A Parting Plea for Dialogue and Peace

John Paul II Bears Farewell to Kazakhstan

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan, SEPT. 25, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II bid farewell to Kazakhstan this morning with a heartfelt appeal to dialogue and peace between Christians and Muslims.

A «nation, which has centuries of history behind it, knows how important and urgent peace it!» the Pope exclaimed at Astana´s international airport.

Kazakhstan, in the region of the Eurasian steppes, is conscious of the tensions in an area braced for U.S. reprisals against Afghanistan for the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

«Be ready to promote peace, so often threatened by the specter of catastrophic wars,» the Holy Father said.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev was present at the farewell ceremony, as were the Catholic bishops of nearby Central Asian republics, and other civil authorities.

The Pontiff encouraged Kazakhs to make their country a «frontier land and a land of encounter,» a «bridge between Europe and Asia.»

«Love one another!» was the motto of the papal visit. This was also the challenge the Pontiff left Kazakh Christians and Muslims. «The younger generations, too, should follow this path with renewed commitment,» the Pope said.

The Holy Father called Kazakh Christians to «an intense spiritual reawakening» in this land which is experiencing the ideological void left by Communism.

The Holy Father took off from Astana en route to Armenia in a KazakhAir plane. In the Caucasus, the Pope will now celebrate the 1,700 years of the proclamation of Christianity as the official religion of Armenia. That visit will end Thursday.

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