In an apparent criticism of the Russian patriarch, the pope said that God does not support war

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NUR-SULTAN (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Wednesday that God does not direct religions to war, in an implicit criticism of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who supports the invasion of Ukraine, and boycotted a conference of religious leaders.

On his second day in Kazakhstan, Francis addressed the Seventh Conference of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, a meeting that brings together Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and other faiths.

Kirill was scheduled to attend, but withdrew. Read more

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The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) sent a delegation headed by its second-in-command, Metropolitan Anthony, who later met the Pope briefly.

“God is peace. He always leads us on the path of peace, never the path of war,” said Francis, speaking at a huge round table in the Independence Palace, a massive modern building made of steel and glass in the former capital. Soviet Republic.

“Let us then commit ourselves even more to insisting that conflicts should be resolved not by means of indecisive force, with weapons and threats, but with the only means that are heavenly blessed and worthy of man: encounter, dialogue and patient negotiation,” he said.

The Pope, who said earlier this year that Kirill could not be the “altar boy” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, told the conference: “The sacred must never be a pillar of power, and power must not be a pillar of the sacred!”

Kirill provided enthusiastic support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which the patriarch regards as a bulwark against the West he describes as decadent. Read more

The meeting of the pope-patriarch is still possible

His position caused a rift with the Vatican and unleashed an internal rebellion that severed ties between some of the local Orthodox churches and the Russian Orthodox Church. Read more

Archbishop Anthony told reporters that his meeting with the Pope was “very cordial” but said the “Altar Boy” remark about Kirill “was not helpful to Christian unity” and that it surprised the Russian Orthodox Church.

Anthony said the Pope told him he wanted a second meeting with Kirill. The first was in Cuba in 2016.

Francis also said that while violence in the name of God can never be justified, the “viruses” of hatred and terrorism will not be eradicated without first eliminating injustice and poverty.

He said that religious freedom is essential to peaceful coexistence in any society and no creed has the right to force others to convert.

“It is time to realize that fundamentalism defiles and corrupts every faith,” he said. “Let us liberate ourselves from those reductive and destructive concepts that offend the name of God with cruelty, extremism and forms of fundamentalism, and corrupt it with hatred, fanaticism, terrorism, and distort the image of man as well.”

But merely condemning extremism was not enough.

“As long as inequality and injustice continue to spread, there will be no end to viruses worse than Covid: viruses of hate, violence and terrorism,” he said.

Francis, who wrote an important document in 2015 on the need to protect the environment, said religious leaders must be on the front lines to draw attention to the dangers of climate change and severe weather, particularly its effects on the poor and vulnerable in society.

About 70% of Kazakhs are Muslims and about 26% are Orthodox Christians. There are only about 125,000 Catholics out of a population of 19 million in the vast Central Asian country.

Francis will hold mass for the small Catholic congregation on Wednesday afternoon.

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(Philip Polila reports). Editing by Michael Perry and Alex Richardson

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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