Pope Francis arrived at the expo grounds in a pickup truck popemobile, waving at the cheering crowd of several thousand.
He called on the crowd to remember that being a Christian means “living without venom: not biting one another, not complaining, blaming and backbiting, not disseminating evil, not polluting the earth with the sin and distrust that comes from the evil one.”
He said: “We have been reborn from the pierced side of the crucified Jesus. May we be free of the poison of death, and pray that by God’s grace we can become ever more fully Christian: joyful witnesses of new life, love, and peace.”
The people of Kazakhstan were likely first evangelized by Franciscan missionaries in the 13th century. The Catholic population grew thanks to deportations of believers from across the Soviet Union. Religious believers suffered active persecution when it was part of the Soviet Union; today, it is an officially secular state where religious freedom is tolerated.
Pope Francis recalled the “violence and atheist persecution” that Christians in Kazakhstan endured. He said that God, in response to the spread of evil in the world, “gave us Jesus.”
He said: “Confronting our misery, God gives us a new horizon: if we keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, the sting of evil can no longer prevail over us, for on the cross he took upon himself the venom of sin and death, and crushed their destructive power.”
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