Speeches 2001




Astana International Airport

Saturday, 22 September 2001

Mr President,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Authorities,
Representatives of the Various Religious Faiths,
Beloved Brothers and Sisters!

1. I give thanks to God who has guided my steps to the city of Astana, capital of this noble and vast Country, located in the heart of Eurasia. It is with affection that I kiss this Land, which has given rise to a multi-ethnic state, heir to numerous centuries-old spiritual and cultural traditions, and now on the move to new social and economic objectives. I have long desired this meeting and great is my joy at being able to hold all the citizens of Kazakhstan in an admiring and affectionate embrace.

From the moment I met you in the Vatican, Mr President of the Republic, and you invited me to visit this Land, I began to prepare myself in prayer for today’s meeting. I now ask the Lord to make this day blessed for all the beloved peoples of Kazakhstan.

2. Thank you, Mr President, for the invitation made to me at that time, and thank you for your commitment in making the arrangements for this visit, in all its complicated organizational aspects. I thank you also for the kind words of welcome which you addressed to me in the name of the Government and the Kazakh people. I cordially greet the civil and military authorities, as well as the members of the Diplomatic Corps. Through them I send my affectionate regards to the peoples they worthily represent.

I greet the Islamic Leaders and faithful, who boast a long religious tradition in this region. My good wishes go also to all people of good will who are engaged in promoting the moral and spiritual values that are capable of guaranteeing a future of peace for everyone.

A special greeting goes to the Bishops and the faithful of the Orthodox Church and to the Christians of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. I am pleased to repeat the invitation that we all work together so that the third millennium will witness the disciples of Christ proclaiming the Gospel — the message of hope for all humanity — with one voice and one heart.

Above all, with fraternal affection I embrace you, dear Bishops, priests, men and women Religious, missionaries, catechists and lay faithful, who make up the Catholic community living in this vast Kazakh land. I am aware of your dedication and enthusiasm; I am aware also of your fidelity to the Apostolic See and I pray that God will sustain you in every good work.

3. This visit of mine is taking place ten years after the proclamation of the independence of Kazakhstan, achieved following a long period of darkness and suffering. The date of 16 December 1991 is indelibly inscribed in the annals of your history. This regained freedom has rekindled in you a surer confidence in the future, and I am convinced that your past experience will provide a wealth of lessons from which to draw in order to move courageously towards new horizons of peace and progress. Kazakhstan wishes to grow in brotherhood, dialogue and understanding; these are the indispensable requisites for building bridges of solidarity and cooperation with other peoples, nations and cultures.

It is in this light that Kazakhstan made the bold move in 1991 to close the nuclear facility of Semipalatinsk, subsequently announcing its unilateral rejection of nuclear arms and its adherence to the Pact totally banning atomic experimentation. This decision is based on the conviction that controversies must be resolved not by recourse to arms but by the peaceful means of negotiation and dialogue. I can only encourage this type of commitment, which well corresponds to the fundamental demands of solidarity and peace to which human beings aspire ever more knowingly.

4. Today in your Country, which is one of the world’s largest in area, citizens belonging to over a hundred nationalities and ethnic groups live side by side, each guaranteed the same rights and freedoms by your Constitution. This spirit of openness and cooperation is part of your tradition, for Kazakhstan has always been a land where different traditions and cultures come together and coexist. This has given rise to significant cultural achievements, seen in original artistic styles as well as in a flourishing literary tradition.

I think with admiration of cities such as Balasagun, Merke, Kulan, Taraz, Otrar, Turkestan and others which were once important cultural and trade centers. In these cities have lived distinguished persons of science, art and history, from Abu Nasr al-Farabi, who helped Europe to rediscover Aristotle, to the well-known intellectual and poet Abai Kunanbai. The latter was taught by Orthodox monks, and he also knew the Western world and appreciated its intellectual heritage. He often repeated: "The West has become my East", revealing how contact with other cultural movements had reawakened in him the love for his own culture.

