Armenia Visit to Follow Kazakhstan Trip

Pope´s Schedule Will Avoid Russian Patriarch´s Appearance

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 23, 2001 ( John Paul II will travel to Armenia from Sept. 25-27, to celebrate the country´s 1,700th anniversary of Christianity, the Vatican announced.

With this anniversary in mind, the Holy Father in a message last February referred to the «history of suffering» of the Armenian people, which has had as a constant feature «the component of martyrdom.» It is a history, he stated, characterized by «fidelity and courage,» especially during the «many years of the totalitarian regime.»

At the time, the Pope was encouraging the Armenian-Catholic Church to «offer its decisive contribution» in order to «continue with vigor on the path of the ecumenical dialogue.» On that occasion, John Paul II presided over the Divine Liturgy, celebrated by Patriarch Nerses Betros XIX of Cilicia of Catholic Armenians, at the Vatican.

Before visiting Armenia the Pope will go to central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, from Sept. 22-25.

The Holy Father will then travel to Yerevan, the Armenian capital, where he will arrive immediately after the consecration of the new Cathedral of St. Gregory, scheduled for Sept. 23.

During the Jubilee Year, in a solemn ceremony at St. Peter´s Basilica, the Pope offered Patriarch Karekin II the relics of St. Gregory the Illuminator, which will be exposed for veneration by the faithful in the crypt of the new cathedral. The relics had been kept in a Naples monastery.

John Paul II was unable to visit Armenia in 1999, as he had planned, because Patriarch Karekin fell gravely ill.

Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow might attend the great ceremony for the consecration of the cathedral. That is why John Paul II on a later day: For now, the Russian patriarch refuses to meet with the Bishop of Rome.

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