Pope Francis – the head of the Roman Catholic Church – has arrived in Georgia.
Just after 3pm today the religious leader was welcomed at Tbilisi Shota Rustaveli International Airport by President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili and Georgia’s Catholics Patriarch Ilia II.
Watch live from Georgia's President’s Palace:
Pope Francis will stay in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi for several days before departing for Azerbaijan on October 2.
Take a look at the details of this historical visit via the online map project by Agenda.ge, click Explore.
While in Georgia the Pope is scheduled to hold several meetings with high officials and visit several locations in and around Georgia’s capital, including local churches and Georgia’s historic capital Mtskheta.
Meanwhile from Tbilisi International Airport Pope Francis and his entourage will travel to the President’s Palace in Avlabari, where he will sit down for a face-to-face meeting with President Giorgi Margvelashvili.
After the meeting a small ceremony will take place where the pair will exchange gifts, before Pope Francis and President Margvelashvili make statements for the public.
Earlier today Pope Francis announced his Georgia visit on his official Twitter account:
Today I leave for Georgia and Azerbaijan. Please accompany me with your prayers so we can sow peace, unity and reconciliation together.— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) 30 September 2016
Meeting with Georgia's religious leader
This afternoon Pope Francis will visit the Patriarchate and meet head of Georgia’s Orthodox Church, Ilia II.
Georgia’s Patriarchate welcomes the Pope’s visit and hopes his arrival will support the deepening of multi-lateral relations and peace in the region,” read an official letter from the Georgian Patriarchate.
We also state that it is categorically unacceptable for us that some Georgian spirituals made negative statements over his visit. We appeal to everyone to be calm.”
In the early evening Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Assyrian-Chaldean Catholic Church in Tbilisi and meet local believers.
Early tomorrow Pope Francis will lead a liturgy at Mikheil Meskhi Stadium in Tbilisi’s Vake district. After the liturgy he will go to the Vatican City Embassy in Tbilisi.
Tomorrow afternoon the Pope will visit St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Tbilisi then he will host a meeting with representatives of the Catholic Church in Georgia.
Later in the day Pope Francis meet charity workers at the Assistance Centre of the Camillian Order.
Tomorrow evening the Pope and his delegation will visit Mtskheta, a historic town just outside Tbilisi and view the 11th Century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. The city and Cathedral is of extreme importance to Georgian Orthodox believers and is the historic capital of the country.
On October 2, on the last day of his visit, an early morning ceremony will be held at Tbilisi Shota Rustaveli International Airport to farewell the Catholic religious leader. The Pope will leave for Baku, Azerbaijan.
According to Georgia’s state statistics office, in the 2014 population census 19,195 people described themselves as Catholics –0.5 percent of Georgia’s population of 3.7 million.
Of about 200,000 Catholics in Georgia, 15,024 lived in Georgia’s southern Samtskhe-Javakheti region, 1,662 in Tbilisi and 1,493 in eastern Kvemo Kartli region.
This will be the second time a Pope has visited Georgia. Pope John Paul II visited Tbilisi in 1999.