Pope’s visit to Azerbaijan is the respect shown to Azerbaijan
Politics04 October 2016, 15:48 2473
Pope Francis made a one-day trip to Azerbaijan on October 2. The first Pope did during the visit, held under the slogan "We’re all brothers”, was to visit the Catholic church and pray for peace in the world. Pope wished harmony, peace and prosperity for Azerbaijan at his meeting with the president of the country. President Ilham Aliyev said he was satisfied with the meeting. He stated that Azerbaijan is and has been for centuries a place where followers of all religions and members of all ethnicities lives peacefully, harmoniously and with dignity: "We declared the "Year of Multiculturalism” in Azerbaijan this year. Multiculturalism is a lifestyle for us and also our state policy. Azerbaijan plays a very important role in promotion of multiculturalism worldwide. We are very proud to be a multicultural and multi-religious country. Members of all religious confessions live with dignity in Azerbaijan. They are very valuable citizens of our country and they contribute greatly to our development”.
Pope’s visit to Azerbaijan is considered to have strategic importance. In his interview to "Kaspi”, MP Tahir Mirkishili stressed that it was an important event to give the message of brotherhood during the trip: "The free growth of different religions, preservation of multicultural values in Azerbaijan sets a good example for peace and cooperation in the world. Our country can give great contribution to other countries in this regard. Pope’s trip and his speech showed this once again”.
According to MP, this visit was also an endorsement of the independent policies of the president which is based on cooperation and multicultural values.
According to political analyst Elkhan Shahinogly, the trip could be interpreted in two ways: "Pope Francis came to Azerbaijan from Georgia, he had been in Armenia on June 24. In addition to visiting the memorial dedicated to the so called genocide in Yerevan, he had also uttered the statement that "Armenian genocide had taken place”. This statement was met with criticism in Turkey. Vatican had acknowledge the so called Armenian genocide in the past too. A sentence Pope said in his speech in Yerevan had also displeased Azerbaijan. He had said: "When I go to Azerbaijan, I will talk about the realities of Armenia and tell them that there’s nothing great about refusing to restore peace over a small piece of land. Pope didn’t keep the promise he made to Armenians. Because, he didn’t mention that "there was nothing great about refusing to restore peace over a small piece of land” in his speech in Baku. On the contrary, he spoke of faith, peace and justice. The speech Pope gave at Baku Heydar Aliyev Center could be divided to two parts. In the first part his message was that Azerbaijan is not a mono-confessional country. The freedom of religion is guaranteed in Azerbaijan. His message in the second part was: "from my very first moments in Azerbaijan, I understood that many people suffer from violent conflicts. I wish the international community to always remember it and try to solve it. I would want to see the peace restored in the region. I wish that the conflicts in the Caucasus region be resolved through dialogue and peace be restored at the crossroads of the East and the West. We would want this door to be open for peace all the time”. The political expert thinks that the first message shows that Azerbaijani president’s policies are supported by Vatican and the religious policy based on multiculturalism attracts Pepe’s attention: "In the second message, Pope generally talks about the resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Speaking before him, Ilham Aliyev talked about the occupation of Azerbaijani territories. But Pope didn’t mention Nagorno Karabakh or the territorial integrity in his speech. This shows that Vatican doesn’t want to take sides on the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia and expresses himself in general words. And this cannot be viewed positively in Azerbaijani society. Despite this, Baku cares about its relations with Vatican. This is the second visit of the head of the Roman Catholic Church to Azerbaijan since we gained our independence. The first visit took place in 2002. Vatican leaders usually don’t visit the predominantly Muslim countries. Azerbaijan is an exception. Azerbaijan is home to only a few hundreds of Catholics. Pope’s trip to Muslim Azerbaijan demonstrates that Azerbaijan is an example of religious and ethnic tolerance. It’s no wonder that Heydar Aliyev Fund allocates money for the restoration of some museums in Vatican. This gesture is highly appreciated by the Catholic Church. There’s no other Muslim country besides Azerbaijan that funds the restoration of museums in Vatican. Baku displays that Azerbaijan is a tolerant country, as well as urging Vatican to pay more attention to the principle of territorial integrity. The first one has yielded positive results, second one hasn’t yet.