Pontiff Urges Georgia to Respect Diversity

In Message to Country’s New Ambassador to the Holy See

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 9, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II exhorted the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia to adopt a prudent balance between “the exigencies of unity” and “respect of legitimate diversities” to surmount its current difficulties.

The Pope sent this message from his hospital room to Princess Khetevane Bagration of Moukhrani, the new ambassador from Tbilisi.

Georgia is still in shock after the announcement in early February of the death of Prime Minster Zurab Zhvania, who reportedly suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, and of the purported suicide of Georgui Jelashvili, a presidential aide.

News of the two deaths has been received with skepticism by sectors of the country’s population, which in November 2003 lived the “Rose Revolution,” in which the young opposition led by Mikhail Saakashvili, 37, and Zhvania, 41, ousted President Eduard Shevardnadze, former foreign minister of the Soviet Union.

“Since Georgia began on the road to independence and national reconstruction, it has had to face many and at times very harsh challenges, which have tested the generosity and spirit of sacrifice of the citizens in the service of the common good,” acknowledges the papal message.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano handed the text to Princess Khetevane today when he received her letters of credence here.

“In addition to the difficult task of instituting solid political and economic structures, Georgians have had to address the commitment to keep the sense of unity firm, with openness to the European and international community,” added the message.

“As the experience of many nations has shown over the last 20 years, these challenges can only be addressed with a wise and prudent balance between the exigencies of unity and respect of legitimate diversities,” stated the Pope in his message.

“Therefore, the most urgent necessity noted is the development of a solid model of unity in diversity, firmly anchored in the country’s historical experience, but open to the enrichment that arises from dialogue and cooperation with others,” he continued.

“Today’s world challenges us to know and respect one another mutually in the diversity of our cultures,” the Holy Father said. “Only in this way will the path open — at all levels of the social, economic and cultural life — to a future of solidarity, understanding and peace.”

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