VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis asked for prayers on Sunday to accompany him this week on what he calls his “peace pilgrimage” to Kazakhstan for a meeting of religious leaders.
Addressing the public in St. Peter’s Square, Francis noted that he begins a three-day visit to the Central Asian country on Tuesday to participate in a gathering of leaders of world and traditional religions.
“It will be an opportunity to meet so many religious representatives and to dialogue like brothers, driven by the common desire for peace, the peace our world is thirsting for,” Francis said.
“I ask everyone to accompany this pilgrimage of peace with prayer,” the pontiff said.
He hoped to meet on his trip the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who sought to justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine on spiritual and ideological grounds in a “metaphysical” battle with the West.
But earlier this summer, Kirill pulled out of the interfaith gathering.
Francis had the first-ever meeting between a pope and a Russian Orthodox patriarch in 2016. Plans for a second meeting earlier this year have been postponed due to diplomatic fallout from the war in Ukraine.
After Francis cited his pilgrimage, he urged to continue prayers for the Ukrainian people, so that “the Lord gives them comfort and hope.” He said that a Polish cardinal who serves as his official chaplain is currently in Ukraine, visiting various communities and giving concrete witness to the closeness of the pope and the Catholic Church.