Pope Francis praises religious tolerance in volatile region
Pope Francis praised Azerbaijan on Sunday as a model for a world divided by violent extremism, sidestepping criticism of the government for the sake of encouraging religious tolerance in an often-volatile region where Catholics are a minority.
Francis avoided direct mention of criticism in the West over allegations of human rights abuses in Azerbaijan and a recent government referendum that extends the president’s term and gives him new powers.
The pope addressed a gathering of Muslim, Jewish and Orthodox leaders in Azerbaijan’s main mosque before heading back to Rome after a weekend Caucasus visit that first took him to Georgia.
“From this highly symbolic place, a heartfelt cry rises up once again: No more violence in the name of God!” Francis said. “May his most holy name be adored, not profaned or bartered as a commodity through forms of hatred and human opposition.”