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Pope francesco he arrived in Kazakhstan on his “pilgrimage of peace” after a demanding journey by plane which required the assistance of the elderly pontiff.
The Holy Father landed in Kazakhstan on Tuesday for a three-day trip to the country, meeting both lay and religious leaders.
The final outcome of the trip remains open to speculation, as the pope’s program remains open to a possible meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will be in Kazakhstan at the same time as the pope.
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“It will be an opportunity to meet many religious representatives and dialogue as brothers, animated by the common desire for peace, the peace our world thirsts for,” said Francis referring to the weekend trip.
During his trip, the pope hoped to meet the Russian Orthodox patriarch Kirill, who sought to justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine on a spiritual and ideological basis in a “metaphysical” battle with the West. However, earlier this summer, Kirill withdrew from the interreligious gathering.
Xi is expected to land in Kazakhstan on Wednesday during his diplomatic trip, raising doubts that the two world leaders can meet.
Pope Francis said he was open to meeting with Chinese leaders, but that he has no news or information on a possible face-to-face.
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With arrests, intimidation and legal restrictions by the CCP that also suppress the apolitical religious practices of Catholics, the Vatican and Beijing have barely managed to maintain an open dialogue.
Under Mao Zedong in the early 1950s, China broke off diplomatic relations with the Vatican, razed churches and deported missionaries before founding its own Catholic Association.
Under this self-styled corporation, the CCP retained the right to ordain bishops without Vatican approval, which the Church has vehemently contested. Chinese bishops consecrated without papal approval are considered valid, but this usually leads to immediate excommunication.
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The Catholic Church continues to walk a fine line in an effort to claim authority from the CCP without further endangering its members within China’s borders.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.