Papal critic says Kazakhstan congress a ‘supermarket’ of religions

congress a ‘supermarket’ of religions

One of Pope Francis’ most vocal critics slammed the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions as a “supermarket” of religions that risks relegating the importance of the Catholic Church as the one true religion.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider (pictured), a longtime public critic of the pontiff, said he sees it as both his duty and an act of fraternal love to speak out when he believes the faithful are in “danger” of confusion.

Speaking to journalists at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Nur Sultan ahead of Pope Francis’s meeting with bishops, clergy and religious in the country, Schneider said it is “normal” to have differences with the pontiff, because “we’re not employees of the pope — the bishops, we are brothers.

“If we cannot do this, what will be the Catholic Church? And no bishop is there to say something to the pope? This is collegiality. This is fraternity,” he argued, saying he personally has always tried to raise concerns “with respect”.

“This for me is through love, true brotherly love, not to make adulations and incense, and behave yourself like an employee to a boss. No, we are brothers. We have to say with respect when we recognise something is a danger for the entire church. I consider this a true help for the pope — it should be,” he said.

Pope Francis attended the congress’s opening session on Wednesday, where he gave a lengthy speech on the role of religious leaders in promoting peace. The pontiff is set to deliver another address to the closing session and reading of the final declaration.

Schneider raised concerns over the congress on its final day. It drew participation from nearly 100 faith leaders from 50 countries.

While praising the congress’ ability to “promote mutual respect in the world,” Schneider, 61, said he believed it risked the “danger” of putting Catholicism on the same plane as other religions.

“It (the congress) could give the impression of a supermarket of religions, and that is not correct because there is only one true religion which is the Catholic Church founded by God himself,” Schneider told reporters at the cathedral.

Francis met with clergy, religious and other pastoral workers at the cathedral in Nur-Sultan, where the small Catholic community of Kazakhstan gathered on Thursday.

With the Kazakh bishops sitting before him in the front pews, Francis called for the country’s Catholic Church always to “go forth to encounter the world” while issuing several warnings.

“I would say a special word to bishops, priests and seminarians: our mission is not to be administrators of the sacred or enforcers of religious rules,” he cautioned.

Instead, the pope urged them to be “pastors close to our people.

“There is a hidden grace in being a small Church, a little flock,” he said.

There are fewer than 200,000 Catholics in Kazakhstan, a country of 19 million inhabitants, and the pope urged the clergy to “make room for the laity”.

“This is a good thing, lest our communities become rigid or clerical,” insisted Francis.

“Christian communities and seminaries, in particular, should be ‘schools of sincerity’, not places of rigidity and formality,” the pope also said.



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