CWN - Pope Francis concluded his three-day apostolic journey to the Caucasus on October 2 with a visit to Azerbaijan.
The nation of 9.6 million is 93% Muslim and 3% Eastern Orthodox, and has fewer than 1,000 Catholics.
The Pope referred to the small numbers of Catholics during his Angelus address, delivered at the Church of the Immaculate in the Salesian Center in Baku, the nation’s capital.
“Some may think that the Pope wastes so much time: travelling so many kilometers to visit a small community of 700 people,” the Pope said. “It is a community on the peripheries. But the Pope, in this, imitates the Holy Spirit: He also descended from heaven to a small community in that closed periphery of the Cenacle.”
“And to that community, which was fearful, felt poor and perhaps persecuted or rejected, the Holy Spirit imparts fortitude, power, and bold eloquence to go forth and proclaim the name of Jesus,” the Pope continued. “And the doors of that community in Jerusalem, which were closed for fear or shame, were thrust wide open releasing the power of the Spirit.”
Earlier, in his homily during Sunday Mass in the church, the Pope described faith and service as the “weft and warp” of Christian life.
“Every carpet, and you know this well, must be made according to a weft and a warp; only with this form can the carpet be harmoniously woven,” the Pope said. “So too in the Christian life: every day it must be woven patiently, intertwining a precise weft and warp: the weft of faith and the warp of service.”
Later, at a gathering with the president and other civil authorities, the Pope called for a national self-examination 25 years after independence.
The “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,” the Pope said. “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.”
In a subsequent meeting with the Sheikh of the Caucasus Muslims and other religious leaders, the Pope called religion “a compass that orients us to the good and steers us away from evil, which is always crouching at the door of a person’s heart.”
“We see the growing emergence of rigid and fundamentalist reactions on the part of those who, through violent words and deeds, seek to impose extreme and radical attitudes which are furthest from the living God,” the Pope continued. “In this night of conflict that we are currently enduring, may religions be a dawn of peace, seeds of rebirth amid the devastation of death, echoes of dialogue resounding unceasingly, paths to encounter and reconciliation reaching even those places where official mediation efforts seem not to have borne fruit.”