Ecumenical visit

Perhaps the visit of Pope Francis to Azerbaijan on 2 October can be called ecumenical, despite the fact that this is a Muslim country by its religious composition.

The term of the ecumenical nature of the Pope's visit has been used only in relation to Georgia, which he visited the day before. Director of the CiviltàCattolica magazine Antonio Spadaro, a man close to the head of the Catholic Church, said that an important objective of the Caucasus trip of the Pope is to establish ecumenical dialogue with the Georgian Orthodox Church, which is historically linked with Moscow, and did not participate in the last Ecumenical Cathedral (see Regnum.)

Azerbaijani part of the visit is considered as the establishment of inter-religious dialogue. The Catholic newspaper LaCroix noted that in the Catholic circles the visit is regarded as a landmark, as Azerbaijan is a Muslim country with a predominantly Shiite community, but having a constructive and good relations with the Sunnis, the advantage of which is evident in the neighboring North Caucasus.

Pope Francis is known as an active supporter of Christian ecumenism, which involves the removal of barriers that divide Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox, and others. But he is also attentive to the ideas of unity of Christianity and Islam, with a common Old Testament and New Testament roots. In this sense, Vatican manages to establish a dialogue with the Shiite branch of Islam, which has a centuries-old dialogue.

"Veteran of the Catholic-Islamic dialogue Mark Serna says that "in contrast to the Muslims of the Sunni branch, the Shiite are natural partners in the dialogue with the Catholics," behind it is a long tradition, experience and practice. Catholics and Shiites are close to each other in many ways. The American Catholic portal Crux noted that the other similarity is "clerical hierarchy" has great impact in them. The Shiite split in the Qur'an the Scripture and the Tradition, which is characteristic in relation to the Bible for Catholics. And they both have a deep mystical view on things. According to the Iranian author Reza Aslan, a rational interpretation of Islamic law by Shiite clerics gives flexibility, which sometimes lacks the Sunni version of Islam, often tied to a literal reading of the Qur'an. Aslan believes that society with Shiite influence may be more inclined to experiment with democracy, human rights, and pluralism." (See Regnum.)

It is known that during prolonged negotiations, Washington-Tehran on establishing a dialogue a mediating role played the Holy See. It is no coincidence that the president of Iran Hassan Rouhani made his first foreign visit to the Vatican.

Azerbaijan, which has a common historical community with Iran, fits into this inter-religious dialogue, based on the tradition of relations, which were interrupted during the Soviet regime and resumed during the independence when Heydar Aliyev was in power; and in September 1997 H. Aliyev made a visit to Vatican, and in May 2002 he received Pope John Paul II as a personal guest. That visit provided not only diplomatic presence of the Vatican, but also opened the way to the open activity of the Catholic Church after the construction in 2006 in Baku, the Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Today, Baku and the Vatican come together due to three lines of dialogue: ecumenical, inter-religious and inter-civilization. It is no coincidence the Pope's visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan coincided with the Fifth Forum of dialogue among civilizations in Baku, which demonstrably promote Ilham Aliyev and his family. It is not easy to Aliyev to use the theme of rapprochement of ethnic, religious and other groups, as iconic figures are present at the Forum. This largely prevented by his authoritarian style of government characterized by the suppression of human rights and freedoms, and widespread corruption that is in contradiction with the principles of democracy, and the precepts of the modern Catholic Church, the right carrier of which is Francis.

All his life he preached humility, simplicity and compassion for people. As a child, his parents punished him for food and items he secretly took out of the house for the poor; and people looked at him as on a madman when as a head of the Argentine Catholic Church, he traveled by the metro, and ignored his personal car. Francis does not have a personal chief, he is the head of the congregation of billion Catholics, in Baku he traveled by "Hyundai", rejecting the president's "Maybach".

Of course, the Aliyev"s family understands these oddities by Francis, and it is evidenced by receiving the Pope not is a luxury Zagulba residence, where heads of states are usually received, but in a modest residence in "Genclik".

Aliyevs Vatican has long been investing in the repair of the Roman catacombs, Vatican library, and church reconstruction. Thus, they make it clear to the Holy See, they are ready to become a bridge in the inter-religious and inter-civilization dialogue, as well as in the international energy and transport project, and are not against establishing South-Caucasian dialogue with the participation of Armenia in which the Vatican is interested.

Pope's visit took place under the sign of reconciliation "We all are brothers." Previously, after the June visit to Armenia, speaking about his visit to Azerbaijan, the Pope said, "I'll talk to Azerbaijanis of that truth which I have seen, and what I felt. I had previously met and spoke with the president of Azerbaijan. I will also say the Azerbaijanis, that the absence of peace in the small plot of land is a dark matter. And I say it to all: the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis. Perhaps they cannot agree on the way to peace, but they need to work on that. I will say what at this point will be in my heart, it is necessary to try to find a solution that would allow moving forward. "

Aliyev hopes for Vatican"s participation in the establishment of a just peace with Armenia and the establishment of inter-civilization dialogue. "Your visit to Azerbaijan is of great importance for Azerbaijan-Vatican relations, including dialogue among civilizations," Aliyev said during his meeting with the Pope Francis. However, in order to bring positions closer and to get the desired effect on bilateral relations, especially in the context of the moral principles of social Catholicism, which are now practiced and promoted by the Pope Francis, Ilham Aliyev, will have to review and adjust his policies and attitudes towards socially oriented and just state.

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