"Real" mission is made up of "attraction to Christ", concrete worship and charity, "which is service to Jesus present in the least of our brothers".
This is what the men and women religious whom the Pope met in
his travels in Georgia and Azerbaijan do, as do the Christian families
of those lands.
The visits carried out between September 30 and October 2
in the Caucasus were recalled by Francis at his general audience today,
which was attended by about 30 thousand people.
The Pope highlighted the "fraternal" relations with the Orthodox in the
region and the prayer with the Assyrian-Chaldean community, "with whom I
experienced in Tbilisi an intense moment of prayer for peace in Syria,
in Iraq and throughout the Middle East lived".
And speaking today to the
Arab faithful he added: “the more credible our announcement and our
witness the more we ourselves will be able to live in communion and love
"Last weekend - the Pope said - I made an apostolic visit to Georgia and
Azerbaijan. I thank the Lord who has granted me this grace and I renew
the expression of my gratitude to the civil and religious authorities of
these two countries, in particular to the Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia
II and the Sheikh of the Caucasian Muslims. A fraternal thanks to the
Bishops, priests, religious and all the faithful who have made me feel
their warm affection. "
"This trip was the continuation and completion of the one carried out in
Armenia, in June. In this way I could - thank God - realize the project
of visiting all three Caucasus countries, to confirm the Catholic
Church that lives in them and to encourage the journey of those peoples
toward peace and brotherhood. It also showed the two mottos of this last
trip: for Georgia 'Pax vobis' and for Azerbaijan 'We are all brothers'.
Both of these countries have very ancient cultural and religious
historical roots, but at the same time are experiencing a new phase: in
fact, both this year celebrate the 25th anniversary of their
independence, having been for much of the twentieth century under the
Soviet regime. And at this stage they are encountering many difficulties
in different spheres of social life. The Catholic Church is called to
be present, to be close, especially in the name of charity and human
promotion; and it seeks to do so in communion with the other Churches
and Christian communities and in dialogue with other religious
communities, in the certainty that God is Father of all and we are
brothers and sisters ".
"In Georgia this mission passes naturally through the collaboration with
our Orthodox brothers, who form the vast majority of the population. So
it was a very important sign that when I arrived at Tbilisi I was
welcomed at the airport, along with the President of the Republic, by
the venerable Patriarch Ilia II. The meeting with him that afternoon,
was moving, as well as the following visit to the Patriarchal Cathedral,
where the relic of the tunic of Christ is venerated, symbol of the
Church. This unity is supported by the blood of so many martyrs of the
different Christian confessions.
Among the most tried communities there
that of the Assyrian-Chaldeans, with whom I experienced in Tbilisi an
intense moment of prayer for peace in Syria, in Iraq and throughout the
Middle East. Mass in Georgia - Latin Catholics, Armenians and
Assyrian-Chaldeans - was celebrated on the memorial of Saint Theresa of
the Child Jesus, patroness of missions: she reminds us that real mission
is never proselytism but attraction to Christ, strong union with Him in
prayer, adoration and concrete charity, which is service to Jesus
present in the least of our brothers. It is what the men and women
religious I met in Tbilisi do, and even in Baku with prayer and
charitable and promotional works. I encouraged them to be steadfast in
the faith, in their memory, with courage and hope. And then there are
the Christian families: They are precious, their presence , welcome,
accompaniment, discernment and integration into the community".
"This style of evangelical presence as seed of the Kingdom of God is, if
anything, even more necessary in Azerbaijan, where the majority of the
population are Muslims and Catholics are a few hundred, but thank God
they have good relations with everyone, in particular with Orthodox
Christians. In Baku, Azerbaijan's capital, we experienced two moments of
faith respecting the right balance: the Eucharist and an
inter-religious meeting. The Eucharist with the Catholic community,
where the Spirit harmonizes the different languages and gives the
strength of witness; and this communion in Christ does not prevent,
rather it pushes openness and dialogue with all those who believe in
God, to jointly build a more just and fraternal world. In this
perspective, addressing myself to the Azerbaijani authorities, I hope
that the ongoing questions can find good solutions and all the Caucasian
people can live in peace and in mutual respect. "
"God bless Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, and accompany the journey of His holy pilgrim people in those countries."