By Aynur Jafarova
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was honored with the Medalla Sede Vacante medal on November 4.
The Medalla Sede Vacante medal is one of the highest awards in Vatican.
The award was presented to President Aliyev by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, on behalf of the Holy See.
Cardinal Ravasi headed the delegation from Vatican.
President Aliyev in turn presented Ravasi with the Dostlug (Friendship) Order, saying he was given one of the highest orders of Azerbaijan because of his contribution to the development of cultural relations between Azerbaijan and Vatican.
Cardinal Ravasi thanked the Azerbaijani president for giving him the Dostlug Order, describing it as a sign of recognition of the importance of developing Azerbaijan-Vatican relations.
During the meeting, President Aliyev expressed confidence that Gianfranco Ravasi's visit would be a success and contribute to the development of Azerbaijan-Vatican relations.
President Aliyev praised bilateral relations and stressed the importance of joint projects. The president touched upon the organization of Azerbaijan-related exhibitions in Vatican museums, saying that the bilateral cooperation was developing in a new framework.
Gianfranco Ravasi congratulated the Head of State on his election as president, and lauded the role of Azerbaijani first lady, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva in strengthening Azerbaijan-Vatican relations.
Cardinal Ravasi expressed confidence that the relations between Azerbaijan and Vatican would develop further.
On the same day, Cardinal Ravasi was received by Azerbaijan's First Lady, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva.
The First Lady congratulated Cardinal Ravasi for receiving the Dostlug Order, and praised the Cardinal's contributions to enhancing the Azerbaijan-Vatican relations, especially in the field of culture.
Aliyeva also praised Cardinal Ravasi's role in arranging exhibitions and events related to Azerbaijan at the Vatican Museum, describing it as one of the most amazing cultural centers in the world.
The First Lady described the relationship between Azerbaijan and Vatican as "long-term", and said that the Heydar Aliyev Foundation was interested in the continuation of joint projects.
Aliyeva said the foundation was ready to help carry out restoration work and arrange exhibitions in Vatican.
Cardinal Ravasi thanked Azerbaijan's First Lady, and said that her visits to Rome were a testimony to the strong relations between Azerbaijan and Vatican.
He praised the bilateral ties between the two countries, emphasizing their importance.
The Vatican delegation headed by Cardinal Ravasi also met with Chairman of the Caucasian Muslims Office Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade.
During the meeting, Pashazade offered to move the Nunciature of the Holy See from Tbilisi to Baku.
"We want the Nunciature of the Holy See to be moved from Tbilisi to Baku. It would be better if the residence is located here," Sheikh-ul-Islam said.
Pashazade also expressed confidence in the successful continuation of the relations between Azerbaijan and the Catholic Church.
He also said that attitudes to all religions in Azerbaijan are at a high.
"It will continue in future as well. The Caucasian Muslims Office has direct links with Vatican which are supported at high level. We appreciate the dialogue among various confessions and religions," Pashazade said.
He went on to note that Vatican paid special attention to Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, informing the guests about the mosques, churches, and other religious monuments destroyed by Armenians in Azerbaijan's occupied territories.
Sheikh-ul-Islam also invited Pope Francis to visit Azerbaijan, and Vatican's representative invited Pashazade to visit Vatican as well.
Cardinal Ravasi also visited Heydar Aliyev Center, got familiar with the Heydar Aliyev Museum established in the center, and viewed the exhibition halls.