Pope Francis will visit Georgia in late September before traveling to Azerbaijan, the Vatican press office said on April 9.
Before visiting Georgia and Azerbaijan, Pope Francis will also visit Armenia, scheduled for June 24-26, according to the Holy See press office.
“Accepting the invitations from His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II, Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia, and the civil and religious authorities of Georgia and Azerbaijan, the Holy Father will complete his apostolic trip in the Caucasus, visiting the latter two countries from 30 September to 2 October, 2016,” the Vatican press office said.
It will be the second time a pope visits Georgia. Pope John Paul II visited Tbilisi in November 1999.
Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili visited the Vatican and met Pope Francis in April, 2015.
In September, 2014 then Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See Archbishop Dominique Mamberti visited Tbilisi – the first visit of Vatican’s foreign minister to Georgia in eleven years.
Before that the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, the post which at the time was held by Jean-Louis Tauran, visited Tbilisi in September, 2003 to sign an interstate agreement giving the Catholic Church in Georgia legal status. But in a last-minute discussion, yielding to pressure from the Georgian Orthodox Church, the Georgian authorities made U-turn and refused to sign the agreement. In 2011, despite protests from the Georgian Orthodox Church, the Georgian authorities adopted law allowing religious minority groups to be registered as legal entities under public law, which, among others, was also used by several branches of the Roman Catholic Church in Georgia. Adoption of the legislation was welcomed by the Vatican.