Pope on ecumenism and dialogue in the Caucasus
Speaking to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the General Audience, the Pope expressed his gratitude for having been able visit the neighboring Caucasian countries, both of which are celebrating 25 years of independence having been part of the Soviet Union for much of the 20th century.
Pope Francis had a special thank you for the Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II, and for the Sheikh of the Muslims of the Caucasus with whom he was able to push forward ecumenism and interreligious dialogue and – as he put it – promote the good of the human person.He described the visit as complementary to his visit to Armenia last June and said that by visiting all three nations of the Caucasus which are facing many challenges, he was able to confirm the Catholic communities there and encourage all people in their journey towards peace and fraternity.
“True mission – he pointed out – is never proselytism, but attraction towards Christ, unity in prayer, in adoration and in works of charity”.
In Georgia – he said – our cooperation is naturally with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, and so – the Pope continued – “Patriarch Ilia’s presence at the airport upon my arrival was a very important sign”.
Christian unity, the Pope said, is seen in the blood of so many Christian martyrs of different Christian confessions, especially the Assyrian-Chaldean, “with whom we prayed for peace in Syria, Iraq and the whole Middle East”.
And explaining that Azerbaijan, is primarily a Muslim country, Pope Francis said he was able to participate in an interreligious meeting as well as celebrating Mass with the small Catholic community and encourage it to deepen its encounter and dialogue with all who believe in God, so that together we can build a more just and fraternal world.