On February 22, within the framework of the state visit to Vatican, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva met with State Secretary of the Holy See Cardinal Pietro Parolin in Vatican.
The President recalled the visit by the Supreme Pontiff to Azerbaijan in 2016, noting that Azerbaijan has been actively continuing works towards promoting a dialogue between religions and cultures. President Ilham Aliyev, mentioning that the 2nd Summit of World Religious Leaders took place in Baku, mentioned that Vatican’s representative also participated in this Summit.
The President underscored that mutual understanding exists in Azerbaijan in ethnic and religious terms, and that representatives of different religions have been peacefully living together in this country. President Ilham Aliyev emphasized that during 2019-2022, while Azerbaijan will be chairing the Non-aligned Movement, a dialogue between religions and cultures, and multiculturalism will be given a priority.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that special relations exist between Vatican and Azerbaijan. He mentioned the visits by Pope John 2nd and Pope Francis to Azerbaijan, emphasizing that dialogue between religions, multiculturalism, as well as harmony between Muslims, Christians and Jews are strengthening in the Republic of Azerbaijan under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev. Pietro Parolin noted that he appreciates that Azerbaijan has been attaching great importance to versatility in its international relations. He also brought to attention that the conditions created in Azerbaijan for the activities of the Catholic Church is highly appreciated.
President Ilham Aliyev once more brought to attention Azerbaijan’s position with regard to the Armenia-Azerbaijan Daghlyg Garabagh conflict, saying that Armenia has been pursuing a destructive policy in the region. The President told that the Armenian side has given controversial statements recently that would harm the negotiations process, underscoring that the conflict should be solved in the framework of the norms and principles of the international law, the Helsinki Final Act, maintaining Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity.
Azerbaijan’s role in the region and its relations with the neighbours were appreciated as positive during the meeting.
Then Cardinal Pietro Parolin presented the Order of Pius IX (Dama di Gran Croce dell’ordine Piano), the highest degree of the Pontifical Order of Knighthood – Knights Grand Cross - to First Vice-president of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva.
First Vice-president Mehriban Aliyeva has been decorated with this order for her contribution to the development of culture, including mutual relations with institutions of the Holy See.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin said he felt honoured to have presented this prize to Mehriban Aliyeva.
First Vice-president Mehriban Aliyeva said:
I want to deeply thank You and his Excellency Supreme Pontiff Francis for decorating me with the highest order of the Holy See. This is a great honour for me.
I value this order as another proof of the high-level bilateral relations between Vatican and Azerbaijan. I am very glad to have made my own contribution to the strengthening of these relations. I want to deeply thank every person who has made contribution to building this cooperation, all my friends in Vatican, especially Cardinal Ravazi.
I thank You once more for this high decoration, the hospitality shown by You, and for your sincerity. Thank you very much.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin: Thank You, Your Excellency. On my side, I too accept this gesture as the manifestation of the relations formed between us for long years. I think we would deepen bilateral relations between the Holy See and your country in almost all spheres, especially in cultural. I congratulate You, personally, your spouse and, in general, your country, from the bottom of my heart.
First Vice-president Mehriban Aliyeva: Thank You very much.
The Order of Pius IX was instituted in 1847. Those having merits before church and society are decorated with this order. The Grand Cross is a special degree presented to heads of states and high-ranking state persons.
Incumbent President of the Italian Republic Sergio Mattarella, a series of former heads of the Italian state, including Giorgio Napolitano, as well as crowned persons – King of Sweden Gustav the 16th, Luxemburg’s Grand Duke Henry, King of Spain Juan Carlos, and Belgian King Albert the 2nd are among those decorated with this order.