5. Beloved peoples of Kazakhstan! Having learned from the experiences of your ancient and recent past, and especially from the sad events of the twentieth century, you must see to it that your commitment to your country is always based on the safeguarding of freedom, the inalienable right and profound aspiration of every person. In particular, recognize the right to religious freedom, which enables people to express their most deeply held beliefs. When in a society citizens accept one another in their respective religious beliefs, it is easier to foster among them the effective recognition of other human rights and an understanding of the values on which a peaceful and productive coexistence is based. In fact, they feel a common bond in the awareness that they are brothers and sisters, because they are children of the one God, who created the universe.

I pray that God Almighty will bless and strengthen your steps along this path. May he help you to grow in freedom, unity and peace. These are the conditions necessary for establishing a climate conducive to an integral human development that is attentive to the needs of everyone, especially of the poor and suffering.

6. Dear Kazakh people, a challenging mission awaits you: building a Country under the banner of true progress, in solidarity and peace. Kazakhstan, Land of martyrs and of believers, Land of deportees and of heroes, Land of intellectuals and of artists, do not be afraid! If the scars of the wounds inflicted on your body remain many and deep, if difficulties and obstacles hinder your work of material and spiritual rebuilding, you will find balm and encouragement in the words of the great Abai Kunanbai: "Love and justice are humanity’s principles, these are the crowning of the work of the Most High" (Sayings, chapter 45).

Love and justice! May the Most High, who guides men’s steps, make these stars shine brightly upon your path, vast Land of Kazakhstan!

Such are the sentiments that surge within my heart as I begin my visit to Astana. Looking at the colours of your flag, dear Kazakh people, I ask the Most High to grant you the gifts that they represent: stability and openness, symbolized by the blue; prosperity and peace, symbolized by the gold.

God bless you, Kazakhstan, and all your peoples. May he grant you a future of unity and peace.




Astana (Apostolic Nunciature)

Sunday, 23 September 2001

Dear Brother Bishops, Apostolic Administrators
and Superiors of the Missions sui iuris of Central Asia,

1. It is with deep joy that I meet you again, following this morning’s solemn Eucharistic celebration in the great Square of the Motherland. I greet each one of you with affection and I thank you for your zeal and sacrifice in contributing to the rebirth of the Church in these vast regions, situated on the border between two continents.

Here, the Catholic Church is only a little plant, but she is full of hope because of her trust in the power of divine grace. The long years of the Communist dictatorship, during which so many of the faithful were deported to the gulags set up in these lands, caused much suffering and bereavement. How many priests, religious and laity paid for their faithfulness to Christ with unimaginable suffering, and even the sacrifice of their lives! The Lord has heard the cry of these martyrs, whose blood has drenched the soil of your land. Yet again "the blood of martyrs has been the seed of Christians" (cf. Tertullian, Apologeticum, 50, 13). From this blood your Christian communities have sprung up like seedlings, and now they look to the future with confidence.

Christ, the Good Shepherd, reminds you and the people entrusted to your pastoral care: "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Lc 12,32). And again, just as he said to Peter, he says to you: "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch" (Lc 5,4). He is talking about the catch of evangelization, to which we are all called. He commands us, just as he commanded the Apostles after his resurrection: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28,19).

2. The experiences of the small Christian communities of Central Asia after communism and its present strongly minority situation call to mind the Gospel parable of the leaven which causes the dough to rise (cf. Mt Mt 13,33). The leaven seems insignificant, but it has the power to transform the whole loaf. This is the conviction which ought to underlie your pastoral activity and sustain the difficult and noble task of the plantatio Ecclesiae in these territories, newly open to the Gospel. The priority pastoral aims of your apostolic mission should be the spreading, with all your energies, of the Gospel proclamation and the continuing consolidation of the Church’s organization.

