February 23, 2016

Mehriban Aliyeva holds a series of meetings in Vatican

On February 23, Azerbaijan’s First Lady, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva, in the framework of her visit to Vatican, paid a visit to the Pio-Clementino Museum. Monuments and samples of art restored with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation were reviewed here. 


The foundation of the Pio-Clementino Museum was laid in the 18th century following the instruction of Pope XIVClement and Pope VI Pia with a view to safeguarding famous Greek and Roman works of art. Thousands of ancient samples of art are preserved in the museum, but a statue of Zeus, the principal God in the Greek mythology, among them draws much attention. Made of marble and related to the time of Roman Empire, restored with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, this statue reflects mythical stories and historical statistics. Director of the Vatican Museum Antonio Paolucci said basic elements of Zeus’s restored statue are an eagle, power, lightning and throne. A symbol of power and might, Zeus is holding in his hand a stick with an eagle on and gold and ivory, embodying ability. The statue embodies might and power. Known as Zeus in Greek mythology, Jupiter in Roman culture and Ahur Mazda in the Orient, this mythical being is presented as a distributor of the good and bad in ancient sources. 


A.Paolucci, expressing gratitude to the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and, personally, Mehriban Aliyeva, highly appreciated her activity towards preserving masterpieces of the world culture. Mehriban Aliyeva, bringing to attention that works would continue further in the relevant fields, said: 


- I would, first of all, like to express my profound thanks to the director and staff of the Museum for preserving such valuable for the world works of art, and keeping for future generations. I am very happy to have been repeatedly to Vatican museums, and each time I come here I think when will I return here again. I am proud the Foundation headed by myself has made its little contribution to the restoration of the monuments preserved here. I would like to thank you for this cooperation. 


Vatican’s state governor, cardinal Giuseppe Bertello expressed his gratitude to the state of Azerbaijan and, especially, Mehriban Aliyeva. He emphasized the significance of continuing such dialogues in the development of Azerbaijan-Vatican relations. Mehriban Aliyeva, in turn, said our country was interested in continuing this cooperation. 


Then Mehriban Aliyeva viewed closets being restored with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation at the Apostolic Library. It should be noted that the Sistine Hall, where these closets are, was built in 1587-1589. Put forward at that time by Pope V Sixtus, this initiative aimed to create a special place to preserve valuable books. Frescoes painted by such talented artists as Andrea Lilli in the Sistine Hall adds to the miraculous view of the space. The books had been preserved in this new hall until Pope XIII Leo started ruling the Church. The library has been enriched thanks to considerable number of bibliographical collections brought in at different times. And the closets where books are preserved are of special significance from this standpoint, and preserving them is of special importance for Vatican. 


Then, in the Sistine Hall of the museum, Mehriban Aliyeva was given information about the hall’s history and the works of art being preserved here. It was noted that thanks to the repair-and-renewal operations, the hall’s significance increased further. Thousands of tourists are flocking here to see these rare wall paintings. They view with much interest the paintings made on the ceiling and walls in this hall, one of the world’s masterpieces. 


Thereafter, a meeting took place at the Pontifical Council for Culture between Mehriban Aliyeva and President of Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture Gianfranco Ravasi. After the meeting, Cardinal Ravasi talked about the projects intended to be implemented in cooperation with the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, and gave information about other catacombs scheduled for restoration. He said that this cooperation contribute to interreligious and intercultural platforms and the activity of a Muslim country in this field was of great importance, and that Pope Francis too highly appreciates Azerbaijan’s efforts in this direction. 


Mehriban Aliyeva, expressing her delight in returning to the Holy See, talked about the significance of the projects implemented since 2012 in connection with restoration of the catacombs of Saints Marcellinus and Peter:


- Particularly in the contemporary world, such cooperation plays a great role in relations between religions, civilizations and peoples.


Azerbaijan has been making its contribution to the development of dialogue between civilizations and cultures. The International Multiculturalism Centre has been operating in our country. The year 2016 has been declared a “Year of Multiculturalism” in Azerbaijan. Numerous international forums, conferences and meetings held on this theme in our country testifies to the fact that the idea of multiculturalism and different people are coexisting in the environment of friendship and brotherhood. Being a Muslim country, we are very much bound to our traditions, religion, culture and history. At the same time, we accept international values. We are continuing cultural diversity and approach it with great respect. Every human treating his religion respectfully will show respect for other religions too. 


In conclusion, I would like to say that I take pride in Azerbaijani state’s contributing to the restoration of the catacombs of Saints Marcellinus and Peter, one of the treasures of the Christian world.




Then an agreement was signed on restoring Saint Sebastian tombs. The agreement was signed by Mehriban Aliyeva and President of Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture Gianfranco Ravasi. It should be mentioned that the Saint Sebastian tombs, named after Roman warlord Sebastian, who died in the 3rd century A.D., are located in a four-tier graveyard. Until the 9th century, these tombs were preserved in these graveyard, later to be moved to the Saint Sebastian Church, and now are being preserved there. 


Thereafter, questions of correspondents were answered. Answering a question with regard to why Azerbaijan, a Muslim country, was interested in restoring the catacombs of Saints Marcellinus and Peter, Mehriban Aliyeva said our country has always been a place where religions and cultures met. No conflict has ever broken out in our country on religious basis. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation has done such works both within and outside of the country, in different places. As to the restoration of the catacombs of Saints Marcellinus and Peter, it is an example of high cooperation between Azerbaijan and Vatican. 


Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi emphasized the extensive cooperation existing between Vatican and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. This cooperation includes relations with Vatican museums, restoration of ancient manuscripts, and other matters. Recalling his visits to our country and meetings with representatives of different religions, G.Ravasi brought to attention that the Holy See has multilateral relations with Azerbaijan.