Pope Francis and the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church voiced their resolve to progress in peace and unity in a celebration this evening in Yerevan.
“With great joy, we are walking together on a journey that has already taken us far, and we look confidently towards the day when by God’s help we shall be united around the altar of Christ’s sacrifice in the fullness of Eucharistic communion,” the Pope said in his address, which he gave after an address by Karekin II.
The Holy Father spoke of the martyrs who have “sealed our common faith in Christ by their blood.” He called them “our stars in heaven, shining upon us here below and pointing out the path towards full communion.”
The Pope called on the example of the “saintly Catholicos,” Nerses Shnorhali. This 12th-century leader of the Armenian Church worked for reconciliation with the Eastern Orthodox.
The Armenian Apostolic Church has been separated from the Catholic Church since the 5th-century Council of Chalcedon.
“To realize this necessary unity, Saint Nerses tells us that in the Church more is required than the good will of a few: everyone’s prayer is needed,” the Pope stressed. “It is beautiful that we have gathered here to pray for one another and with one another. It is above all the gift of prayer that I come this evening to ask of you.”
Christians united in suffering
The Pontiff noted those persecuted for their faith still today, particularly in the Middle East. And he spoke of the sufferings of the Armenian people, particularly the “Great Evil,” the massacre of a 100 years ago.
Quoting John Paul II, the Pope affirmed that “your sufferings are our own: ‘they are the sufferings of the members of Christ’s Mystical Body.’”
“Not to forget them is not only right, it is a duty,” Francis added. “May they be a perennial warning lest the world fall back into the maelstrom of similar horrors!”
The Pope further reflected that the Christian faith of the Armenians “was the driving force that marked the beginning of your suffering people’s rebirth.”
“Wounds still open, caused by fierce and senseless hatred, can in some way be configured to the wounds of the risen Christ, those wounds that were inflicted upon him and that he bears even now impressed on his flesh,” he said. “Those terrible, painful wounds suffered on the cross, transfigured by love, have become a wellspring of forgiveness and peace. Even the greatest pain, transformed by the saving power of the cross, of which Armenians are heralds and witnesses, can become a seed of peace for the future.”
“Memory, infused with love, becomes capable of setting out on new and unexpected paths, where designs of hatred become projects of reconciliation, where hope arises for a better future for everyone, where ‘blessed are the peacemakers,’” he said.
A future of peace
The Pope invited them to work for a future that would “resist being caught up in the illusory power of vengeance,” with conditions for peace, including employment, the end of corruption and care for the needy.
“Dear young people, this future belongs to you. Cherish the great wisdom of your elders and strive to be peacemakers: not content with the status quo, but actively engaged in building the culture of encounter and reconciliation,” he said.
Pope Francis also mentioned the Armenian saint he has made a doctor of the Church, Saint Gregory of Narek.
He quoted the saint’s prayer: “Remember [Lord,] those of the human race who are our enemies as well, and for their benefit accord them pardon and mercy… Do not destroy those who persecute me, but reform them; root out the vile ways of this world, and plant the good in me and them.”
The Pope said the saint’s “universal solidarity with humanity, is a great Christian message of peace, a heartfelt plea of mercy for all.”
The event ended with a ceremony full of symbolism, as representatives of the descendants of refugees in various lands, poured dirt over a tree planted into a replica of Noah’s Ark. Then the Pope and the Catholicos simultaneously watered the tree, which is meant to be a gift to St. Peter’s from the Armenian lands.
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full text: https://zenit.org/articles/popes-address-at-ecumenical-encounter/