Pope Francis to visit Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim leaders in Azerbaijan, Georgia

Pope Francis receives a gift from Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his wife, Mehriban Aliyeva, during a meeting at the Vatican in March 2015. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis will meet with Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish leaders during his three-day visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan.

During his Sept. 30-Oct. 2 visit, the pope will also meet with Chaldean Catholics in Georgia.  


The pope's visit, which will be his 16th trip outside Italy, will include two Masses as well as meetings with heads of state, religious leaders and local Catholics, according to the scheduled released by the Vatican on July 11. 

He will also meet with civil authorities in both countries, particularly in Azerbaijan which has been in a situation of tension with Armenia since 1988 over control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.

During his return flight to Rome from Armenia on June 26, the pope said he hoped to promote peace between the two countries, saying that he will tell the people of Azerbaijan "that not making peace over a little piece of land—which is not a big deal—is something dark."

"I say this to all the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis: Possibly, they can't agree on the ways of making peace, and on this they need to work. But I don't know what else to say. I will say what comes to my heart at the time, but always in a positive way, seeking viable solutions that work," the pope told journalists.

Here is the detailed schedule released by the Vatican. Times—not all of which were announced on July 11—are local, with Eastern Daylight Time in parentheses:

Friday, Sept. 30 (Rome, Tbilisi)

• 9 a.m. (3 a.m.) Departure from Rome's Fiumicino Airport.

• 3 p.m. (7 a.m.) Arrival at Tbilisi International Airport. Welcoming ceremony. 

• Courtesy visit to the president of the republic at the presidential palace.

• Meeting with government authorities and members of civil society and the diplomatic corps in the courtyard of the presidential palace.

• Meeting with Catholicos Ilia II, patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Georgia, at the patriarchal palace.

• Meeting with Chaldean Catholics at the Chaldean Catholic Church of St. Simon the Tanner.

Saturday, Oct. 1 (Tbilisi, Mtskheta)

• Mass at Mikheil Meskhi Stadium.

• Meeting with priests, men and women religious at the Church of the Assumption.

• Meeting with volunteers and people receiving assistance from the Catholic Church near an assistance center run by the Order of St. Camillus. 

• Visit to patriarchal Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta.

Sunday, Oct. 2 (Tbilisi, Baku)

• Farewell ceremony at Tbilisi International Airport.

• 8:10 a.m. (12:10 a.m.) Departure by plane for Baku, Azerbaijan.

• 9:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m.) Arrival at Heydar Aliyev International Airport of Baku. 

• Mass at the Salesian-run Church of the Immaculate Conception in Baku.

• Lunch with the Salesian community and the papal entourage.

• Welcoming ceremony in the square of the presidential palace in Genclik.

• Courtesy visit to the president of the republic at the presidential palace in Genclik.

• Meeting with government leaders at the Heydar Aliyev Center.

• Private meeting with the sheikh of Muslims in the Caucasus at the Heydar mosque.

• Meeting with the Orthodox bishop of Baku and with the president of the Jewish community.

• Farewell ceremony at Baku airport.

• 7:15 p.m. (11:15 a.m.) Departure from Baku airport.

• 10 p.m. (4 p.m.) Arrival at Rome's Ciampino Airport.

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