On February 12, First Vice-president of the Republic of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva met a delegation led by Secretary of the Holy See for Interstate Relations Paul Richard Gallaher.
Welcoming archbishop Paul Richard Gallaher to Azerbaijan, Mehriban Aliyeva expressed her confidence that this meeting will give impetus to the development of relations between Azerbaijan and the Holy See, underscoring that Azerbaijan has been attaching great importance to the relations between our countries. It was noted that high-level meetings of the recent years, i.e. visits by Supreme Pontiff John Paul 2nd in 2002 and Supreme Pontiff Francis 1st in 2016 to Azerbaijan have opened a new historical page in these relations. It was underscored that for centuries, representatives of different religions, cultures and nationalities have lived in the environment of peace and mutual respect in Azerbaijan, and that Azerbaijani people’s tolerance and peaceful environment in the country is appreciated highly, which was recognized as a state policy of Azerbaijan and the lifestyle of the Azerbaijani society. Saying “This is one of Azerbaijan’s greatest achievements and, at the same time, an important message to this unstable world”, - Mehriban Aliyeva brought to attention that we have been preserving such relations in Azerbaijan, promoting them all over the world.
Expressing her content with recent years’ relations between the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and Vatican, Mehriban Aliyeva underscored the significance of the jointly implemented large-scale projects. Recalling the significant events held in Vatican with the support of Paul Richard Gallaher in 2011-2012 in connection with the 20th anniversary of Azerbaijan’s regaining its state independence and building diplomatic ties between our countries, as well as organization of an exhibition in one of Vatican’s museums reflecting Azerbaijan’s history and traditions, Mehriban Aliyeva said Azerbaijan is proud of being the first Muslim country to hold an exhibition in a Vatican museum. Mehriban Aliyeva, mentioning Azerbaijan’s contribution to preserving famous Christian catacombs, said restoration of the Holy Marcellino and Pietro catacombs was carried out with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, and in 2016, the catacombs were made open to the general community. Saying “I am happy the Heydar Aliyev Foundation has participated in this project”, - Mehriban Aliyeva noted that the Foundation has also participated in the restoration of Zeus’s statue in Pio-Clementino, as well as in the reconstruction works in “Sestina” Hall.
Gratitude was expressed for giving a chance to our researchers to work in Vatican’s secret archive. Relations between Azerbaijan and Vatican were appreciated as worth of esteem. Mehriban Aliyeva said she was ready to continue such projects in future. At the moment, restoration of the Holy Sebastian catacombs is continuing, and it is expected that this project will be finished at the end of this year. Noting that our cooperation in recent years has risen onto the level of friendship, Mehriban Aliyeva expressed her gratitude for this, saying she was sure this friendship will continue further.
Archbishop Paul Richard Gallaher said he has been in our country for three days, this visit has had a nice impression on him, and he had fruitful meetings, highly appreciating our people’s hospitality. The guest brought to attention that he met the Catholic community in our country in the framework of his visit. He conveyed the greetings of Supreme Pontiff Francis 1st and State Secretary Cardinal Pietro Parolini to First Vice-president Mehriban Aliyeva.