The recent establishment of the Apostolic Administrations and the Missions sui iuris, by means of which the Church has gained a visible and solid structure, heralds the beginning of a promising time of evangelization. I therefore wish to express my gratitude and admiration for your efforts, dear Ordinaries. I also thank the priests and religious men and women who have left their native countries to offer themselves for the missionary task in these lands, in a spirit of genuine ecclesial solidarity. My hope is that the generous commitment of all will be rewarded by an abundant harvest of good. May you never lose sight of being a sign of God’s love among these peoples, who are rich in their centuries-old cultural and religious traditions.

3. "Love one another" is the theme of my pastoral visit. In the name of our common Master and Lord, I address this invitation to you today: "Love one another". May it be your concern always to preserve among yourselves the unity that Christ left us as his testament (cf. Jn Jn 17,21).

Just as when the Gospel first began to be preached, the Church will enter people’s hearts if she is seen as a welcoming home, marked by fraternal communion. In the first place, be united among yourselves, dear Pastors of these Churches. Although you are not yet an Episcopal Conference in the full sense, try to develop forms of effective collaboration with every means, in order to make the best possible use of pastoral resources.

In this precious work the universal Church is supporting you with her solidarity. The Successor of Peter, who embraces you today with emotion, accompanies you with affection. Although you are geographically far away, you are in the heart of the Pope who appreciates your untiring apostolate.

4. It is ten years since Kazakhstan obtained the independence it had longed for. But the climate of a weakening of values which it inherited from the previous regime still needs attention. The long winter of communist domination, with its claim to eradicate God from the human heart, often reduced the spiritual content of these peoples’ cultures. For this reason there is a scarcity of ideals which makes people particularly vulnerable to the myths of consumerism and hedonism imported from the West. These are social and spiritual challenges which call for a courageous missionary impulse.

As my venerable Predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI, used to say, the Church called to evangelize "begins by evangelizing herself". As a community of hope which is lived and shared, she "needs to listen unceasingly ... to her reasons for hoping". The Church needs to be continually evangelized "if she wishes to retain freshness, vigour and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel..." In addition, there is need for a "Church which is evangelized by constant conversion and renewal, in order to evangelize the world with credibility" (Evangelii Nuntiandi EN 15).

Missionary activity must be prepared and accompanied by a well-focused work of formation, by a solid experience of prayer, by actions marked by fraternity and service. Great apostolic efforts are required in order to evangelize the different settings with their local traditions, giving particular attention to the university world and the means of social communication. Have confidence in Christ! May his presence reassure you. May his promise fill you with strength and enthusiasm: "I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28,20)

5. In order to fulfil the mission which he entrusts to you, pay close attention to the formation of candidates to the priesthood and religious life. Dedicate yourselves with love to the priests, who are your principal collaborators, by helping them and being close to them with a fatherly heart.

In this regard, I wish to express my great pleasure at the completion of the Seminary at Karaganda, which offers much promise for the future. As the seminary for all of Central Asia, it is a sign of effective cooperation between your Churches. Make every effort to ensure that within its walls a solid human and spiritual formation, as well as a serious theological and pastoral training, is given to candidates to the priesthood. I express the heartfelt hope that you will be able to count on good formators who are expert teachers and exemplary witnesses to the Gospel.

6. Give special attention to the training and apostolate of the laity, and welcome with discernment and openness of heart both the older Associations and that gift of the Spirit to the Church in the post-Conciliar period which are the ecclesial Movements and new Communities.

Their presence, spirit of initiative and specific charisms are a source of wealth to be valued. The Ordinary should direct and guide their activity with pastoral wisdom, inviting them to assist the ecclesial communities while respecting existing structures and their established operation. In turn, members of Movements and Associations should, with openness of spirit and docile readiness, renew their commitment to work in harmony with the Pastors of these young Churches. Their efforts in serving the new evangelization will thus become a sign of the love which flows from faithful commitment to the one Lord of all.

