Pope Invites Armenians to Put Massacre in Context of Jesus' Passion

Encourages Them to Use Genocide Anniversary to Draw Strength for Joyful Proclamation of Gospel

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Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass in the Armenian Catholic rite this Sunday, marking the 100th anniversary of the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in what is considered by many the first genocide of the 20th century.

The Pope today addressed a delegation of 20 bishops of the Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church, in Rome for this Sunday’s service, which will be celebrated in the context of Divine Mercy Sunday.

During the Mass, St. Gregory of Narek will be proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.

In 1915 and the following years, vast numbers of Armenians were killed within the Ottoman Empire as it broke apart. April 24, the day the massacre began, is marked as Genocide Day in Armenia. The massacre began that day when hundreds of intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, journalists, priests and other representatives of the Armenian culture and politics were arrested and eventually killed.

The massacre is a politically touchy theme because Turkey protests the use of the term genocide to refer to the events.

The Pope alluded to that debate, saying in his address today, “We will invoke the Divine Marcy so that it will help us all, in love for truth and for justice, to heal every wound and to hasten concrete gestures of reconciliation and peace between Nations that still do not succeed in reaching a reasonable consensus on the reading of such sad events.”

Pope Francis also spoke of the persecution of the Armenians in light of ongoing persecution of Christians today, referring to the conflict in Syria by saying: “I think with sadness in particular of those areas such as that of Aleppo — the Bishop told me [it is] ‘the martyr city’ — that 100 years ago were a sure landing place for the few survivors.”

Admirable patrimony

The Holy Father spoke of the Armenian people traditionally held to be the first to convert to Christianity as having a “2,000-year history” with an “admirable patrimony of spirituality and culture, united to a capacity to rise again after the many persecutions and trials to which it has been subjected.”

He invited them to be grateful “for having been able to maintain fidelity to Him even in the most difficult times.”

And he encouraged prayer for “the gift of wisdom of heart.”

“The commemoration of the victims of 100 years ago puts us in fact before the darkness of the mysterium iniquitatis,” he said. “It is not understood without this attitude.”

“[F]or believers,” he continued, “the question of evil carried out by man introduces also to the mystery of participation in the redemptive Passion. […] The long-suffering pages of the history of your people continue, in a certain sense, the Passion of Jesus, but in each one of them the bud is placed of his Resurrection. May you Pastors not fail in the commitment to educate the lay faithful to know how to read the reality with new eyes, to be able to say every day: my people are not only those suffering for Christ, but especially risen ones in Him.”

Remembering the past is important, the Pontiff affirmed, but “to draw from it new lymph to nourish the present with the joyful proclamation of the Gospel and with the testimony of charity.”

United in blood

The Pope also spoke of the Pontiff who tried to stop the genocide, Benedict XV, who intervened with Sultan Mehmet V in an attempt to put an end to the massacre.

“This Pontiff was a great friend of the Christian East: he instituted the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Oriental Institute, and in 1920 he inscribed Saint Ephrem the Syrian among the Doctors of the universal Church,” Francis noted. “I am happy that our meeting occurs on the eve of the analogous gesture that on Sunday I will have the joy to carry out with the great figure of Saint Gregory of Narek.”

He concluded with a word on Christian unity: “I entrust to his intercession especially the ecumenical dialogue between the Armenian Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church, mindful of the fact that 100 years ago as today, martyrdom and persecution have already realized ‘the ecumenism of blood.’”

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-address-to-armenian-catholic-synod-on-100th-anniversary-of-massacre

Also, a ZENIT interview considering how the Armenian genocide affected Pius XII’s actions during the Holocaust: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/what-pius-xii-learned-from-the-armenian-genocide

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Kathleen Naab

United States

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