· Upon his arrival to Georgia, the Pope said that ethnic and political differences should not be a pretext for conflict, but a source of enrichment ·
Touching down in Tbilisi on Friday afternoon, 30 September, Pope Francis returned to the Caucasus region to continue “a path of peace”. The Pope has returned to the Georgian capital three months after his visit to Armenia, in order to propose to the peoples of this area his message of reconciliation. This trip, which is the 16th international trip of his pontificate, will also include a stop in Azerbaijan.
As he stated in his first speech, while meeting with Georgian authorities after his courtesy visit to the President of the Republic, “the peaceful coexistence among all peoples and states in the region is the indispensable and prior condition for such authentic and enduring progress. This requires increasing mutual esteem and consideration, which can never lay aside respect for the sovereign rights of every country within the framework of international law”. He remarked that all “distinctions along ethnic, linguistic, political or religious lines can and must be for everyone a source of mutual enrichment in favour of the common good”.
The Pope then focused in particular on the situation in Georgia, recalling the centuries-old history of this nation, which “shows that it is rooted in the values expressed in its culture, language and traditions”, and places the country “fully and in a particular way within the bedrock of European civilization”; at the same time, as is evident from Georgia’s geographical location, it “is to a great extent a natural bridge between Europe and Asia, a link that facilitates communication and relations between peoples”, which, over the centuries “has facilitated commercial ties as well as dialogue and the exchange of ideas and experiences between diverse cultures”.
In commemorating these 25 years of independence, the Pope highlighted the “great sacrifice, which the people faced courageously in order to ensure their longed-for freedom”, in the hopes that the development of the nation “will advance with the consolidated commitment of all sectors of society, so as to create conditions for stability, justice and respect for the rule of law, hence promoting growth and greater opportunities for all”. In this regard, Francis said that this requires “that everyone make full use of their particular identity, having the possibility, above all else, to coexist peacefully in their homeland, or freely to return to that land, if for some reason they have been forced to leave it”.
Hence the exhortation to public officials, that they continue “to show concern for the situation of these persons, and that they will fully commit themselves to seeking tangible solutions, in spite of any unresolved political questions. It takes”, he added, “far-sightedness and courage to recognize the authentic good of peoples, and to pursue this good with determination and prudence. In this regard, it is essential to keep before our eyes the suffering of others, in order to proceed with conviction along the path which, though slow and laborious, is also captivating and freeing, and leads us towards peace”.
Immediately following his address to Georgian authorities, the Pope left the presidential palace and went to the headquarters of the Orthodox Patriarchate for a meeting with the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, Ilia II, who in 1999 had welcomed John Paul II. The Pope then met with the Assyrian-Chaldean community.
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