Francis goes to Kazakhstan, says stuff and signs something. What could go wrong?

Francis went to Astana (Nur-Sultan), Kazakhstan to participate in the VII Congress Of the Leaders Of World And Traditional Religions.

That Congress issued a final declaration, surely prepared ahead of time and distributed to the signatories ahead of time.

This declaration is reproduced in The Astana Times.

After a string of whereas-es, there is a string of declarations…

We, the participants of the VII Congress – spiritual leaders of world and traditional religions, politicians, heads of international organizations,…


10. We note that pluralism in terms of differences in skin color, gender, race, language and culture are expressions of the wisdom of God in creation. Religious diversity is permitted by God and, therefore, any coercion to a particular religion and religious doctrine is unacceptable.

Francis signed this.  I don’t think he should have signed any such thing, but they didn’t ask me.

NB: Permitted by God and not willed by God.

It may be that some people will not read this carefully.   While I don’t like the wording as it is, at least he didn’t sign something that said that God willed diversity of religions.  Diversity is permitted by God.

THE PROBLEM HERE IS…. differences of “gender” (aka “sex”), are not just permitted by God, they are WILLED by God.  To have the same verb in one sentence applied to “gender” and also “religion” is a problem.  “Permitted” does NOT mean the same thing in the cases of “sex” and “religion”!

Diversity in religion is permitted in the sense that it is tolerated by God.   A diversity of religions is an evil, so God cannot have willed it.

Diversity of sex is permitted in the sense that it is actively willed by God.  A diversity of sex is a positive good, and God wills it to be so.

In 2019 Francis had in the UAE accepted a statement that diversity of religions was willed by God, but he backtracked and explained that it was God’s permissive will that there are various religions, not God’s active will.  As a matter of fact, Bp. Athanasius Schneider obtained a clarification from him.  HERE

Bp. Athanasius Schneider is not only an alumnus of my school in Rome, the Augustinianum, he is also Auxiliary Bishop of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan.


Meanwhile, Francis did say all sorts of goofy things during his time in Astana.  He has an earworm these days – perhaps in the person of a Wormtongue – and has to wedge it into everything.  Get this in an address to clergy and religious.  Talking about “memory and future”…

Yet we need to be attentive. It is not about looking back with nostalgia, getting stuck in the past and letting ourselves be paralyzed and immobile. When we do that, we are tempted to take a step backwards. [Can’t even keep it in house.] … If we look more closely at this inheritance, what do we see? That the faith was not passed down from generation to generation as a set of ideas to be understood and followed, as a fixed and timeless code. No, our faith was passed on through life, though witnesses who shed the light of the Gospel on different situations in order to illumine and purify them, and to spread the consoling warmth of Jesus, the joy of his saving love and the hope of his promise. By remembering, then, we learn that faith grows through witness. Everything else comes later. This is a call that is addressed to everyone. I want to repeat this: to everyone, to the lay faithful, bishops, priests, deacons, and the consecrated men and women working in various ways in the pastoral life of our communities. May we never grow weary of bearing witness to the very heart of salvation, to the newness of Jesus, to the newness that is Jesus! Faith is not a lovely exhibition of artefacts from a distant past or a museum, but an ever-present event, an encounter with Christ that takes place in the here and now of our lives. So we cannot pass it on by simply repeating the same old things, but by communicating the newness of the Gospel. In this way, faith remains alive and has a future. As I like to say, faith is transmitted through the “mother tongue”.

Through the “mother tongue”.  However, when you translate something from, for example, Latin that has been handed down for some 1500 years into a modern “mother tongue” you change the meaning by translating it.   Change the meaning and it isn’t the same.  Without a stable point of reference, you fly off into a whole new vector that doesn’t point at your destination.

This is redolent of Card. Kasper’s approach that permits one to say that, back in His time, Jesus was right about divorce, or in another age, the Church was right about just war theory or the death penalty, but times change and, while neither Jesus nor the Church are wrong, exactly, they aren’t right – now.  We have, therefore, to reinterpret what Jesus and Church said about everything in light of present lived experience.   It may look like they are asking us to accept that up is really down, black is really white, or 2+2=5, but that’s just a sign that you aren’t nuanced enough to get the deeper meaning.  They will explain it to us over time.  And if lots of confused people drop out?  Well, you have to break eggs to make an omlete.

