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Touring Pope must find room at the inn

For the first time in more than 20 years of globetrotting, the Holy Father will be forced to stay in a hotel later this month, during his visit to Azerbaijan.

There is a very low Catholic population in the central Asian state, and no convents or monasteries for the Pope to stay in during his three-day visit.

"There is no alternative; we have to use a hotel. It is the first time for one of the holy father's trips," the Vatican said.

Unlike the Stalinist hotels whose brutalist designs scar the Baku skyline, the Irshad was built in 1998 on a human scale, with 15 rooms. Although some reports have described the hotel as 'swanky', the Pope is shunning the Hyatt Regency and Park Hyatt, which are favoured by Western oil executives visiting Baku, and pricier than the Irshad's $A250 a night for a single room.

The Irshad's manager, Rufat Kazimov, confirmed the Pope would be a guest. "He will be staying on the fifth or sixth floor, in room 51 or 61. They are single rooms and each has a balcony and a living room." He said the entire hotel would be occupied by the Vatican delegation from 22 May and that it had not been decided whether regular rates would be charged.

Apostolic Visit of his Holiness John Paul II in Azerbaijan and Bulgaria 22-26 May 2002 (Holy See Press Office)
Date set for papal visit to Azerbaijan (eurasianet)

The Guardian

2 May 2002