.- Receiving the leaders of three religious communities in Azerbaijan this morning – Russian Orthodox, Muslim, and Jewish – Pope John Paul II said: "Muslims, Jews and Christians, in the name of God and civilization, together...we appeal for an end to violence” in the world. The Pope recalled "the trip that God allowed me to make" to Azerbaijan in 2002 and welcomed Jeque-Ul-Islam, head of the presidency of the Muslims of the Caucasus Region, “which constantly makes an effort to build up peace in an area where, unfortunately, violent conflicts continue,” Bishop Aleksandr of Baku in the region of the Caspian Sea, “part of the Russian Orthodox Church, to which I am united through affection and esteem,” and the head of the Jewish Community of the Mountain, “an old community that offers an example of coexistence and fraternal collaboration in a context which is Islamic in majority."
"I hope with all my heart that peace returns to Azerbaijan,” said the Pope, “and that the conflict in Nagorno-Karabaj is resolved soon. This challenge, as well as others, should be addressed with good will in the mutual search for reciprocal openness and understanding and with a true spirit of reconciliation."
He asked God to help the religious representatives "to build up peaceful coexistence, one that is ever more positive," between them and the Catholic community in the country.
The Pope also sent his greetings to the head of the Catholic mission in the Caucasus region, Fr. Jan Capla and to all the Catholics in the country.
"May this visit to Rome be a symbol for the world,” said the Pope. “May it show that tolerance is possible and is a value of civilization which builds a foundation for more complete and united human, civil and social development.”
“No one has the right to present or use religions as instruments of intolerance, as means of aggression, violence or death,” he strongly affirmed.
“On the contrary,” he said, “the friendship and reciprocal esteem among different religions is a rich resource of authentic progress and peace, if also supported by leaders' commitment to tolerance."
"Muslims, Jews and Christians, in the name of God and civilization, together we wish to appeal for an end to violence and for everyone to set out on the path of love and justice,” said the Holy Father. “This is the path of religions. May God help us to take up this path with perseverance and patience!"