On February 22, 2020, Pope Francis received the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, in the Vatican.
The Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, and the Secretary for Relations with States, Monsignor Paul Richard Gallagher, also received the Head of State.
In the course of the meeting, held in the Secretariat of State, the question was discussed of bilateral collaboration “in the cultural realm” and the activities of the Catholic Church in the country.
The exchanges were also an occasion to recall regional and international subjects, in particular, “the importance of inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue in favor of peaceful coexistence between the different religious and ethnic groups.”
The Pontiff had already visited this Caucasus country on October 2, 2016, and he also received President Aliyev in March of 2015.
Christians in Azerbaijan — the majority Orthodox and Protestants — represent 3 percent of the population, the majority being Muslim (close to 97 percent). According to Aid to the Church in Need, this Middle East country, which borders on Turkey, Iran, and Russia, is known for being one of the most secular States in the heart of the Muslim world.