7. Dear Brothers, I wish to end by encouraging you to promote ecumenical dialogue. Your pastoral activity is carried out in close contact with the members of the Orthodox Church, who share the same faith in Christ and the richness of a large part of the same ecclesial tradition. May your mutual relations be characterized by warmth and respect, in fidelity to the Lord’s words: "Love one another". At the dawn of the new millennium, let us harbour the hope that Christ’s disciples, even if not fully united, will be at least closer to one another, also as a result of the experience of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

Respect and dialogue should also be fostered in relation to the Muslim community, with those who belong to other religions and with those who profess themselves to be non-believers. May everyone be able to appreciate the gift of your faith lived in charity and may they open their hearts to the most profound dimensions of life.

I entrust your pastoral mission to Mary, Star of Evangelization and Queen of Peace. In the Cathedral of Astana you venerate her as the Mother of Perpetual Help. Into her maternal hands I place your endless work, your expectations and your plans; may she guide and sustain you every step of the way.

With these sentiments, I cordially impart to you my special Apostolic Blessing, as a pledge of apostolic zeal and graces for you and for those entrusted to your pastoral care.




Presidential Palace

Astana, Sunday 23 September 2001

I am grateful to you Mr President for your kind words. Again I thank Providence for having allowed me to come here and to be here. A few days ago some felt that it would not be possible on account of the tragic events in the United States. But we have seen that it is possible, thanks be to God.

It is the first time I visit this part of the globe, Central Asia. The first source of information on Kazakhstan was for me Fr Bukowinski, who is well known here. During the Second World War he was deported as a priest from Poland to the Soviet Union and here he passed his entire life. Here he died and was buried, at Karaganda. From him I begin to learn about Kazakhstan. But now it is the first time that I can see them with my own eyes. It is a shame that I cannot visit Karaganda and the tomb of Fr Bukowinski.

I see here that Astana is a modern city. These meetings, these experiences I have lived, compel me to pray even more for your country, your People and for you, Mr President. I am happy that my visit falls on the tenth anniversary of your independence, because I am convinced - as is the Church - that every nation has the right to its sovereignty. This national sovereignty is also the full expression of what a nation is to be as a political subject. I make the wish for all of you, and above all for you Mr President that this sovereignty be long lasting, fruitful, ever fuller, embracing all the sectors of national life: economic, political, cultural. This is very important.

I hope that the Catholics present in Kazakhstan may be able to contribute to the common good of the country. They are a restricted group, a minority but they can and will contribute - to the best of their ability - to the common good of Kazakhstan.

After the President finished his greeting, begging God's blessings on Kazakhstan, the Holy Father added:

My wish for you, Mr President, and for the whole people, is that God may bless all of you.



Astana – Eurasia University

Sunday, 23 September 2001

Dear Young People!

1. It is a great joy for me to meet with you, and I am deeply grateful for your warm welcome. I greet especially the Rector and the academic authorities of this new and already prestigious University. Its very name, Eurasia, indicates the particular mission which it has in common with your great nation which is a point of contact between Europe and Asia: a mission of linking two continents, their respective cultures and traditions, and the different ethnic groups who have mingled here through the centuries.

Indeed, yours is a country in which the world can see accord and harmony between different peoples as an eloquent sign of the vocation of all peoples to live together in peace, in mutual knowledge and openness, and an ever deeper discovery and appreciation of the distinctive traditions of each people. Kazakhstan is a land of encounter, exchange and newness; a land which stirs in everyone the desire for new discoveries and makes it possible to experience difference not as a threat but as an enrichment.

Recognizing this, dear young people, I greet each one of you. To all of you I say as a friend: peace be with you, may peace fill your hearts! Know that you are called to be the builders of a better world.Be peace-makers, because a society solidly based on peace is a society with a future.

