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Pope Francis Concludes Trip To Azerbaijan


Pope Francis (left) walks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during an official welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Baku.

Pope Francis (left) walks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during an official welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Baku.

Pope Francis ended a one-day visit to Azerbaijan by meeting various religious leaders in Baku's Heidar Mosque.

The pope told Muslim, Jewish, and Russian Orthodox Church leaders in the Azerbaijani capital in the mosque on October 2 that "meeting one another...in this place of prayer is a powerful sign, one that shows the harmony which religions can build together, based on personal relations and on the good will of those responsible."

Pope Francis had met earlier during his 10-hour trip with President Ilham Aliyev, who called the visit “historic.”

"Your visit to Azerbaijan is very important for relations between Azerbaijan and the Vatican, including the dialogue between civilizations," Aliyev said.

Shortly after arriving at Baku’s airport earlier in the day, Francis held Mass in the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"You are a little flock that is so precious in God's eyes," Francis told the more than 800 people who followed the service inside the church and outside in the courtyard. Azerbaijan has fewer than 300 Catholics in its predominantly Shi'ite Muslim population.

The pope’s visit to Baku follows a stop in neighboring Georgia that was marred by a snub by the local Orthodox Christian authorities.

The visits to Baku and Tbilisi come a little over three months after the pope received a warm welcome in Armenia, where he was met by cheering throngs and greeted by local Orthodox Christian leaders.

With reporting by AP, APA, AFP, Interfax, and Reuters
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