WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pope Francis concluded his papal trip to the Caucasus by visiting the Republic of Azerbaijan to highlight the long-standing harmony among different faiths and communities in Azerbaijan.
During his visit, Pope Francis served a Holy Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Baku for the Catholic community of Azerbaijan and joined President Ilham Aliyev for a public address at the Heydar Aliyev Center. The Pontiff also met with SheikhulIslam Pashazade, the Chairman of the Caucasus Muslims' Board as well as with Jewish and Christian leaders for an inter-faith conversation at the Heydar Mosque.
Speaking in Baku, Pope Francis emphasized his particular pleasure "with the cordial relations enjoyed by the Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox and Jewish communities" in Azerbaijan. Highlighting Azerbaijan as an example, the Pontiff underlined that "among the followers of different religious confessions cordial relations, respect and cooperation for the good of all are possible."
Pope Francis said he is "full of admiration for the intricacy and richness" of Azerbaijan's culture, hailed it as "a country that distinguishes itself for its welcome and hospitality" and "the gateway between East and West." He expressed his support for victims of the ongoing Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict by stating: "I wish to express my heartfelt closeness to those who have had to leave their land and to the many people who suffer the effects of bloody conflicts."
In his remarks, the President Ilham Aliyev described the Pontiff visit to Azerbaijan as "historic" and reiterated the nation's commitment to uphold its traditions of a secular, modern and inclusive society. "Representatives of all religions and nations have lived in Azerbaijan in peace, dignity and friendly atmosphere for centuries," stated Mr. Aliyev. "Azerbaijan has always played a role of a bridge between the East and the West. This is both a geographical and moral bridge."
On his visit, Pope Francis also visited Baku's 'Martyrs Alley', the hilltop memorial to heroic defenders of Azerbaijan's independence and territorial integrity.
In May of 2002, Pope John Paul II was the first Pontiff to visit Baku and to recognize Azerbaijan's unique record of inclusive diversity.
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SOURCE Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States