At the conclusion of the aforementioned Congress Francis said:

Brothers and sisters, in thinking of this shared path, I asked myself: What is our point of convergence? Pope John Paul II, who visited Kazakhstan twenty-one years ago this very month, stated that “for the Church all ways lead to man” and that man is “the way for the Church” (Redemptor Hominis, 14). I would like to say that today man is also the way for all the religions. Yes, man, men and women, concrete human beings, weakened by the pandemic, worn out by war, wounded by indifference! Human beings, frail and marvelous creatures, who, “once God is forgotten, are left in darkness” (SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 36) and apart from others cannot survive! The good of humanity should be taken into consideration ahead of strategic and economic objectives, national, energy and military interests, and in advance of crucial decisions.

This is a little eerie.

Consider inculturation, which is permanent, unavoidable and indeed desirable in the Church.  There is an ongoing. simultaneous exertion of influence of the world on the Church and – according to Christ’s will and command – the Church on the world.  It must be so.  When what the Church has to give to the world has logical priority, human welfare and different cultures flourish.  However, when the logical priority is given to the world in this mutual exchange, disaster results.  This is what we see going on today.

How to reverse this?  A recovery of Catholic identity is necessary.  If we don’t know who we are, we can’t explain who we are or give reasons for why others should even listen to us, much less join us.  Hence, the Church’s role in the public square is massively eroded.  Just witness the feckless irrelevance of the USCCB in public life in these USA, or bishops in their dioceses, or once-Catholic universities, etc.

The recovery of Catholic identity must start and continue with a renewal of our sacred liturgical worship… and all three of those terms have their import.

We are our rites.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. TheCavalierHatherly says:

    These “artefacts” of the 1960s remind me quite a bit of an exhibition of Shaker Furniture I was more or less obliged to view at an art museum once: boring beyond fathom.

    But I finally understand why I just don’t get this pontificate! My mother tongue, not being bishop-speak of the waffle dialect, makes this… umm… “cultural wisdom (?)” indecipherable. What a loss. I was hoping for the Gospel.

  2. Prayerful says:

    I suppose it cannot be worse, and if Francis won’t meeting Xi, he won’t be kissing his feet or doing something else degrading to Catholics.

  3. Lurker 59 says:

    Fun fact — Non-Catholic believers don’t believe this “Religious diversity is permitted by God and, therefore, any coercion to a particular religion and religious doctrine is unacceptable” either. It is offensive to everyone except a certain set of western educated modernists that happen to be installed into positions of power.

    The “faith is transmitted through the mother tongue” is incredibly myopic and a fortune cookie language masquerading as wisdom. I am an adult convert, so for me, what is this mother tongue? It is not my biological mother’s tongue, it is not the tongue of my mother country, nor the tongue of the culture that I find myself in. None of these taught me the Faith. Eastern Catholics have really good arguments about using vernacular in the Liturgy (even then it is not totally vernacular), but that is not this argument nor is this subject (the language of catechesis vs. language of Liturgy).

    But really what is a hoot about this is that when you pick at it, it is all an argument to be rooted in place, fixated on doing what has always been done, being closed off etc. There is no “newness of the Gospel” no “encounter with the living Christ” if there is no conversion to His Truth, His Way, His Liturgy. There is only stagnation and indifference via the path of what is being pushed by His Holiness.

  4. The Vicar says:

    Not even worth your time.

  5. ChiaraDiAssisi says:

    ” [Can’t even keep it in house.] …” lol…um yeah…sorry about my Dad the other day. It’s that kind of feeling. Oh my goodness. Thanks for the laugh though Fr. Z, even through the tears.

  6. Percusio says:

    “No, our faith was passed on through life, though witnesses who shed the light of the Gospel on different situations in order to illumine and purify them…” Perhaps I agree with the “illumination of the faith”, but purifying the faith? Personally I do not see the harmony of this purification process, and that seems to be what it is, and “…our ability to spread the consoling warmth of Jesus, the joy of his saving love and the hope of his promise.” How do we even know who Jesus is any more if He is the Word? Is this Jesus a construct of our own process of purifying Him? Is He also coming to be in this process? We can not know the Jesus of the gospels by His “consoling warmth” because our construct is obviously much better, having been purified, has a warmth that surpasses the Word.

