Cardinal: Religious Tolerance Brings Prosperity
Vatican Official Concludes Trip to Azerbaijan
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BAKU, Azerbaijan, MARCH 11, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Religious tolerance not only elevates civilization of a society, it also brings prosperity to its people, said Benedict XVI's secretary of state during his trip to Azerbaijan.
Cardinal Bertone said this Saturday upon visiting the Baku residence of Sheik Allashukur Pashazade, chairman of the Caucasian Muslims Office, and in the presence of the religious leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Jewish community.
The Sheik, who received a high pontifical honor from Benedict XVI for his work in promoting the peaceful living together among believers, was thanked by Cardinal Bertone “for the stability and peacefulness that his attitude ensures not only for Azerbaijan, but for all believers.”
The Sheik also received Pope John Paul II when the Pontiff visited Azerbaijan in 2002.
“The Holy See is near to all those who promote true understanding and fruitful living together among different religions, in respect and mutual esteem," said the Pope’s closest advisor. "She supports the effort of those who search for and build peace, wherever devastating conflicts provoke the suffering of many innocent people."
“I come here," said the cardinal, "in Pope Benedict XVI’s name, to forcefully reaffirm that religious tolerance is not only the acquisition of an elevated civilization. It is the best way to guarantee Peoples and Countries the prosperity that is the fruit of a common effort.
“In his name I assure you that the Holy See will also be on the side of anyone who sees in tolerance and in reciprocal exchange the enrichment and growth of humanity.”
Cardinal Bertone's 4-day visit to Azerbaijan ended Sunday.
The Vatican representative inaugurated Friday the country's first Catholic Church on land donated to John Paul II by President Heydar Aliyev, father of the current head of state.
He said the construction of the Church was a sign "of true religious tolerance" in a land with a Muslim majority.
On Saturday the cardinal visited the Mosque of Baku, which was one of the more symbolic moments of the visit to the former Soviet Republic. The country of more than 8 million residents is 93% Muslim.
The same day he also visited the Russian Orthodox Cathedral and the synagogue in the country's capital.
At the Orthodox cathedral Cardinal Bertone expressed his desire that soon Catholics and Orthodox will be able “to express the unity of the Church in a visible way. At least 2.5% of the country’s population is Orthodox with obedience to the Russian Orthodox Patriarch.
The Vatican representative's trip ended Sunday with a Mass in the new Church of the Immaculate Conception, during which he expressed his encouragement for the small religious community in Azerbaijan.