Speech of the President of Azerbaijan Republic Heydar Aliyev at the ceremony meeting of the Pope of Rome - May 22, 2002

Your Holiness!

I am very glad to greet you in Azerbaijan. I express my gratitude that you have accepted my invitation and arrived to Azerbaijan.

You have arrived to my country in a very remarkable day.

I know that in May 18 you have marked your birthday. I congratulate your Holiness heartily on this occasion. I wish you sound health, long years, success in your great fulfillments, directed to the establishment of peace and mutual understanding in the entire world.

Tomorrow, in other words, on May 23 it was passed 10 years from the day of official recognition of the state Vatican the independent Azerbaijani Republic. Your stay in Azerbaijan is an historical event on this day.

I remember with satisfaction that during my official visit to Italy in September 1997 I visited Vatican, where we met with you and held detailed exchange of views. I am very happy that after five years I welcome you as a dear guest this time in Azerbaijan.

Your Holiness!

As a head of Vatican state and the Pope you passed all bounds of traditions courageously. You are known as a friend of every man and nation irrespective their religious, racial, national relation, and you have turned into the citizen of the world.

The Azerbaijani people always distinguished by its religious indulgence, tolerance and understand well and estimate highly the nobility and humanism of your activity.

Your visits to the countries with the large expansion of Islam including Azerbaijan, serve to the world peace and to the mutual confidence between the great two world-wide religions.

You propagandize ideas of charity and compassion among people, you wish patience and consolation to people subjected to hard distress. There are the victims of such distress in Azerbaijan as well it is more than million of Azerbaijani refugees expelled from their native lands as a result of the occupation of Azerbaijan territories by neighboring Armenian. These people are in need of your well-wishing words and consolation. They hope to get your assistance in the matter of justice.

Your Holiness!

You are the first Pope of Rome to have visited Azerbaijan during two thousand years since the existence of Catholic Church.

I express my gratitude for the realization of this visit and say "Welcome to Azerbaijan!"