Thorny challenges await Pope on Azerbaijan, Turkey and the Orthodox after he visited memorial to the Armenian Genocide victims in Yerevan, says the article of an editor of cruxnow.com website .
The author recalls that according to analysts the South Caucasus region is “one of those spots where the burden of history is especially heavy.”
“Officially, organizers say logistics prevent combining the three stops, including the fact that Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia is presently in Crete for the “Holy and Great Council” of the Eastern Orthodox churches, and thus wouldn’t be on hand to host the pontiff. In reality, however, everyone knows that given the animus between Armenia and Azerbaijan, it’s also simply less of a headache to visit them separately,” John L. Allen Jr. writes.
The author says Pope Francis may face challenges during his visits to other regional countries. He recalls that prior to his visit Azerbaijan asked to condemn “denounce what it called the “illegal occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding Azerbaijani provinces”.
“Although Francis can’t be expected to resolve a dispute that’s defied some of the world’s deftest statesmen and diplomats for a generation, the Azerbaijani request is a reminder that in the often zero/sum logic of the region, every point he scores in Armenia may come back to haunt him somewhere else,” the article says.
In addition, there is a risk for setback in relations with Turkey: “It’s possible, therefore, what whatever good will Francis has accumulated here over the past 48 hours will be paid for in new heartburn with Turkey.”
Pope’s another mission is to promote unity within the divided Christian world, in this case meaning closer ties with the Armenian Apostolic Church, part of the Oriental family of Orthodox churches.
“Yet the show of unity comes against the backdrop of a summit of Orthodox leaders simultaneously unfolding in Crete, on the other side of Turkey from Armenia, which was hobbled from the beginning by the defections of several churches, including the powerful Russian Orthodox Church,” the author says.
Despite all these difficulties, Pope’s visit drew warm reaction from the locals and positive media coverage.
“Yet even he, sooner or later, also finds that history can be an awfully strong tide against which to swim,” he resumes.