(JNS.org) Pope Francis will meet with interfaith leaders on a visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan, two Caucasus region nations that were part of the former Soviet Union. The pontiff's trip to the region begins Sept. 30, according to the Vatican.
In the majority-Muslim country of Azerbaijan, Pope Francis will celebrate mass with the nation's small Catholic community and meet with the region’s chief Muslim imam, Allahshukur Pashazade, as well as with the Orthodox Christian bishop of Baku and the head of the country’s Jewish community. About 15,000 Jews live in Azerbaijan, mainly of a group known as the "Mountain Jews." Some Georgian Jews and Ashkenazi Jews also live in the country.
“We will be happy to welcome the pope in Baku,” said Moisei Bekker, representative of Baku's Georgian-Jewish community, the Catholic Herald reported. “We Jews are satisfied with how we live here. We are protected. In Azerbaijan, anti-Semitism did not and does not exist.”