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.”

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Teachings of Christ

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:16-18 ESV)

Protection of the Mother of God

Protected by your coming, O Mother of God, * the faithful people celebrate today with splendor, * and, gazing at your most pure image, * we say with compunction: * "Shield us with your precious veil * and deliver us from all evil * imploring your Son, Christ our God, to save our souls.” (Troparion - Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Today the Virgin stands forth in the Church, * and with the choirs of saints she invisibly prays to God for us. * The Angels worship with the hierarchs, * and the apostles exult with the prophets, * because, in our behalf, the Mother of God entreats the pre-eternal God. (Kontakion - Tone 3)

The Church celebrates the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God on October 1st.

Random Proverb

"Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her." (Proverbs 8:10,11 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

The Holy Eucharist is the first, most important, and greatest miracle of Christ. All the other Gospel miracles are secondary. How could we not call the greatest miracle the fact that simple bread and wine were once transformed by the Lord into His very Body and His very Blood, and then have continued to be transformed for nearly two thousand years by the prayers of priests, who are but simple human beings? And what is more, this mystery has continued to effect a miraculous change in those people who communicate of the Divine Mysteries with faith and humility. 

St. Ambrose of Optina