2. In preparing this visit, I asked myself what the young people of Kazakhstan would want to hear from the Pope of Rome and what would they like to ask him. My experience of young people tells me that they are interested in the basic questions. Probably the first question you would want to put to me is this: "Who am I, Pope John Paul II, according to the Gospel that you proclaim? What is the meaning of my life? Where am I going?" My answer, dear young people, is simple but hugely significant: You are a thought of God, you are a heart-beat of God.To say this is like saying that you have a value which in a sense is infinite, that you matter to God in your completely unique individuality.

You understand then, dear young people, why I come among you this evening with respect and trepidation, and why I look to you with great affection and confidence. I am happy to meet you, the descendants of the noble Kazakh people, proud of your indomitable yearning for freedom, which is as limitless as the steppe where you were born. You come from different backgrounds, in which suffering played a big part.

Here you sit side by side, in a spirit of friendship, not because you have forgotten the evil there has been in your history, but because you are rightly more interested in the good that you can build together. There is no true reconciliation which does not lead to generous shared commitment.

Realize that each one of you is of unique worth, and be ready to accept one another with your respective convictions as you search together for the fullness of truth. Your country has experienced the deadly violence of ideology. Do not let yourselves fall prey now to the no less destructive violence of "emptiness". What a suffocating void it is when nothing matters in life, when you believe in nothing! Emptiness is the negation of the infinite, which your steppe-land powerfully evokes: it is the opposite of that Infinity for which the human heart has an irresistible longing.

3. I have been told that, in your beautiful Kazakh language, "I love you" is "men senen jaskè korejmen", which can be translated as "I look upon you well, my gaze upon you is good". Human love, but more fundamentally still God’s love for humanity and creation, stems from a loving gaze, a gaze that helps us see the good and leads us to do what is good: "God saw everything he had made, and he found it very good" (Gn 1,31). Such a gaze allows us to see all that is positive in things and leads us to ponder far beneath the surface the beauty and richness of every human being we meet.

Spontaneously we ask ourselves: "What is it that constitutes the beauty and greatness of the human person?" Here is the answer I give you: what makes a human being great is the stamp of God which each of us bears. According to the Bible, a human being is created "in the image and likeness of God" (cf. Gen Gn 1,26). This is why the human heart is never satisfied: it wants more and better, it wants everything. No finite reality satisfies or placates its longing. Saint Augustine, one of the early Church Fathers, wrote: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you" (Confessions, 1,1). Is it not perhaps the same intuition that prompts the question which your great thinker and poet Ahmed Jassavi repeats several times in his poems: "What is life’s point if not to be given, and given to the Most High God?"

4. Dear friends, in these words of Ahmed Jassavi there is a great message, echoing what religious tradition describes as a "vocation". In giving life to man, God entrusts to him a task and awaits his response. To declare that the purpose of human life, with all its experiences, its joys and sorrows, is that it be "given to the Most High God" in no way diminishes or denies our life. Rather, it is an assertion of the supreme dignity of the human person: made in the image and likeness of God, men and women are called to cooperate in transmitting life and in ruling over creation (cf. Gen Gn 1,26-28).

The Pope of Rome has come to say this to you: there is a God who has thought of you and given you life. He loves you personally and he entrusts the world to you. It is he who stirs in you the thirst for freedom and the desire for knowledge. Allow me to profess before you with humility and pride the faith of Christians: Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God made man two thousand years ago, came to reveal to us this truth through his person and his teaching. Only in the encounter with him, the Word made flesh, do we find the fullness of self-realization and happiness. Religion itself, without the experience of wondrous discovery of the Son of God and communion with him who became our brother, becomes a mere set of principles which are increasingly difficult to understand, and rules which are increasingly hard to accept.

5. Dear friends, you sense that no earthly reality can fully satisfy you. You are aware that openness to the world is not enough to satisfy your thirst for life and that freedom and peace can come only from Another who is infinitely greater than you, even though he is very close to you.

