Pope's Trip to Armenia Emphasizes Unity

EREVAN, Armenia, Sep 27, 01 (CWNews.com) - At an ecumenical ceremony in the new cathedral that is the spiritual center of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Pope John Paul II prayed for unity among all Christians, and particularly between the Holy See and the Armenian Church.

The Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator, dedicated just last week, contains the relics of the saint who brought Christianity to Armenia. Those relics were given to Catholicos Karekin II, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, by Pope John Paul in a ceremony held in Rome last year. Relations between Rome and the Armenian Church have been extremely close in recent years, and the Pope indicated that he looked forward to a restoration of the full unity that was broken 1,500 years ago.

The Holy Father spoke of "our shared yearning to dwell in the full unity which the Lord wills for his disciples." And he observed that "there is a real and intimate unity between the Catholic Church and the Church of Armenia since both preserve apostolic succession and have valid sacraments, particularly baptism and the Eucharist."

Pope John Paul celebrated an outdoor Mass in Echmiadzin, Armenia, on Thursday, and in his homily he paid tribute to the people of Armenia for their loyalty to Christianity despite years of severe trials. About 5,000 people attended the ceremony, at which the Holy Father was joined by Archbishop Nerses Nersessian of the Armenian Catholic Church. Also on hand was Catholicos Karekin II.

"The Bishop of Rome has come to honor your fidelity and your courage," the Pope told the congregation. He expressed his regrets that he had not been able to schedule a visit to the northern area of the country, where the Catholic population is centered, and where many people are still living with the hardships caused by devastating earthquakes in 1988.

The Pope did point out that members of the Armenian Apostolic Church see the Catholic minority in this country as "their brothers and sisters." And the ceremony concluded when the Pope and the Catholicos together bestowed their blessing on the crowd.

After the Mass, the Pope had lunch with the Catholic bishops of the region, then visited the famous Khor Virab monastery, on Mount Ararat, near the border of Turkey. That ancient monastery is the site where St. Gregory the Illuminator was imprisoned, before he succeeded in converting Armenia to Christianity in 301.

Following his visit to the monastery, the Pope left for a short departure ceremony at the Erevan airport and his flight home to Rome.

CWN briefs
27. september 2001

av Webmaster publisert 01.10.2001, sist endret 01.10.2001 - 15:52