Papal Trip to Armenia Could Have Major Implications

VATICAN, May 11, 01 ( -Pope John Paul II will travel to Armenia in September, a Vatican envoy has confirmed.

After a May 11 audience with the Holy Father, Bishop Stephan Zurbriggen - the Swiss-born diplomat who serves as papal nuncio in Armenia - said that the papal visit would probably take place September 24 to 26, although the plans are not completely fixed.

Bishop Zurbriggen said the Pope would visit Armenia "just after the ceremonies for the consecration of the new cathedral in Erevan." Those ceremonies are set to take place in the capital city on September 23.

Pope John Paul had planned to visit Armenia in July 1999. Those plans were postponed when the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin I, became critically ill; the Armenian patriarch-who had become especially close to John Paul, and issued the invitation for the Pope to visit Armenia-died just days after the papal visit would have occurred.

Since that postponement, the Pope has mentioned several times that he still hoped to visit Armenia. Ecumenical ties between the Holy See and the Armenian Apostolic Church have been particularly strong, and the new leader of that Church, Karekin II, had renewed the invitation for a papal visit.

The Armenian Apostolic Church dates back to the year 506, when the Christian leaders of that region broke away from the Catholic Church over disagreements with the doctrines put forth by the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Those theological disputes have been resolved, and Pope John Paul II and Karekin I jointly signed a document affirming that the two churches have reached accord on the Christological issues that originally caused their separation.

Today the Armenian Apostolic Church-which is not tied to the Eastern Orthodox churches-is frequently viewed as a potential mediator in disagreements between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow. The Armenian Church enjoys friendly ties with both Rome and Moscow.

Patriarch Aleksei II of Moscow will be in Erevan on September 23 for the dedication of the St. Gregory's Cathedral. Vatican sources suggest that the Pope may delay his visit until the day after that ceremony in order to avoid an awkward situation; Patriarch Aleksei has refused to meet with the Holy Father.

It is also possible, however, that the timing of the papal trip will furnish a new opportunity for diplomats seeking to arrange a "summit" meeting between the Pontiff and the Russian Patriarch.

The Pope's trip to Armenia might also furnish the occasion for him to Kazakhstan-a nearby country to which he has received several invitations.

CWN - Catholic World News
11. mai 2001

av Webmaster publisert 12.05.2001, sist endret 12.05.2001 - 20:14