President Geidar Aliev offered John Paul II a piece of land at the center of the capital Baku on which to build a new church for the Catholics of Azerbaijan.
“The Pope has won the hearts of everyone besides giving immense joy to our small Catholic community,” Salesian Father Vladimir Feteke, one the local organizers of the papal visit, told the Fides news agency.
“At the last minute we arranged for the foundation stone of the new church to be blessed by the Pope during the Mass he celebrated here this morning,” Father Feteke said. “We are all overjoyed. This will be Azerbaijan´s first Catholic church for a long time.”
More than 5,000 gathered around the Pope for the Mass. But the television cameras focused mainly on the Catholics, a small group of only 500.
“A miracle, a real miracle,” said Father Feteke said. “Seventy years of moral and spiritual starvation under Communism did not succeed in suffocating their thirst for God. This explains the great interest in the Pope´s visit shown by all the people of Azerbaijan.”