God does not support war, Pope says in apparent criticism of Russian patriarch


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NUR-SULTAN, Sept 14 (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Wednesday that God does not guide religions to war, an implied criticism of Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who supports the invasion of Ukraine and boycotted a conference religious leaders.

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

The congress is marked by the noticeable absence of Kirill.

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He was supposed to attend but then withdrew. Read more

The Russian Orthodox Church sent a delegation.

“God is peace. He always guides us on the path of peace, never that of war,” Francis said during a huge round table at the Independence Palace, a huge modern structure made of steel and of glass in the capital of the former Soviet republic.

“Let us therefore commit ourselves even more to insisting on the need to resolve conflicts not by the inconclusive means of power, with weapons and threats, but by the only means blessed by heaven and worthy of man: encounter, dialogue and patient negotiations. ,” he said.

The pope, who said earlier this year that Kirill could not be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “choir boy”, told the conference: The sacred must never be an accessory to power, nor power a accessory for the sacred!

Kirill has enthusiastically supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which the patriarch sees as a bulwark against a West he calls decadent. Read more

His position caused a rift with the Vatican and sparked an internal rebellion that led to the severing of some local Orthodox Churches’ ties with the Russian Orthodox Church. Read more

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

He said religious freedom was essential for peaceful coexistence in any society and that no creed had the right to coerce others into converting.

“It is time to realize that fundamentalism taints and corrupts all beliefs,” he said. “Let us free ourselves from those reductionist and destructive notions which offend the name of God through harshness, extremism and forms of fundamentalism, and profane it through hatred, fanaticism and terrorism, also disfiguring the image of the ‘man.”

But it is not enough to condemn extremism.

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

Francis, who wrote a major paper in 2015 on the need to protect the environment, said religious leaders must be at the forefront of drawing attention to the dangers of climate change and extreme weather, especially their effects on the poor and vulnerable in society.

There are only about 125,000 Catholics among the 19 million inhabitants of this vast Central Asian country. About 70% of Kazakhs are Muslims and about 26% Orthodox Christians.

Francis will say a mass for the small Catholic community on Wednesday afternoon.

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Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Michael Perry

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