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President Ilham Aliyev and Pope Francis addressed representatives of general public at Heydar Aliyev Center [UPDATE] [PHOTO]

2 October 2016 16:52 (UTC+04:00)
President Ilham Aliyev and Pope Francis addressed representatives of general public at Heydar Aliyev Center [UPDATE]  [PHOTO]

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Pope Francis, who is paying a papal visit to Azerbaijan, have made speeches in front of representatives of the general public at the Heydar Aliyev Center.

The visit of Pope Francis to Azerbaijan has a great meaning, said Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev

“Your Holiness, Pope Francis. Dear guests, ladies and gentlemen. Your Holiness, first of all, I sincerely greet you in Azerbaijan and welcome your delegation,” said President Aliyev.

“During the meeting in Vatican last year, I invited you to Azerbaijan and I am very glad that you accepted my invitation and visited our country,” said Ilham Aliyev. “This visit has a great meaning. This is a historic visit.”

President Aliyev noted that this visit will make a great contribution to the development of relations between Vatican and Azerbaijan.

“This visit is important for the entire humanity, because it also shows that the dialogue among civilizations exists, continues and is getting stronger and we try to give a new impetus to this dialogue,” said Ilham Aliyev.

The relations between Vatican and Azerbaijan have been developing successfully for 24 years, said the president, adding that high level reciprocal official visits have been paid.

“An exhibition dedicated to Azerbaijan was held in Vatican museums in 2012 on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of our relations. Azerbaijani exhibition was the first exhibition of a Muslim country,” said President Aliyev.

“At the same time, our relations are supported by public organizations. Vatican’s Saint Marcellino and Pietro's Catacombs were opened in February 2015 after the major overhaul and repair work with support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, which is the largest non-governmental organization in the South Caucasus,” he added.

Pope Francis, has praised the country's culture, harmony and peaceful coexistence.

"I am pleased to be visiting Azerbaijan, and I thank you for your warm welcome to this city, the country’s capital, on the shore of the Caspian Sea, a city which has been radically transformed with new buildings, such as the one where we are meeting," said the Pope, addresing the event.

"Am most grateful, Mr President, for the kind sentiments of welcome which you have extended to me on behalf of the Government and Azerbaijani people, and for allowing me to reciprocate your visit, together with your distinguished spouse, to the Vatican last year," said Pope Francis.

The Pope went on to say that he came to Azerbaijan full of admiration for the intricacy and richness of Azerbaijani culture, fruit of the contribution of so many peoples who in the course of history have inhabited these lands.

"They have given life to a fabric of experiences, values and distinctive features which characterize contemporary society and are reflected in the prosperity of the modern Azerbaijani state," said the Pope.

He recalled that on October 18 Azerbaijan will celebrate the twenty-five years of its independence.

"This occasion affords the possibility of taking comprehensive stock of these decades, of the progress achieved and of the challenges which the country is facing," said the Pope. "The road travelled thus far shows clearly the significant efforts undertaken to strengthen institutions and to promote the economic and civic growth of the nation."

"It is a path which requires constant attention towards all, especially the weakest, and one which is possible thanks to a society which recognizes the benefits of multiculturalism and of the necessary complementarity of cultures," Pope Francis said.

He added that this, in turn, leads to mutual collaboration and respect among the various components of civil society and among the adherents of various religious confessions.

"This common effort to harmonize differences is of particular importance in our time, as it shows that it is possible to bear witness to one’s own ideas and worldview without abusing the rights of others who have different ideas and perspectives," said the Pope. "Every ethnic or ideological identity, as with every authentic religious path, must exclude attitudes and approaches which instrumentalize their own convictions, their own identity or the name of God in order to legitimize subjugation and supremacy."

The Pope said that it is his sincere hope that Azerbaijan may continue along the way of cooperation between different cultures and religious confessions.

"May harmony and peaceful coexistence be evermore a source of vitality to the public and civil life of the country, in its multiplicity of expressions, ensuring to all men and women the possibility of offering their own contribution to the common good," he said.

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