Pope Francis asked for prayers on Sunday ahead of a trip this week to the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan for an international meeting with religious leaders.
Francis shared the request during his message in St. Peter’s Square ahead of his scheduled three-day visit to the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions that begins Tuesday.
“It will be an occasion to meet so many religious representatives and to dialogue as brothers, animated by the common desire for peace, the peace for which our world is thirsting,” Francis said.
“I give thanks for the preparations and the work done in preparation for my visit. I ask everyone to accompany this pilgrimage of peace with prayer,” he added.
The visit will mark a Pope’s first visit to the nation since St. John Paul II visited in 2001 as the first leader of the Roman Catholic Church to travel to Kazakhstan.
Francis had previously hoped to meet with Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, who has supported his nation’s president, Vladimir Putin, despite the invasion of Ukraine. However, Patriarch Kirill later announced that he would no longer attend the conference, ending the potential meeting opportunity.
The prayer request echoed the Pope’s actions ahead of his July trip to Canada. Francis made the journey to multiple stops across the nation, including an official apology for past times when indigenous Canadian children were forced to attend religious schools.
More than 150,000 native children in Canada were forced to attend Christian schools from the 19th century until the 1970s, according to the Associated Press.
Despite rumors of the Pope’s potential retirement following knee problems that have limited his travels, Francis has remained active. Following a recent trip to Canada, the Roman Catholic Church leader said he had no plans to step down.
“I think that at my age and with this limitation I have to save some energy to be able to serve the Church, or on the contrary, think about the possibility of stepping down,” Francis said.
“I don’t think I can continue doing trips with the same rhythm as before,” he said. “But I will try to continue to travel in order to be close to people because it is a way of serving.”
Francis has also noted his hopes to travel to both Moscow and Kyiv to help promote peace following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. So far, he has been unable to make a trip to either location.
The Pope has also been in the headlines in recent months over his comments regarding President Joe Biden’s position on abortion. During a July Univision interview, he questioned the president’s view in which he stated that Biden’s claim to be Catholic yet support abortion is “incoherent.” The Catholic Church’s teachings oppose abortion.
“A month after conception, the DNA of the fetus is already there and the organs are aligned. There is human life,” the pope said during the interview. “Is it just to eliminate a human life?”