VATICAN CITY, MAY 9, 2008 (Zenit.org).- On the feast of Pentecost this Sunday, the Church will be praying for unity, knowing that God can work miracles, Benedict XVI says.
The Pope affirmed this today when he received in audience Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. He then met with the bishops of the patriarch’s delegation.
At noon in the Clementine Hall, the Holy Father presided over the liturgical celebration of daytime prayer; Karekin II attended, along with the bishops and a group of faithful from the Armenian Apostolic Church. After the patriarch’s greeting, the Pope addressed the assembly.
Benedict XVI affirmed that this Sunday, the feast of Pentecost, “We will pray in a particular way for the unity of the Church. […] If our hearts and minds are open to the Spirit of communion, God can work miracles again in the Church, restoring the bonds of unity. Striving for Christian unity is an act of obedient trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church to the full realization of the Father’s plan, in conformity with the will of Christ.”
The Holy Father pointed out that “the recent history of the Armenian Apostolic Church has been written in the contrasting colors of persecution and martyrdom, darkness and hope, humiliation and spiritual rebirth.”
“The restoration of freedom to the Church in Armenia has been a source of great joy for us all,” he added. “An immense task of rebuilding the Church has been laid on your shoulders.” However, the Bishop of Rome noted the “remarkable pastoral results that have been achieved in such a short time.”
“Thanks to your pastoral leadership,” the Pope affirmed, “the glorious light of Christ shines again in Armenia and the saving words of the Gospel can be heard once more. Of course, you are still facing many challenges on social, cultural and spiritual levels. In this regard, I must mention the recent difficulties suffered by the people of Armenia, and I express the prayerful support of the Catholic Church in their search for justice and peace and the promotion of the common good.”
Benedict XVI’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, traveled to Armenia last March. His trip had to be postponed briefly due to post-election clashes between protesters and police in Armenia that resulted in eight deaths. The Armenian government declared a 20-day state of emergency, forbidding even small groups from gathering in the nation’s capital.
The Lord’s wishes
The Pope told Karekin II and his delegation that in ecumenical dialogue, “important progress has been made in clarifying the doctrinal controversies that have traditionally divided us, particularly over questions of Christology. During the last five years, much has been achieved by the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, of which the Catholicosate of All Armenians is a full member.”
The Holy Father concluded by saying that “we pray that its activity will bring us closer to full and visible communion, and that the day will come when our unity in faith makes possible a common celebration of the Eucharist. […] Only when sustained by prayer and supported by effective cooperation, can theological dialogue lead to the unity that the Lord wishes for his disciples.”
The Armenian Apostolic Church is one of six Oriental Orthodox Churches. These Churches separated from Rome after the Council of Chalcedon in 451, over controversy arising from the council’s adoption of the Christological terminology of two natures in one person. However, most now agree that the controversy arose over semantics, not doctrine.
Several of the Oriental Orthodox Churches have signed accords with the Catholic Church expressing that they share the same faith regarding Christ.
The Armenian Apostolic Church is one of those that has moved closer to unity, notably thanks to a 1996 declaration signed by Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Karekin I on the nature of Jesus.
More than 90% of Armenian Christians are under the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate.