06 October 2016
Inside the lions’ dens
Pope Francis’ visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan last weekend revealed his tactics regarding his role on the world stage: a new-style peace envoy combined with some old-style diplomatic negotiations. But the stakes are high
To break down the walls of conflicts, Pope Francis is ready to step out of his comfort zone. This is what happened last weekend when he travelled to Georgia, an overwhelmingly Orthodox country, and then to Azerbaijan, a place where the local Church is made up of just a few hundred members.
It was the second leg of his tour of the Caucasus region, a part of the world on the “East-meets-West” border between Europe and Asia and just the sort of forgotten frontier he seeks out on his travels abroad. While largely out of the Western media spotlight, the region is increasingly important, geopolitically, due to its rich natural resources and proximity to Russia. The Pope’s trip last weekend follows his visit to Armenia in June.
“These are Asiatic countries but are also part of Europe. The region itself is a bridge: it is a place that unites and divides at the same time,” Fr Antonio Spadaro, a Jesuit priest and adviser to Francis, told The Tablet. “It is also one of the world’s ‘wounds’, an area with tensions. Pope Francis likes to visit these places.”
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