ASTANA — Children’s health and access to the Vatican’s largest library are among the main areas of cooperation between the Vatican and Kazakhstan, as the two countries mark the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations, said Alibek Bakayev, former Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the Holy See in an interview with The Astana Times.
The Vatican and Kazakhstan have maintained diplomatic relations since 1992. Kazakhstan was the first Central Asian state with which the Vatican signed an agreement on mutual relations, Bakayev said.
“Regular exchanges of official visits have helped strengthen and expand bilateral ties over the years,” he said. “Two visits by the heads of the Roman Catholic Church to Kazakhstan – the visit of Pope John Paul II to Astana in September 2001 and the visit of Pope Francis this year, who personally attended the seventh The Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions has greatly contributed to the development of our relationship.
“It is no exaggeration to call our relations with the Vatican an example of constructive dialogue and friendship,” Bakayev added.
Cooperation in medicine and science
In May, Kazakhstan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi visited the Vatican to discuss cooperation with the country in the area of children’s health and among think tanks. The University Medical Centeran integrated university medical center under Nazarbayev University, and Bambino Gesu Hospital, the largest polyclinic and pediatric research center in Europe, signed an agreement for a common project in the field of children’s health.
Bakayev said it was a very beneficial partnership, considering that Bambino Gesu Hospital is a world-renowned health facility. “Bambino Gesu has more than 3,300 employees, including internationally renowned doctors and professors of medicine. This clinic has a strong foundation in transplantation. It is the only European institution where various organs, such as kidneys, liver, heart and lung complex, bone marrow and cornea, are transplanted in children. In 2017, local doctors performed more than 321 transplants, including 10 artificial heart implants. In 2019, a renovated headquarters with new facilities dedicated to the care of orphan diseases was opened,” he said.
Bakayev stressed the country’s interest in exchanging experiences between doctors and health professionals.
Within the framework of the minister’s visit, the countries also started research cooperation between the Institute of Oriental Studies named after Ramazan Suleimenov and the Vatican Apostolic Library.
“We will try to help our scholars and researchers access the archival sources of the Vatican Library, which has the richest collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, numbering around 1.6 million printed books, 15,000 manuscripts , more than 100,000 engravings and geographical maps. , and 300,000 coins and medals,” Bakayev said. “This work will shed light on events in the history of Kazakhstan of this period.”
The importance of Pope Francis’ visit to Kazakhstan in strengthening diplomatic relations
Pope Francis’ visit to Kazakhstan last month and his participation in the Seventh Congress of World Leaders and Traditional religions stems from the common policy of interfaith engagement.
“This apostolic visitation, organized under the theme ‘Messengers of Peace and Unity’, gave new impetus to our cooperation with the Holy See,” Bakayev said.
The visit, on the eve of 30 years of diplomatic relations, is a statement of intent, he said, serving as recognition of the congress’ growing influence as an international platform for interfaith dialogue.
According to Bakayev, the pope’s personal participation and his speech at the Seventh Congress “resonated a lot in the expert community”.
“He paid particular attention to the final declaration of the congress, one of its paragraphs noted the historical importance and value of the document on human fraternity for peace and peaceful coexistence signed by the Holy See and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyebas well as the ‘Mecca Declaration’,” Bakayev said.
Moving forward, it is important to consolidate the results of the Apostolic Visitation and the Seventh Congress, Bakayev said.
“The final declaration adopted by the congress aims to promote a culture of mutual respect and peace between present and future generations of humanity. The participants in the congress, including the Holy See, are focusing their efforts on concrete proposals for the development of the congress from 2023 to 2033, for a period of ten years,” he said.
“I would like to say that Kazakhstan shares the global vision of the Roman Catholic Church, based on the ideals of goodness, justice, solidarity and compassion, and we intend to follow a path aimed at strengthening and fully developing cooperation with the Holy See,” Bakayev said in his closing remarks.