(Bonn, 28.12.2016) The Deputy General Secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance, Thomas Schirrmacher, has given a positive review of the Pope’s visit in Ajerbaijan. With his visit, the Pope encouraged the small number of Christians there and has made clear that he not only travels where he is guaranteed the approval of the masses. Dialog with other churches and religions represented in the country of Azerbaijan is anything but easy – as was previously the case in Georgia, where Pope Francis had been the day before. It is estimated that there are 7,000 Protestants and 400 Catholics in Azerbaijan.
After Albania, Azerbaijan was the second country with a Muslim majority in which the Pope thanked the government and the highest Islamic leaders, as Schirrmacher has likewise done, for acting against Islamic extremism and enabling the Christian minority to live in relative freedom.
In a worship service held by the Pope in the sole Catholic Church in Baku, the so-called pro-cathedral Apostolic Prefecture of Baku, Schirrmacher was the sole ecumenical guest. The welcome given Schirrmacher by the Pope, as well as the entire worship service, was broadcast on state television and on Vatican television.
Prior thereto, Schirrmacher had conducted a discussion with the head of the Catholic Church in Aserbaidschan, Fr. Jozef Cerkov, who had invited him to the worship service. Several weeks prior thereto, Schirrmacher had visited Azerbaijan and had met with members of the government, heads of various religions, and church leaders there.
- Television recording: 5:15–5:31 (YouTube)