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Pope Receives President of Azerbaijan

Reflected on Nation’s 1st Catholic Church Inaugurated in 2008

This morning, the Pope met with President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, who was accompanied by his wife, Mehriban, in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. 

The talks between the Pope and president, a statement released by the Holy See noted, were “cordial,” and the parties “expressed satisfaction with the development of bilateral relations.”

“Attention was paid to themes regarding the life of the Catholic community in the country and to a number of initiatives in the culture field,” it stated, which, it added, revealed the value of interreligious and intercultural dialogue to promote peace.

They also discussed the current regional and international situation. They reportedly stressed the importance of “negotiation in conflict resolution” and “education for promoting the conditions for peaceful coexistence between populations and different religious groups.”

As is customary, gifts were exchanged. The president gave the Pope a basket of local specialties, a carpet, and a book which had faith-related images, including that of the first Catholic Church in his nation.

In 2008, then Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, inaugurated the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Baku. It was built on land that had been donated to Pope John Paul II before his 2002 visit. The current president reflected on how he and his father, who had been president until 2003, had been involved in the church’s presence in their nation.

After the Pope expressed his gratitude, he said, “This is something I wrote.” As Francis gave the president a copy of his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, he said, “It was written for Catholics, but is for everyone.”

The Holy Father also gave him an etching of St. Peter’s Square before the colonnade was constructed in 1620 and a medallion of the angel of peace, which, he said, “conquers the world.”

The president later met with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was accompanied by the under-secretary for Relations with States, Msgr. Antoine Camilleri.

About Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is a Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in four languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, at times from the papal flight, and has done television and radio commentary, including for Vatican Radio and BBC. She is a contributor to National Catholic Register, UK Catholic Herald, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside the Vatican, and other Catholic news outlets. She has also collaborated with the Vatican in various projects, including an internship at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and is a collaborator with NBC Universal, NBC News, Euronews, and EWTN. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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