At a papal Mass focused on two female saints, the longing for Christian unity and the painful reality of Christian division were strong undertones.
Celebrating Mass on 1st October, the feast of St Therese of Lisieux, Pope Francis also praised St Nino, a woman who evangelised Georgia in the fourth century, is recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church and hailed by the Georgian Orthodox as “equal to the Apostles and the enlightener of Georgia.”
A few thousand people – including many expatriates living and working in Georgia – attended the morning Mass, which was celebrated in a Tbilisi soccer stadium.
While the official theme of the pope’s visit to Georgia was ‘Pax vobis’ – ‘Peace be with you’ – the caps and scarves handed out at the Mass and worn by most in the crowd said, ‘Ut unum sint’, the Latin for ‘that all may be one’.
The vast majority of Georgians are members of the Orthodox Church. Catholics, including Armenians, Chaldeans and members of the Latin-rite Church, account for only about two per cent of the population.
Picture: Pope Francis walks through a Holy Door as he arrives to celebrate Mass at Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi, Georgia, on 1st October. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).