GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Visit to Georgia, Azerbaijan

‘Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, Patroness of the missions, reminds us that true mission is never proselytism, but attraction to Christ from strong union with Him in prayer, in Adoration and in concrete charity, which is service to Jesus present in the littlest of brothers.’

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Here is a ZENIT working translation of the address Pope Francis gave during this morning’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Last weekend, I undertook an Apostolic Journey to Georgia and Azerbaijan. I thank the Lord who granted it to me and I renew the expression of my gratitude to the civil and religious Authorities of these two countries, in particular to the Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II — his testimony did so much good to my heart and soul — and to the Sheikh of the Muslims of the Caucasus. A fraternal thank-you to the Bishops, the priests, the Religious and to all the faithful who made me feel their warm affection.
This journey was the continuation and completion of the one to Armenia in the month of June. Thus, thank God, I was able to realize the plan to visit all three of these Caucasian countries, to confirm the Catholic Church that lives in them and to encourage the path of those populations towards peace and fraternity. It was evidenced also by the two mottos of this last trip: “Pax vobis,” for Georgia and “We are all brothers,” for Azerbaijan.
Both these countries have very ancient historical, cultural and religious roots but, at the same time, they are living a new phase: in fact, this year both celebrate the 25th anniversary of their independence, having been for a good part of the 20th century under the Soviet regime. And in this phase they face similar difficulties in the different realms of social life. The Catholic Church is called to be present, to be close, especially in the sign of charity and of human promotion, and she seeks to do so in communion with the other Christian Churches and Communities and in dialogue with the other religious communities, in the certainty that God is Father of all and we are <all> brothers and sisters.
In Georgia, this mission passes, of course, through collaboration with Orthodox brothers, who constitute the great majority of the population. Therefore, a very important sign was the fact that, when I arrived at Tbilisi, both the President of the Republic as well as the Venerable Patriarch Ilia II received me at the airport. The meeting with him that afternoon was moving, as was the visit the following day to the Patriarchal Cathedral, where the relic of Christ’ tunic is venerated, symbol of the unity of the Church; this unity is corroborated by the blood of so many martyrs of the different Christian Confessions. The Assyro-Chaldean community is among the most tried; with it, I lived at Tbilisi an intense moment of prayer for peace in Syria, in Iraq and in the whole of the Middle East.
The Mass with the Catholic faithful of Georgia – Latins, Armenians and Assyro-Chaldeans – was celebrated on the Memorial of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, Patroness of the missions: she reminds us that true mission is never proselytism, but attraction to Christ from strong union with Him in prayer, in Adoration and in concrete charity, which is service to Jesus present in the littlest of brothers. It is what the men and women religious do that I met at Tbilisi, as later also at Baku: they do so with prayer and with charitable and promotional works. There I encouraged them to be firm in the faith, with memory, courage and hope. And then there are the Christian families: how precious is their presence of hospitality, accompaniment, discernment and integration in the community!
This style of evangelical presence as seed of the Kingdom of God is, if possible, even more necessary in Azerbaijan, where the majority of the population is Muslim and Catholics are a few hundred; however, thank God, they have good relations with all, in particular they maintain fraternal bonds with the Orthodox Christians. Therefore, at Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, we lived two moments that faith is able to hold in right relation: the Eucharist and the inter-religious encounter. The Eucharist with the small Catholic community, where the Spirit harmonizes the different languages and gives the strength of witness; and this communion in Christ does not impede, but rather pushes one to seek encounter and dialogue with all those who believe in God, to build together a more just and fraternal world. In this perspective, addressing the Azerbaijani Authorities, I hoped that the <existing> open questions might find good solutions and that all Caucasian populations may live in peace and in mutual respect.
May God bless Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, and accompany the path of His Holy People’s pilgrimage in those countries.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT] Greeting in Italian
I give a warm welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I receive with joy the faithful of the Dioceses of Aosta and Ventimiglia-San Remo, accompanied by the Bishops, Monsignor Franco Lovignana and Monsignor Antonio Suetta, as well as the Ambrosian pilgrims with Monsignor Mario Delpini. I hope that the Jubilee pilgrimage will strengthen each one in his adherence to Christ for a growing ecclesial commitment for the benefit of the diocesan and parochial communities.
I greet and encourage the priests of the Saint Paul Pontifical Missionary College, who have come to Rome to deepen their theological studies. I greet the Gloria Crucis Group of the Lateran University, the faithful of Grottammare and those of Vigevano, and I exhort them to live the Extraordinary Jubilee with faith, witnessing corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
I greet the Italian Institute of Donation; the “Live as Sportsmen” Association; the Dog Lovers Sport Federation, and the students of the Mother Serafina Oasis schools of Rome and of the Franciscan Sisters of Civita Castellana.
Finally, a thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. The month of October is the missionary month, in which we are invited to pray intensely to the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Missions: dear young people, be missionaries of the Gospel in your environments with the mercy and tenderness of Jesus; dear sick, offer your suffering for the conversion of the estranged and the indifferent; and you, dear newlyweds, be missionaries in your family, proclaiming with the Word and with example the Gospel of salvation.
[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation by ZENIT]

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