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Pope Francis arrives in Kazakhstan

Pope Francis arrived in Kazakhstan on Tuesday after a six-hour flight from Rome to commence a three-day trip of attending peace meetings with world religious leaders. The event is going to be attended by more than 100 delegations from some 50 countries.

The Pope, who is suffering from a knee ailment, for the first time on his trips has used a finger ramp to exit the plane and enter the terminal on a wheelchair.

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev briefly greeted him at the airport before Francis arrived in a small white car to the gleaming marble presidential palace for a private meeting with the head of state, ahead of an address to government officials and diplomatic corps.

Pope Francis meets the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, as he begins his three-day visit to #Kazakhstan.#PopeInKazakhstan#PopeFrancis

— Vatican News (@VaticanNews) September 13, 2022
The Pope will stay in Kazakhstan until Thursday for a peace meeting of world religious leaders marked by a conspicuous absence of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who supports the war taking place in Ukraine.

The ongoing conflict in the east is likely to cast its long shadow on the meeting, which is going to be attended by more than 100 delegations from some 50 countries.

Speaking at his Sunday address, Francis called his Kazakhstan trip “a pilgrimage of dialogue and peace” and in the very next sentence asked for prayers for the Ukrainian people, who he often has described as being “martyred.”

There are only about 125,000 Catholics among the 19 million population of the vast Central Asian country, which is a former Soviet Republic. About 70 percent of the Kazakhs are Muslim and about 26 percent Orthodox Christians.

Pope ‘ready’ to visit China
Asked about making a potential trip to China, Francis responded he was “always ready” to visit Beijing.

According to journalists aboard the flight, #PopeFrancis was asked whether he would meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is expected to visit Kazakhstan. The pope said he was unaware of a meeting but that he is “always ready to visit China.”

— Junno Arocho Esteves (@arochoju) September 13, 2022
The Pope has tried to ease the historically poor relations between the Holy See and China, and told Reuters in an interview in July that he hoped to renew a covert and contested agreement on the appointment of Roman Catholic bishops in China.

The Chinese President will be visiting Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan between September 14 and 16 in his first official trip to a foreign nation since China all but shut its borders down to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is expected to also meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Uzbekistan.

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