Realize that you are not your own masters, and open yourselves to the One who created you out of love and wants to make you worthy, free and good people. I encourage you to adopt this attitude of confident openness: learn to listen in silence to the voice of God, who speaks in the depths of every heart; build your lives on sure and solid foundations; do not be afraid of commitment and sacrifice, which today require a great investment of energies, but which are the guarantee of success tomorrow. Discover the truth about yourselves, and new horizons will not cease to open up before you.

Dear young people, perhaps these words of mine seem unusual to you. To me however they seem relevant and necessary for people today, who at times delude themselves that they are all-powerful, because they have made great scientific progress and managed in some sense to control the complex world of technology. But every individual has a heart: intelligence may drive machines, but it is the heart that beats with life! Give your heart the vital resources which it needs, allow God to enter your life: then your life will brighten with his divine light.

6. I came among you in order to offer you encouragement. We are at the beginning of a new millennium: it is an important time for the world, because in people’s minds there is a growing conviction that we cannot go on living divided as we are. Unfortunately nowadays, when communications are becoming easier by the day, differences are often apparent in still more dramatic forms. I urge you to work for a more united world, and to do so in your everyday life, bringing to the task the creative contribution of a heart renewed.

Your country is counting on you and expects much from you in the years ahead: the path your country takes will be determined by your choices. You will be the face of Kazakhstan tomorrow! Be courageous, fear nothing, and you will not be disappointed.

May the Most High God protect you always, and may his blessing be upon each of you, upon your loved ones and upon every aspect of your lives!

At the end of the talk to young people at the University, the Holy Father offered these remarks in Italian.

I wish to express my profound appreciation for the meeting with the University. The University is always very close to me. I am happy to find one here because it is the foundation of national culture and of national development. Culture is the foundation of the identity of a people. Thank you.



Auditorium of the Congress Hall

Astana, 24 September 2001

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am very pleased to meet you this evening. I offer you respectful and cordial greetings, and I give heartfelt thanks for the gracious words of welcome spoken in the name of all present. I readily accepted the invitation to spend this time with you in order to demonstrate once more the interest and the confidence with which the Catholic Church and the Pope look to the men and women of culture. I am indeed well aware of the indispensable contribution which you can make to the style and the substance of human life through your committed research and your ability to express the true and the good.

Men and women of culture, art and science! Kazakhstan is heir to a history in which complex and often sorrowful events have given rise to diverse traditions, so that today it stands as a unique example of a multiethnic, multicultural and multireligious society. Be proud of your Nation and conscious of the great responsibility which is yours in preparing for its future. My thoughts turn especially to the young people who rightfully expect from you a testimony of knowledge and wisdom, passed on to them through your teaching and above all by the witness of your life.

2. Kazakhstan is a vast country which down the centuries has given rise to a vibrant local culture, rich in creative developments, thanks also to the influence of Russian intellectuals confined here by the totalitarian regime.

How many people have passed through this country! I would like to mention, in particular, the Venetian traveller and merchant Marco Polo, who in medieval times admiringly described the moral qualities and the rich traditions of the men and women of the steppe. The endless stretches of your plains, the sense of human frailty in the face of the untrammelled power of nature, the awareness of the mystery which lies hidden beyond the phenomena of the senses, everything inspires in your people an openness to fundamental human questions and the search for answers which are significant for universal culture.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, you are called to acquaint the world with Kazakhstan’s rich cultural tradition: this is a demanding undertaking, and yet an attractive one, for it commits you to discovering the deepest features of that tradition, in order to combine them in a harmonious synthesis.

One of your country’s great thinkers, the teacher Abai Kunanbai, put it this way: "A man cannot be a man unless he perceives the evident and the hidden mysteries of the universe, unless he seeks an explanation for everything. Anyone who fails to do this is no different from the animals. God distinguished man from the animals by giving him a soul... It is absolutely necessary that we constantly extend our interests, increasing the knowledge which nourishes our souls. It is important to realize that the goods of the soul are incomparably superior to the benefits of the body, and that carnal needs should be subordinated to the imperatives of the soul" (Sayings of Abai, Chapter 7).

