Just one piece of news today – the days are filled with visitors, two cousins who are my houseguests, preparations for the blessing tomorrow of the new EWTN offices and then on Thursday the annual North American College diaconate ordination in St. Peter’s Basilica followed by a reception at the College…a momentous event in the life of the young men who will be ordained priests in their own dioceses next summer.
POPE TO EMBARK ON THREE-DAY TRIP TO GEORGIA, AZERBAIJAN
The Vatican has released details of the Holy Father’s upcoming three-day trip to the republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan, his 16th foreign apostolic visit. The trip will take place on the themes of peace and brotherhood, concluding his message of peace during his June trip to neighboring Armenia last June.
Pope Francis is scheduled to leave the Vatican on Friday morning, headed for the Georgian capital Tbilisi. His first encounter there will be with the president, with government authorities and representatives of civil society gathered at the imposing presidential palace. From there he goes on to meet the country’s Orthodox leader Patriarch Elia, who was also on hand for Pope John Paul II’s visit to the newly independent nation back in 1999.
The final event on Friday will be a visit to the Syro-Chaldean church of St Simon the Tanner, one of three different rites making up the small Catholic community in the former Soviet nation. The Pope will join Syro-Chaldean bishops from around the world to pray for peace in Syria and Iraq.
The Holy Father starts his second day with Mass at a stadium in Tbilisi named after one of Georgia’s most famous footballers. Significantly, a delegation from the Orthodox Patriarchate will also be present at the Mass, a sign of growing friendship despite the many doctrinal difficulties that continue to divide leaders of the two Churches.
In the afternoon, the Pope will meet with priests, religious and seminarians at one of the two Catholic parishes in the capital, before greeting several hundred disabled and vulnerable people being cared for by members of the Camilian order. The Pope’s final event in Georgia will be a visit to the patriarchal cathedral in the nearby ancient city of Mtshketa, listed as one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.
On his third and final day, Pope Francis flies from Tbilisi to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan where he’ll celebrate Mass for the tiny Catholic community at the only parish church run by the Salesian order. In the afternoon he’ll make a courtesy visit to the president and meet the region’s Muslim leader, Sheik Allashukur Pashazade, before taking part in an interfaith encounter with representatives of all the other religious communities in the country.