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Pope arrives in Georgia, puts stress on peaceful coexistence

September 30, 2016

Pope Francis arrived in Georgia on September 30 to begin a three-day visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan, telling Georgian Orthodox Patriarch Ilia II that he came “as a pilgrim and a friend.”

In his public remarks on his first day in Georgia, the Pontiff emphasized the importance of peaceful coexistence and mutual respect, calling for friendly relations across ethnic and religious lines.

“Peaceful coexistence among all people and states in the region is the indispensable and prior condition for authentic and enduring progress,” the Pope said in an address to Georgia’s political leaders. Although he did not allude directly to Georgia’s contentious border dispute with Russia, he did affirm the sovereignty of the country, and mentioned Georgia’s distinct status as a “natural bridge between Europe and Asia, a link that facilitates communication and relations among people.”

Later in the day, meeting with the Orthodox Patriarch Ilia, the Pope again spoke of peace and reconciliation, referring to the gradual warming of the formerly distant relations between the Georgian Orthodox Church and the Holy See. He praised the elderly Georgian prelate for making “the first historic visit of a Georgian Patriarch to the Vatican,” to meet with Pope John Paul II in 1980.

Speaking to Orthodox clerics, the Pope said that in a divided world, it is essential for Christians to intensify “our commitment to the bonds which exist between us.” He reminded them that “we are called to overcome our true enemies, who are not of flesh and blood, but rather the evil spirits from without and from within ourselves.”

On Friday evening, the Pope concluded his public schedule for the day by visiting the Chaldean Catholic Church of St. Simon, to pray particularly for peace and welfare among the Chaldean faithful—those still living in their ancestral home in Iraq and the many others in the diaspora.

 
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