From 30 September to 2 October next, Pope Francis will visit Georgia and Azerbaijan. This is the second installment of his apostolic journey to Caucasus, which began with a three-day visit to Armenia from 24 to 26 June.
In the early afternoon of Friday 30, the Pontiff will arrive to Tbilisi International Airport, situated in the capital and largest city of Georgia. After the welcoming ceremony, at 3:00 p.m. he will pay a courtesy visit to the President of the Republic, Giorgi Margvelashvili, candidate of the pro-Russian party “Georgian Dream.” In the courtyard of the Presidential Palace, they will exchange greetings with the authorities, civil society, and the diplomatic corps.
At the Palace of the Patriarchate will take place the meeting with His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II, Catholicos and Patriarch of All Georgia. The embrace with the Assyrian-Chaldean community will take place the Catholic Church of St. Simeon the dyer.
On Saturday, 1 October, Mass will be celebrated at the Meskhi stadium, then the meeting with the priests, and with religious men and women, in Mary’s Church. Touching will be the visit to the patients and operators of the works of charity, of the Church before the assistance of the Camillian Center. Then, a visit to the Patriarchal Cathedral of Svietyskhoveli in Mskheta.
Georgia has more than 4 and a half million of individuals, mostly Christians. The Georgian Autocephalous Apostolic Orthodox Church is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, founded in the first century A.D. by Apostle Andrew. In the first half of the fourth century A.D., Christianity was adopted as the state religion.
Sunday, October 2, after the ceremony at the Tbilisi International Airport, the Pope will fly to Baku, the capital and the largest city and the largest port of Azerbaijan and of the entire Caucasus. Upon his arrival to the international airport “Heydar Aliyev”, will take place the official welcome ceremony. Then, will follow the Holy Mass in the Church of the Salesian Center in Baku and lunch with the Salesian community and the papal entourage.
The welcome ceremony of protocol will be held in the Square of the Presidential Palace Genclik. Then, he will pay a courtesy visit to the President, Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijani politician, son to the third president of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev. The meeting with the authorities will be held in the center dedicated to father “Heydar Aliyev”, who died in 2013, after 10 years of service as president.
In the homonymous mosque, will be held a private interview with the Sheikh of the Caucasian Muslims. After meeting with the Orthodox Bishop of Baku and with the president of the Jewish community, there will be the farewell ceremony at the Baku airport, before the Pope’s departure for Rome.
Azerbaijan’s population counts about 9 and a half million inhabitants; 96% are Muslim and 65% of them belong to the Shiite branch. There are also Christian and Jewish minorities. The first Catholic church in the country, the Church of Immaculate Conception, was consecrated in Baku on 29 April 2007.