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A lesson from Azerbaijan about life in a global Church

Father Vladimír Fekete, the Apostolic Prefect of Azerbaijan. (Credit: Youtube.)

By any measure, Father Vladimír Fekete, the Catholic Church’s Apostolic Prefect of Azerbaijan, has a tough gig.

He’s the head of an infinitesimally small Catholic community, estimated at about 600 souls in an overwhelmingly Shia Muslim population of 10 million, and one that has to make its way in a society in which Christians are forever the “other” because of the national rivalry with neighboring Armenia.

A Salesian born in Slovakia, Fekete is also an outsider, so he may well feel under pressure to demonstrate loyalty to the country and its people.

Perhaps that background helps explain two moves by Fekete this week that otherwise seem puzzling.

First, Fekete appeared at a conference of a state-backed organization for Muslims in the Caucasus region on Tuesday and declared a 1992 massacre of Azerbaijani civilians at the hands of Armenians as “the greatest injustice against humanity.”

That, at least, was the phrase reported by official press agencies, and it hasn’t been challenged.

Granted, what’s known as the 1992 “Khojaly Massacre” was horrifying. According to reports, a large column of civilians from Khojaly, a key battleground city because it had the only airport in a region of Nagorno-Karabakh that has no land connection to Azerbaijan, was trying to flee the fighting along with a handful of Azerbaijani soldiers when they were fired upon by Armenian troops.

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