Baku, 22 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Pope John Paul II today called for religious leaders to reject violence, saying it is "offensive to the name of God." Pope John Paul arrived today in Azerbaijan to start a two-day visit to the mainly Muslim country, which he called a "gateway between the east and west." There are only about 150 Roman Catholics in Azerbaijan.
The pope met with Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev at the presidential palace in Baku after visiting a monument to soldiers killed in the ongoing dispute with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
John Paul is due to celebrate Mass tomorrow in a sports arena and also meet with the leaders of Azerbaijan's religious denominations. The pope is scheduled to leave Azerbaijan tomorrow for a three-day visit to Bulgaria.