John Paul II Asks Forgiveness for Faults Against Christian Unity

On Last Day of Visit to Armenia

YEREVAN, Armenia, SEPT. 27, 2001 ( On the last day of his visit to Armenia, John Paul II asked for forgiveness for the faults committed by believers in Jesus Christ against Christian unity.

The Pope expressed his mea culpa as he celebrated Mass for Armenian Catholics and Apostolic Christians at the "great altar" in the garden of Etchmiadzin, residence of the Apostolic Church. That Church has been separated from Rome for 1,500 years.

During the Mass in the "Vatican of the Caucasus," as Etchmiadzin is known, the Holy Father referred to the new closeness between the faithful of the two Churches.

"Is this not a wonderful sign of our common faith?" he asked. "Does it not express the yearning of so many of our brothers and sisters who wish to see us advance quickly on the path of unity?"

"My own heart is eager to hasten the day when we shall celebrate together the Divine Sacrifice, which makes us all one," the Pope said solemnly, addressing Patriarch Karekin II directly.

"At this altar, which is your altar, I beg the Lord to forgive us our past failings against unity and to lead us to the love that overcomes all barriers," the Holy Father added.

Also on hand were representatives of the Armenian Catholic Church, whose patriarchate is in Lebanon.

In 1996, Catholics and Apostolic Armenians overcame their most important theological differences, in a declaration signed by John Paul II and Catholicos Karekin I.

During the homily, John Paul II promised the Armenian Apostolic Church that, if full communion is attained, Rome will respect the ancient tradition of the world's first Christian people.

"In the Catholic Church, the hymn of praise rises to God from many peoples, in many tongues," he said. "However, this blending of different voices in a single melody in no way destroys your identity as Armenians."

For John Paul II the visit to Armenia was part of an "ecumenical plan" that could pave the way toward full unity with the Orthodox Churches.

Like the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Orthodox have overcome the theological questions that caused their break with Rome. What blocks full unity is the question of recognition of papal primacy.

"We must rival one another - not in creating division or in accusing each other - but in showing mutual charity," the Pope concluded in Armenian. "The only rivalry possible among the Lord's disciples is to see who can offer the greater love!"

The new era of relations between the Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic Churches was officially sanctioned in the cathedral of Etchmiadzin, shortly before the Pope's departure. With a simple farewell prayer, the Pontiff and Armenian Catholicos signed their commitment in a joint declaration to promote full unity between the two Churches.

27. september 2001

av Webmaster publisert 01.10.2001, sist endret 01.10.2001 - 16:21