Catholics cannot “economise” when it comes to spending time in prayer with God and in service to other people, Pope Francis told members of Azerbaijan’s tiny Catholic community.
Arriving in the predominantly Shi’ite Muslim nation on 2nd October after two days in neighbouring Georgia, the pope went directly from the airport to Azerbaijan’s only Catholic Church, the parish of the Immaculate Conception.
Officials said about 300 people – more than half the number of Catholics in the entire country – were in the church for the Mass. Reflecting the backgrounds of members of the congregation, the prayers and readings at the Mass were in Azeri, English and Russian. The responsorial psalm, a chant in Azeri, was accompanied by the lilting tune of a tutek, a type of flute.
In improvised remarks at the end of Mass, Pope Francis said some people might think he was “wasting” his time traveling so far to visit such a small community, but the first Christian community visited by the Holy Spirit – Mary and the disciples – was even smaller.
The Holy Spirit gave the disciples the courage to live and share their faith with others, the pope said, and he visited Baku to encourage the Catholic community. “Courage,” the pope told them in Italian. “Go ahead,” he said in English.
Picture: Pope Francis gives the homily as he celebrates Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Baku, Azerbaijan, on 2nd October. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).