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Kazakhstan: Catholic Church Granted Full Religious Freedom

Vatican City, 24 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The Vatican and the mostly Moslem Republic of Kazakhstan today signed an agreement on mutual relations between the government and the minority Roman Catholic Church.

Kazakhstan, which became independent from Moscow in 1991, has had diplomatic relations with the Vatican since 1992.

The agreement was signed at the Vatican by Secretary of State Cardinal Sodano and Kazakh Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev.

It regulates the legal position of the Catholic Church in the central Asian country whose population of some 17 million people is predominantly Suni Moslem. Only some 1.9 percent, or 315,000 people, are Roman Catholic.

The agreement grants the Catholic Church full religious freedom, the right to carry out its social, educational and charitable activities and access to the media. It also allows the Church to acquire property.

The agreement is valid for ten years and could be automatically extended for subsequent five-year periods.

The signing took place during a visit to Rome by President Nursultan Nazarbayev. After the signing ceremony at the Vatican Nazarbayev was received by Pope John Paul at the Pontiff's summer residence south of Rome.