3. How can we not appreciate the profound wisdom of these words, which seem like a commentary on the disturbing question asked by Jesus in the Gospel: "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?" (Mc 8,36). The human heart asks questions which will not go away; when these questions are ignored, man becomes not freer but weaker, often ending up at the mercy of his own instincts, to say nothing of the aggression of others.

"If the heart no longer aspires to anything", Abai Kunanbai says, "who can unveil its thought? / ... If reason abandons itself to desire, / it loses all its depth. / ... Can a people worthy of this name do without reason?" (Poems, 12).

Questions like this are religious by their very nature, in the sense that they appeal to those supreme values which have God as their ultimate foundation. Religion, for its part, cannot fail to grapple with these existential questions; otherwise it loses contact with life.

4. Christians know that in Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ, a complete answer has been given to the questions dwelling deep in the human heart. Jesus’ words, his actions and, in the end, his Paschal Mystery, have revealed him to be the Redeemer of man and the Saviour of the world. Of this "good news", which for two thousand years has been on the lips of countless men and women in every part of the earth, the Pope of Rome comes before you today as a humble and convinced witness, in full respect for the search which other people of good will are engaged in along different paths. Whoever has encountered the truth in all the splendour of its beauty must necessarily feel drawn to share it with others. Rather than an obligation based on a law, the believer feels the need to share with others the supreme Value of his own life.

Consequently – even in the context of a soundly secular State, which is obliged in any event to guarantee to each citizen, without distinction of sex, race and nationality, the fundamental right to freedom of conscience – there is a need to acknowledge and defend the right of believers to bear public witness to their faith. Authentic religious practice cannot be reduced to the private sphere or narrowly restricted to the edges of society. The beauty of the new houses of worship which are beginning to rise up almost everywhere in the new Kazakhstan is a precious sign of spiritual rebirth and a sign of promise for the future.

5. For their part, centres of education and culture can only gain from an openness to greater knowledge of the more vital and significant religious achievements in your nation’s history. In my Message for the World Day of Peace on 1 January 2001, I spoke of the danger of a "slavish conformity" to Western culture, observing that "Western cultural models are enticing and alluring because of their remarkable scientific and technical cast, but regrettably there is growing evidence of their deepening human, spiritual and moral impoverishment. The culture which produces such models is marked by the fatal attempt to secure the good of humanity by eliminating God, the Supreme Good" (No. 9).

Again, let us listen to the great teacher Abai Kunanbai: "All people, whatever their religion, attribute to God love and justice. Love and justice are the origin of humanity. Those in whom sentiments of love and justice prevail are the truly wise" (Sayings of Abai, Chapter 45).

In this context, and precisely here in this Land of encounter and dialogue, and before this distinguished audience, I wish to reaffirm the Catholic Church’s respect for Islam, for authentic Islam: the Islam that prays, that is concerned for those in need. Recalling the errors of the past, including the most recent past, all believers ought to unite their efforts to ensure that God is never made the hostage of human ambitions. Hatred, fanaticism and terrorism profane the name of God and disfigure the true image of man.

6. I am happy to see and to honour in you here present, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, so many "seekers after truth", committed to handing on to the younger generation of this great country the values on which they can base their personal and social life. Unless it is soundly rooted in these values, life is like a tree with luxuriant branches but which the winds of adversity can easily batter and uproot.

I thank you, Mr President, and I thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen, representatives of the world of culture in Kazakhstan. At the end of this meeting, which in a certain sense concludes my visit to your beautiful country, I wish to assure you of the real cooperation and the sincere prayers of the Pope and of the whole Catholic Church to the Almighty and Most High God that Kazakhstan, faithful to its native Eusasian vocation, will continue to be a land of encounter and acceptance, in which men and women of the two great continents will be able to live long days of prosperity and peace.

Speeches 2001