- Jan 17, 2020
Salesian Father Vladimír Fekete, the Apostolic Prefect of Azerbaijan, recently made a couple of statements that may seem puzzling to Western ears. Walking a mile in his shoes, however, is basically the price of admission to life in a global Church.
In this series, Crux is examining Catholic highlights of 2016. Here we look back at a dramatic year for Pope Francis, in which the pontiff took six overseas journeys, issued a landmark document on the family, overhauled the Vatican’s bureaucracy, and also watched Benedict XVI occasionally step out of the shadows.
On his first visit to a majority Shiite Muslim nation on Sunday, Pope Francis in Azerbaijan told an inter-religious assembly that the goals of fraternity and the common good cannot be reached through “extreme and radical attitudes which are furthest from the living God.”
In Azerbaijan today, Pope Francis made his first visit to a majority Shiite Muslim nation, and the pontiff called for both peaceful resolution of conflict and harmony among Muslims, Jews and Christians. He explained travelling to such a small country by saying he’s imitating the Holy Spirit.
Pope Francis travels to Georgia and Azerbaijan over the weekend, and each stop presents its own unique challenges. In Georgia he’ll visit an overwhelmingly Orthodox nation constantly at odds with Russia, and in Azerbaijan he’ll encounter a largely Shi’a Muslim society, in both cases pushing peace and reconciliation.
When Pope Francis makes a brief stop in the small Caucasus nation of Azerbaijan on Sunday, he has a chance not simply to improve Catholic/Muslim relations generally but to exploit the possibility of a natural alliance with Shiite Muslims, the second largest branch of Islam.