Vatican City, Nov 16, 2016 / 11:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of the next international exposition, to be held in Kazakhstan during the summer of 2017, the Vatican announced Wednesday its participation under the theme “Energy for the Common Good: Caring for our Common Home.”
The Church is the only religious group to be formally present at the Expo, participating in its capacity as a sovereign state, which it has done since the first “world’s fair,” known as the “Great Exhibition” in London in 1851. In keeping with their unique position, the Vatican’s exhibit at the Expo will include both a practical and a spiritual aspect, said Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which is responsible for the organization of the Vatican’s presence at the Expo.
The overall theme of Expo 2017, being held in Astana June 10 - Sept. 10, is “Future Energy: Energy for All.” The Vatican gladly accepted the invitation to participate, Cardinal Turkson said. The theme of future energy “would involve a lot of technological presentation,” he said, which the Vatican is “not competent in.” Therefore, they have taken the theme in a direction which they thought the Church could contribute to, focusing on themes found in Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si' of using earthly resources for the common good of humanity.
According to a statement issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Vatican’s pavilion will focus on four areas. The first will be on the energy at the origin of man and how “the cosmic display of energy and light” was also “the beginning of God’s creation out of love.” The second will be on how energy has been used in the history of man, employed both for good and bad by being “wasted in wars” and by injustice. The third will show how to use and produce energy ethically and in care of our “common home,” as it is called by Pope Francis. The fourth area focuses on the spiritual, particularly on the “energy” found through prayer and the awe of God.
Recent Expos in which the Holy See participated were in Milan in 2015, regarding “food for man”, and the 2008 Expo in Zaragoza on “water and sustainable development.” The Vatican usually focuses on making a “cultural and ethical contribution” to the Expo, said Tebaldo Vinciguerra, an official of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice. This year will be no different, he said with “a program, everything, about energy as a common good and taking care of our common home.”
The Expo 2017 currently has more than 100 countries signed up to participate, and Kazakhstan expects around 3 million people to attend, mostly from the surrounding countries. The Catholic Church is a minority in Kazakhstan, at just over one percent of the population. The majority of the country practices Islam, with the Orthodox Church being next largest.
Traditionally, each participant at the expo has a “national day” during the exhibition, Cardinal Turkson said. The Vatican intends to use their national day to host an interreligious conference with representatives from Orthodoxy and Islam to discuss ecology and Laudato si'.
The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace puts on the exhibition with the help of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Caritas, and Cor Unum. They will also collaborate with Catholic officials in Kazakhstan.