Armenian Mechitarists Celebrate Third Centenary

VATICAN CITY, JUL 7, 2001 (VIS) - Pope John Paul this morning welcomed 35 members of the Armenian Mechitarist Congregation on the occasion of the third centenary of their founding by Abbot Mechitar who, the Pope said "was surely celebrating in heaven for the recent unification of the two branches of your congregation."

"With the story of Mechitar of Sebaste the history of Armenian monastic spirituality reaches its summit. In a period of strong decadence, due to precise socio-political circumstances, Mechitar understood that holiness was the highest and most efficacious means of returning dignity, vigor and moral and civil commitment to his people. He was above all a seeker of God, ... and wished to be so within the precise context of Armenian monastic life."

The Holy Father recalled that "while he was still young, Mechitar undertook a pilgrimage which brought him to various monasteries of Armenia. ... During this pilgrimage he also met many Latin religious, drawing from the knowledge of their spirituality new points for reflection, without, however, harming full fidelity to the authentic Armenian tradition." He added that this contact between East and West led "Mechitar to settle, together with the monks he founded, in Venice, the natural bridge of a West leaning towards the East. Since then the island of St. Lazarus has become 'a little Armenia' and is still a place of pilgrimage."

John Paul II underscored that "the characteristic element of Mechitarist spirituality is the search for holiness, through an intense prayer life." And he noted that Mechitar "directed the monks to live a common life in the monastery, under the sign of obedience. The monasteries thus became centers of spiritual formation and profound cultural studies."

"Mechitar and his monks," the Pope went on, "must be recognized for having worked, and still working, for the full reestablishment of unity among the Church of the West and the Church of the East. For Mechitar, communion with Rome was an indispensable element of faith."

"Dear sons of Mechitar," stated the Holy Father, "it is up to you to gather this legacy and to revive it," getting to know your people, and how to answer their longings. He suggested "it might be opportune to make use of the collaboration of the lay faithful."

The Pope also pointed out that "your history and the intuitions of your founder place you in a privileged position in the ecumenical dialogue. ... Be up to the task of such an extraordinary vocation."

He dedicated closing remarks to the need to "recall that poverty is the indispensable mark of monastic life. May your riches be the Lord Whom you carry in your heart. ... May past events teach you not to confuse material prosperity with the depth of spiritual life: prosperity often causes idolatrous greed which mines the foundation of religious experience. This is a lesson which must not be forgotten."

Vatican Information Service
7. juli 2001

av Webmaster publisert 10.07.2001, sist endret 10.07.2001 - 09:32