in the wake of the tensions that followed the attacks of September 11, 2001.  

Since then, since 2003, the Congress has been held regularly every three years, with the exception of the seventh edition, which was postponed for a year due to the pandemic, and will be held at the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. Over time, the initiative has become a catalyst for interfaith and intercultural dialogue around the world to foster the resolution of religious and political conflicts. Four years ago (October 2018), the last Congress was attended by delegations from 45 countries.

"First of all," Dell'Oro reflects, "it is necessary for religious leaders to establish stronger and closer relationships of proximity at a time when religions themselves are being challenged: the great issue of the exclusion of God from modern societies is significantly affecting religions, which must rediscover the ability to be credible in this time. Then there is the question of the interest of the new generations, who are less and less attracted to the religious element and the traditions that religions represent. The question of the credibility of religions therefore arises from the fundamental assumption: how does one experience God? How does one experience faith? How can one appreciate the value of religions? Religions are for peace.

Personal encounters

A peace that is also built through direct and personal encounters between leaders. In this sense, the Bishop of Karaganda does not hide his regret - "it grieves me" - for the non-participation of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in the Congress of Kazakhstan: "it would have been a remarkable contribution, meeting with Pope Francis", to put an end to what the Pontiff himself has described as "a war of particular gravity, both for the violation of international law, and for the risks of nuclear escalation, and for the strong economic and social consequences. It is a third world war in pieces". 

Moreover, in order to consolidate relations between China and the Holy See, "the news that President Xi Jinping will visit Kazakhstan on the same day that Pope Francis will be in the Central Asian country next week is to be welcomed," according to Dell'Oro. 


The visit of Pope Francis to Kazakhstan arouses great expectation from the point of view of the Catholic community, in a country that is 80% Muslim, given that the Christian faith, in its Catholic form, for some 60 years was communicated with the almost total absence of priests and, therefore, of the sacraments, with the exception of baptism, which was mostly administered clandestinely. "During the Soviet era," Dell'Oro stresses, "there were no ecclesiastical structures.

Then semi-clandestine priests appeared, survivors of concentration camps, among them Blessed Władysław Bukowiński, beatified on September 11, 2016 in Karaganda, or arrivals from Lithuania. After 1991, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the emergence of Kazakhstan as an independent state, like the other religions, the Catholic Church was also able to come out of hiding; priests and nuns were invited from Poland, Germany, Slovakia, etc., and ecclesiastical buildings could be constructed."

A dove with an olive branch, its wings depicted as joined wings. The logo for Pope Francis' trip to Kazakhstan looks like this, while the motto is "Messengers of peace and unity". 

"I believe that the Pope" - is Dell'Oro's final reflection - "will highlight the origin of peace by underlining the importance of recognizing that we all depend on God and, therefore, that we are all his sons and daughters and, consequently, brothers and sisters among all men, beyond different political visions and ethnic affiliations (in Kazakhstan people belonging to more than 130 ethnic groups live together)."

The authorAntonino Piccione

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