Christians Again Invited to Discuss Papal Ministry

John Paul II Raises Topic During Ecumenical Meeting with Karekin

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YEREVAN, Armenia, SEPT. 26, 2001 ( John Paul II today renewed his proposal that Christians of different confessions reflect on the exercise of the papal ministry, a role that divides the Catholic Church and Eastern Churches.

The Pontiff made this public proposal at an ecumenical celebration attended by Patriarch Karekin II, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which in recent years overcame its theological differences with Rome. The two Churches remain divided on the issue of papal authority.

The ecumenical ceremony took place in the new and recently consecrated Apostolic Cathedral of St. Gregory the Illuminator. The cathedral was built for the 1,700th anniversary of the proclamation of Christianity as Armenia´s official religion.

«My visit today testifies to our shared yearning to dwell in full unity, which the Lord wills for his disciples,» the Pope said during the homily, in the presence of Armenian President Robert Kotcharian, and following an address by Karekin II.

«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,» the Pope added.

«Our awareness of this must inspire us to work even harder to strengthen our ecumenical dialogue,» he said. «In this dialogue of faith and love, no question, no matter how difficult, should be overlooked.»

Thus, John Paul II posited the fundamental question that separates Rome and Etchmiadzin, symbol of Armenian Christianity: the recognition of papal primacy.

«Conscious of the relevance of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome in the search for Christian unity, I have asked — in my encyclical letter «Ut Unum Sint» — that the bishops and theologians of our Churches reflect on forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned,» the Holy Father continued.

«The example of the first centuries of the Church´s life can guide us in this discernment,» he added.

The Pope, who in the past has said that division is the greatest scandal in the history of Christianity, believes that this proposal is urgent to proclaim the Gospel to people today.

«Having experienced the spiritual emptiness of Communism and materialism, they are seeking the path to life and happiness: They are thirsting for the Gospel. We have a great responsibility toward them, and they expect from us a convincing witness of unity of faith and mutual love,» the Holy Father stressed.

«Never again, Christians against Christians; never again, Church against Church!» he insisted. «Rather, let us walk together, hand in hand, so that the world of the 21st century and the new millennium may believe!»

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