Pope to Visit Azerbaijan Bulgaria in May

VATICAN CITY (Armenpress)–Vatican has confirmed that Pope John Paul II will make a five-day visit to Azerbaijan and Bulgaria as planned in late May. The May 22-26 trip will be the first visit by a pope to either country and is seen by Vatican officials as a chance to build bridges to Bulgaria’s Orthodox majority and the predominantly Muslim population of Azerbaijan.

In both countries–the Pope is expected to pay homage to the victims of 20th-century communism. In Bulgaria–Vatican sources said–he plans to beatify three Assumptionist priests shot to death by communists in 1952.

The Keston News Service said on the day Baku’s Protestant Greater Grace church was celebrating Easter–police in the city’s central Sabail district tried to forcibly deport a church member–alleging that she had been conducting religious "propaganda."

One of the church’s pastors–Musfig Bayram was quoted by Keston News Service saying that the police took Nina Koptseva–a Russian citizen who has a residence permit to live in Baku–to the city’s railway station on 31 March–bought her a ticket to the Russian border and tried to place her on the train without any court decision.

It was only when she screamed loudly and insisted that if she had to leave she could buy an airline ticket to Russia herself that police halted the attempt and returned her to the cells in the Sabail district police station. Koptseva was slated for deportation on April 1 by air. Three other church members face fines.

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