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  8. KateD says:

    I thought the use of Latin as the official language of the Church prevented definition shift, because it’s a dead language. It doesn’t change. Just like God doesn’t change.

  9. Discipula says:

    I read Life Site News’ report on this last night before heading to bed. They have a couple articles on it: “Pope Francis signs document saying ‘differences in religion’ are part of ‘God’s will in creation'” and “Document saying God wills ‘differences in religion’ was quietly changed just hours after Pope signed it”

    The language of the document when Francis signed it was identical (at least in regards to plurality of religions being “willed” by God) to the language used at Abu Dhabi that Bp. Schneider so strongly objected to – to Francis’ face. And it signed essentially the same thing again, which he should never have done. Even if they promised him they would fix it later he should never have signed it.

    When is enough, enough? I have lost all respect for this man and if his successor doesn’t begin his pontificate with a strong condemnation and correction of Francis numerous errors I will not respect him either. If a bishop is not willing to address this and correct this error I’ve lost respect for them too. How far is too far? When will they stand up and be men?

    The most recent Lifesite article can be found here:

  10. tradcath1953 says:

    Fr. Steven Sommerville wrote an open letter of apology to all Catholics for his work in ICEL where he translated and revised the true mass. He said that meanings were definitely changed. Really an eye opening letter, Fisheaters has it posted on their site. It really opened my eyes as to just how precise the traditional mass was and how everything specifically meant something.

  11. JonathanTX says:

    This faith by mother tongue trope won’t get any traction in the Muslim world, considering their belief that the Quran is the word of God dictated purposely in Arabic – to the extent that some interpretations of Islam consider the Quran itself God, insofar as the word of God cannot be separable from the essence of God.

    This is reflected in translations of the Quran, which will state that it is “The Meaning of the Quran” in English. Because there is no actual Quran in English, only Arabic.

  12. Ariseyedead says:

    Pope Francis goes to a leaders meeting of *Traditional* Religions. Sounds like the beginning of a joke…

  13. ChiaraDiAssisi says:

    Good points. Also, as you probably already know, the Arabic in the Quran is not the same as MSA or any other dialect of Arabic. It is learned in school by Muslims and every vowel/accent mark and punctuation is notated. Not like colloquial Arabic. Only the Quran, official documents and such that can not accept any room for error are written like this with the Quran’s Arabic being unique in many ways. Like the use of Latin as our official language of the Latin rite. To use an example of what I mean,, I once ran across a Latin/Arabic Lexicon from the 1800’s. I am sure it can be found by an internet search. I just downloaded it..anyhow, both the Latin and the Arabic would need to be changed if this book were translating for the use of religious purposes. Both the Latin and Arabic would be different and more, formal and exact among other nuances because it would change the meaning of what is believed and understood by the use of those words. There are also some things that cannot be translated well. The use of Latin as our liturgical language leaves no room for error so silly ideas cannot be introduced and then obscure what God has revealed. It is not a matter of clinging desperately to our granny’s lace apron strings. It is a matter of being made worthy by guarding the treasure we have been given and using this treasure to experience God as He reveals Himself to us here, and now. Beauty ever ancient ever new.

    There is another point, whatever p. Francis signed, may, actually have a different meaning to others who were present and signed as well. What does the pope need to sign? His very life should be a sign. A living sign of the one true gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We all should be this light to the world but it seems somehow beneath the position of the pope to sign such a document even if it didn’t have anything questionable in it.

  14. Lurker 59 says:

    BTW — Fully expecting another Pacamama-type event to follow this. Covenants are always ratified by worship.

  15. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Re: Quran Arabic — The problem is that, linguistically, the Arabic of the Quran is full of loanwords, as well as actual quotes from Aramaic and Persian and various Arabic dialects. And a lot of the “mystery” words have been given definitions that were totally made up, centuries after the Quran was written. But officially, the Quran is written in “pure Arabic,” and you’d better not notice elsewise.

    Whereas Christian Latin is quite open about being a liturgical and Biblical adaptation of Latin to fit Christian ideas.

  16. JakeMC says:

    That whole statement is the very definition of Modernism, soundly condemned over a century ago. But then, that’s OLD, so it must be discarded too. In a world where things are changing so fast it’s enough to make one dizzy, it’s downright terrifying what that means for religion, according to the Modernists.

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