Pope Francis's trip to Kazakhstan on September 14 and 15, 2022, to participate in the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, elicited harsh but lucid comments from several Vaticanists. Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Astana, also reacted.
The Pope's speech and Bishop Schneider's Reaction
In the end, the congress of religious leaders did not take place in the Pyramid of Peace and Concord, but in the Palace of Independence, another building built under Nursultan Nazarbayev. The relocation of the place of the meeting had been done due to “space constraints.”
It was therefore in this building that, on September 14, the Pope gave a speech with strong syncretist overtones: “Religion is not a problem, but part of the solution for a more harmonious life in society.”
“The pursuit of transcendence and the sacred value of fraternity can inspire and illumine the decisions that need to be made amid the geopolitical, social, economic, ecological, but fundamentally spiritual crises that many modern institutions, including democracies, are presently experiencing to the detriment of security and concord among peoples.”
“We need religion, in order to respond to the thirst for world peace and the thirst for the infinite that dwells in the heart of each man and woman.” In this statement, “religion” is meant to quench “the thirst for world peace” and every man’s “thirst for the infinite”; “religion” without distinction, and not the religion of Christ of which the pope is the vicar.
Alongside this speech, the Pope posted a message on Twitter: “Faced with the mystery of the infinite which dominates and attracts us, religions remind us that we are creatures: we are not omnipotent, but women and men on their way to the same heavenly goal.” – Do all religions offer “the same heavenly goal” as the religion of the only Savior, with reincarnation, nirvana or a paradise populated by voluptuous houris?
It is in this context that Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Astana, reacted: “The Congress as such has a good aim to promote mutual respect and understanding in the world today.”
“Yet it has also a danger because it could give the impression of a ‘supermarket of religions,’” adding: “in these meetings, the Catholic Church is visually and exteriorly one of the many religions, and this is, in my opinion, a negative point and a dangerous point,” the prelate lamented, because the mission of the Church is to announce the unique and absolute nature of Jesus Christ to all nations.
Asked by journalists about his disagreement with Pope Francis, the Kazakh Bishop replied: “As bishops, we are brothers. He is the eldest brother, the head of the Church, but when, in conscience, I see that something is not correct, or is ambiguous, I must tell him with respect, fraternally.”
Expressing disagreement with the Pope is a mark of “a true brotherly love,” because being a bishop is not “behaving like an employee with one’s boss.” On the contrary, “speaking up when one considers that there is a danger for the Church, is to offer real help to the Pope,” he stated.
Remember that Bishop Schneider strongly criticized the Abu Dhabi “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” signed in 2019 by Pope Francis and the Egyptian Ahmed al-Tayeb, great Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, Cairo.
On the subject of this Document, we will recall the February 24, 2019 communiqué by Fr. Davide Pagliarani, Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X, vigorously denouncing the declaration as “an impious gesture that scorns the First Commandment of God and attributes to the Divine Wisdom, incarnate in Jesus Christ who died for us on the Cross, the statement that ‘the pluralism and diversity of religions’ is “willed by God in His wisdom.”
“Such talk is opposed to the dogma that declares that the Catholic religion is the one true religion (cf. Syllabus of Errors, proposition 21). When something is a dogma, anything opposed to it is called heresy. God cannot contradict Himself.”