Pope Francis gave two addresses today, his first day of a three-day trip to Armenia. The first was at the cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church. And the second was to Armenian government officials.
The Pope went off-the-cuff in the second address to refer to the massacre of Armenians 100 years ago as a “genocide.” Though he has referred to the massacre with this politically-charged word before, international attention was still on his word choice because of the repercussions with Turkey, which still denies that the massacre was a genocide.
Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion, in 310, so even before Constantine opened the Roman Empire to Christianity with the Edict of Milan. The Pope praised the Armenians long history with Christianity, as a springboard for noting how Christians today are suffering attack.
For Armenia, faith in Christ has not been like a garment to be donned or doffed as circumstances or convenience dictate, but an essential part of its identity, a gift of immense significance, to be accepted with joy, preserved with great effort and strength, even at the cost of life itself.
Today Christians in particular, perhaps even more than at the time of the first martyrs, in some places experience discrimination and persecution for the mere fact of professing their faith.
In this regard, it is vitally important that all those who declare their faith in God join forces to isolate those who use religion to promote war, oppression and violent persecution, exploiting and manipulating the holy name of God.
The Pope also underlined the quest for Christian unity. The Armenian Apostolic Church separated from the Catholic Church in the fifth century, when the Council of Chalcedon defined the two natures in Christ. Over 90% of the population of the country are members of the Armenian Church, with less than 10% being Catholic.
The Pope noted some of the highlights in recent efforts to unity, led by his immediate predecessors and the predecessors of the current Catholicos Karekin II.
Tragically, our world is marked by divisions and conflicts, as well as by grave forms of material and spiritual poverty, including the exploitation of persons, not least children and the elderly. It expects from Christians a witness of mutual esteem and fraternal cooperation capable of revealing to every conscience the power and truth of Christ’s resurrection.
On ZENIT’s Web site:
Full text of Pope’s Address at Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Holy Etchmiadzin: https://zenit.org/articles/popes-address-at-armenian-apostolic-cathedral-of-the-holy-etchmiadzin/
Full text of Pope’s Address to Armenian Authorities, Diplomatic Corps: https://zenit.org/articles/popes-address-to-armenian-authorities-diplomatic-corps/