By Laman Ismayilova
Azerbaijan's Heydar Aliyev Foundation and Vatican's Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology have signed a cooperation agreement to restore the Catacombs of Commodilla.
President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi described the signing ceremony as a milestone event in relations between the Vatican and Azerbaijan. He noted that this partnership has entered a new phase, Azertag reported.
The cardinal informed about three important stages taken in this direction, especially the restoration of the catacombs of saint Marcellino and Pietro.
The opening ceremony of the catacombs was attended by First Vice-President of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva. Now the public can visit those catacombs, where magnificent frescoes have been restored.
Moreover, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva also supported the opening of the Saint Sebastian Church-Museum Complex.
The successful cooperation between the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the Vatican, not only serves the protection of cultural heritage but also contributes to the development of interreligious dialogue.
Gianfranco Ravasi praised the inclusion of representatives of all religious communities in the Azerbaijani delegation as a high assessment of religious diversity.
In 2025, Rome will host the "Holy Year" anniversary events, which are of special importance for the Roman Catholic Church and are celebrated every 25 years, and tourists and pilgrims from all over the world will flock to the city.
The cardinal expressed his deep gratitude to the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, which focuses on cultural and interreligious dialogue.
In his remarks, executive Director of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Anar Alakbarov stressed that ago, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited the Vatican a year ago.
Alakbarov pointed out that the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the Holy See have implemented a number of projects aimed at promoting world cultural heritage.
He noted that the First Vice-President of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva has always paid attention to this cooperation.
During the meeting, a letter from First-Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva was also presented the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi.
The letter says that the joint efforts further strengthen bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and the Holy See.
Through the activities of Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Azerbaijan, has demonstrated all these years that all elements of cultural heritage are equally dear to the country. Azerbaijan shares the view that Christian catacombs are the samples of world heritage that should be protected and enhanced without geographical, cultural, and religious limits. Azerbaijan is ready to continue in the years to come to its efficient cooperation with the Pontifical Commission on Sacred Archaeology
The signature of another agreement on restoration and conservation project in the Catacombs of Commodilla is another proof of the strong commitment to the protection of world cultural heritage.
During the meeting it was also noted about Armenian vandalism on Azerbaijan's territories.
"As a result of military aggression and illegal occupation by Armenia of Nagorno Karabakh and seven other regions that lasted almost thirty years, enormous damage has been done to the unique cultural heritage of Azerbaijan in those territories. During the Patriotic War, Azerbaijan has finally liberated its lands from the occupation. It was extremely painful to witness the frightening scale of destruction and devastation. The harsh reality that we saw has been much worse than we expected, with hundreds of historical monuments, museums, art galleries, mosques, cemeteries razed to the ground, plundered, desecrated and vandalized," the letter said.
"Now we face the huge task of rebuilding all those liberated lands. I am confident that we will do it successfully. We will restore destroyed towns and villages. We will try our best to restore and save all of the ruined cultural heritage, irrespective of its origin because this heritage also represents the diversity of our country that we are so much proud of," the letter mentions.
Noting that international experts were involved in the projects implemented in the Vatican, the Azerbaijani delegation encouraged the Vatican experts to closely participate in the restoration of historical and cultural heritage in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan and contribute to this process by presenting their views and recommendations.
Superintendent of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology, Professor Fabrizio Bisconti delivered a summary report of the work done as part of the cooperation between the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the Vatican, and also made a presentation on the restoration work to be done in the third phase.
Bisconti noted that although the history of the Comodilla catacombs, with a total length of seven kilometers, dates back to the 4th century AD, they were rediscovered in the 15th century and excavations were carried out in the 20th century. Modern technologies are used in the conservation of the ceilings of catacombs in case of accidents with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation.
Speaking at the ceremony, Deputy Chairman of the Caucasus Muslims Office (CMO), Rector of Baku Islamic University Sabir Hasanli, and Chairman of the Mountain Jewish Community of Baku Milikh Yevdayev highlighted religious tolerance, multicultural environment, as well as the conditions created in Azerbaijan for religious communities.
The Azerbaijani delegation then visited Catacombs of Commodilla and the Saint Sebastian Church-Museum Complex.
The delegation also viewed the 4th-century Basilica of St. Sebastian, as well as the bas-relief of "The meeting between Pope 1st Leo and Hun Emperor Attila" in the St. Peter’s Basilica which was restored with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in 2020.
The Heydar Aliyev Foundation is a charitable foundation headed by Azerbaijan's First Vice-President and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva.
Since 2004, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation has been actively contributing to the social and economic development of the country, by implementing various projects in spheres such as education, public health, culture, sports, science and technology, environment, and social and other spheres.
The foundation has also sponsored several projects in Europe to finance renovations at the Louvre Museum, the Palace of Versailles among many other historical buildings and museums.
On February 22, 2020, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva, viewed the St. Peter’s Basilica and the bas-relief of "the meeting between Pope 1st Leo and Hun Emperor Attila" as part of their visit to the Vatican.
Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter's is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world. St. Peter, who is considered to be the first Supreme Pontiff, is buried in the church.
The St. Peter's Basilica is also a holy place of pilgrimage and religious ceremonies.
The projects carried out by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation are highly appreciated at the Holy See. These works demonstrate to the whole world the contribution made by the Foundation to universal values.
On November 7, the opening of the Albanian Church of Saint Virgin Mary in Gabala's Nij settlement took place after restoration.
The Albanian Church of Saint Virgin Mary has been basically restored by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in the framework of the project "Azerbaijan-Address of Tolerance".
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