Vatican Meeting of the Catholicos of All Armenians and Pope Francis
On May 7, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, left for the Vatican on a fraternal visit. On May 8, in the Apostolic Palace, His Holiness met with His Holiness Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and Leader of the Catholic Church.
Present at the meeting were His Eminence Archbishop Gisak Muradyan, Primate of the Armenian Diocese in Argentine; His Eminence Archbishop Khajak Barsamyan, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church o North America; His Grace Bishop Hovakim Manoukian, Director of the Inter- Church Relations Department of the Mother See and Primate of the Artik Diocese; Rev. Fr. Anania Tsaturyan, Staff-Bearer of His Holiness Karekin II; Rev. Fr. Tovma Khachatryan, Spiritual Pastor of the Armenian Diocese in Italy; Rev. Fr. Vahram Melikyan, Director of the Information Services Department of the Mother See; and Mr. Michael Minasyan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to the Holy See.
The Catholicos of All Armenians and the Leader of the Catholic Church had a private conversation prior to their meeting in the Apostolic Palace library.
During the official meeting His Holiness Karekin II greeted Pope Francis. “It is an immense spiritual joy for our delegation to once again visit Your Holiness this day, to embrace with a greeting of Christian love in order to renew with you our fraternal oath, and to discuss critical issues facing our faithful and our churches, cooperation between our churches, a unified witness in the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and the reinforcement of spiritual values in the world.
At this moment of spiritual renewal we recall the well-known words of the psalmist, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 132.1.) Your Holiness’ spiritually uplifting enthronement ceremony is still fresh in our mind, when We together with the president of the Republic of Armenia and representatives of our sister Churches had the opportunity to congratulate Your Holiness as a spiritual leader and friend of the Armenian Church and People. Since that moment many meaningful days have passed. We have happily followed Your Holiness’ activities, and how with God-given courage You as the good shepherd and tireless and wise leader have demonstrated energetic devotion in the fulfillment of Your mission by expanding your activities for the sake of the splendor, welfare and good order of the Catholic Church, contributing greatly to the rebirth of Christianity throughout the world, to the strengthening of spiritual values, the defense of human rights, and the establishment of peace and solidarity.
Beloved brother in Christ, We are gratified to acknowledge that Your Holiness’ unique attention to the youth and your care for the poor and the oppressed have engendered a great love towards your person everywhere. We joyfully note that this contagious excitement speaks to us, because our apostolic and ancient Church, now free of the Soviet yoke, is also focusing her efforts on fulfilling her mission in the Homeland, in Independent Artsakh, the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh, and in the Diaspora, and is giving great importance and attention to ministering to the youth, providing spiritual moral education to the young generation, assisting the impoverished, and dealing with mankind’s modern challenges, in accordance with the Holy Tradition of our fathers and the message of the Holy Gospel.
We are pleased to reflect that in overcoming the challenges set before our Church we have realized many instances of cooperation among our Sister Churches, including with the Catholic Church. Indeed, the relations of the Armenian and Catholic Churches have historical roots. Our mutual relations, which were bearing fruit back in the time of the illustrious Armenian Church Patriarchs Gregory Bahlavooni and Nersess the Graceful and the Roman Popes Innocent II and Anastasius IV, are experiencing a renaissance today through the grace of God. The fruit of our relationship is reflected in the mutual visits of Church leaders and cooperative educational and humanitarian programs. For us, the theological dialogue taking place between the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church has importance, as its goal is the rediscovery of our commonalities and the strengthening of our mutual relations. We are grateful, that today many young Armenian clergy, having studied at Catholic academic institutions, offer their devoted service to the Armenian Church. The cooperation between our churches is multilayered and multifaceted.
Beloved brother in Christ, our encounter on this day, May 8th, is significant, as it precedes May 9th, the day when many nations and governments celebrate the victory over evil fascism. Decades have passed since World War II, which caused so much suffering for mankind created in God’s image. Unfortunately, man has not yet been freed from the evils of war and the various political, economic and moral crimes committed against humanity. We must acknowledge with pain the current international political movements, particularly the situation reigning in the Middle East and Syria. We are confident that Syria continues to be the focus of Your Holiness’ attention. That land, where Christians and Muslims have lived in peace and harmony for centuries, is today in the throes of a civil war in which many Christians, as well as the innocent and defenseless, have fallen victim. We strongly condemn what is happening in Syria, the terrorism committed in the name of religion, and the violence and discrimination carried out against Christians by radical groups, which are sometimes tolerated by the civilized world. For war waged in the name of God is condemnable, as the Apostle says, “For God is a God not of confusion but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Recently Turkey’s complicity with armed extremists in the destruction and forced expulsion of Armenians from Kessab, the majority of whose population is Armenian, has only contributed to the horrors of the Syrian situation.
The Middle East and Syria are close to the Armenian people. Because the remains of thousands of Armenians, who were victims of the first crime committed against humanity in the twentieth century, the Armenian Genocide, are buried in the Syrian deserts of Der Zor. Syria was that land which gave refuge to the survivors of the Armenian Genocide. One of the great thinkers has expressed the idea that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to live through it again. Sadly, because the Armenian Genocide was neither severely nor seriously condemned, the world witnessed yet one more great crime, the Holocaust of the Jewish people during World War II. The Genocides in Sudan and Darfur are still fresh in our minds. We are well aware that Your Holiness, both during your years of leadership in Argentina and now as the Roman Pontiff, have expressed yourself and presented your position on the Armenian Genocide. Next year, the Armenian people in Armenia and in the Diaspora will commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. We invite Your Holiness to Armenia and to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin to participate in the service of remembrance on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Genocide.
Your visit would be a source of great spiritual comfort to our faithful people and we would have the opportunity to offer a unified prayer to God Most High for the souls of the innocent victims of the Genocide, and to beseech the Lord for peace on earth and for the good welfare of humanity.
With a feeling of immense solace we also inform you that our Holy Church has initiated the process of canonization for the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
We pray that the Lord God grant Your Holiness a long and luminous pontificate and a calm and undisturbed life to the clergy and faithful of our sister Church, to the whole world and all mankind”. Concluding his message, the Catholicos of All Armenians wished that the Almighty reinforce the Holy Church with His abundant graces and strengthen the brotherly relations between the two Churches, granting a serene and undisturbed sky to the whole world and humanity.
His Holiness Pope Francis also greeted His Holiness Karekin II and the delegation of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church. Pope Francis reflected on the current relationship between the Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic Churches, gladly noting that their bond had become closer and stronger over the last decades. The Bishop of Rome also expressed his appreciation to the Catholicos of All Armenians for the effective support in strengthening ecumenism among the churches. The Leader of the Catholic Church also discussed martyrdom during our days. “In truth, the number of disciples who have shed blood for Christ in the tragic events of the last century is certainly higher than that of the martyrs of the first centuries, and the sons of the Armenian nation have a place of honour in this martyrology. The testimony of the martyrs, both tragic and lofty, must not be forgotten. As in the first centuries the blood of martyrs became the seed of new Christians, in our days too the blood of many Christians has become the seed of unity. The ecumenism of suffering and martyrdom is a powerful reminder to walk the long path of reconciliation between the Churches”.
Following an official exchange of gifts, under the presidency of Pope Francis and His Holiness Karekin II, a united prayer was extended from the Redemptoris Mater Chapel, for world peace.
Source: OCP Cognate Page