Pope Francis today addressed government authorities in Azerbaijan, on the last day of his weekend trip to the Caucasus, saying that an example of peaceful coexistence in the country can demonstrate that such coexistence is possible.
Noting the country’s 25th anniversary of independence coming up this month, the Pope said the occasion is an opportunity to evaluate the progress achieved and the challenges still being faced by the country.
He spoke of a “common effort to harmonize differences,” saying this is of “particular importance in our time, as it shows that it is possible to bear witness to one’s own ideas and worldview without abusing the rights of others who have different ideas and perspectives. Every ethnic or ideological identity, as with every authentic religious path, must exclude attitudes and approaches which instrumentalize their own convictions, their own identity or the name of God in order to legitimize subjugation and supremacy.”
The Catholic community in Azerbaijan numbers only between 300-500 people. The country is mostly Muslim, though after the time of Soviet rule, much religious practice is nominal.
“It is my sincere hope that Azerbaijan may continue along the way of cooperation between different cultures and religious confessions,” the Pope said.
The Holy Father spoke to the conflicts across the globe as he mentioned “the tragedy of many conflicts fuelled by intolerance, which in turn is fomented by violent ideologies and by the effective denial of the rights of the weakest.”
“In order to effectively oppose these dangerous deviations, we need to promote a culture of peace, which is fostered by an untiring willingness for dialogue and by the awareness that there is no reasonable alternative to patiently and assiduously searching for shared solutions by means of committed and sustained negotiations,” he said.
The Pope noted the plight of migrants, and the need for the international community to help those fleeing conflicts.
“I am confident that, with the help of God, and the good will of those involved, the Caucasus will be a place where, through dialogue and negotiation, disputes and differences will be resolved and overcome,” he said. “By such means, this area – ‘a gateway between East and West,’ in the beautiful image used by Saint John Paul II when he visited your country (2002) – will also become a gateway open to peace, and an example to which we can look to solve old and new conflicts.”
The Pope praised the “cordial relations enjoyed by the Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox and Jewish communities” in Azerbaijan, saying this is a sign that “among the followers of different religious confessions cordial relations, respect and cooperation for the good of all are possible.”
“The attachment to authentic religious values is utterly incompatible with the attempt to violently impose on others one’s own vision, using God’s holy name as ‘armour,’” he said. “Rather, may faith in God be a source and inspiration of mutual understanding and respect, and of reciprocal help, in pursuit of the common good of society.”
On ZENIT’s Web page: