VAGHARSHAPAT, Armenia, MARCH 6, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI extended an invitation to the patriarch of the Armenian Orthodox Church to visit the See of Peter in a letter delivered by his secretary of state.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone visited Karekin II, supreme patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, on Tuesday at the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin.
Cardinal Bertone arrived Tuesday to Armenia, days after his original arrival date was postponed due to unrest in the country.
The cardinal had planned to leave for Armenia on Sunday, and stay through Thursday, when he would head to neighboring Azerbaijan until March 9. But post-election clashes between protesters and police in Armenia on Saturday resulted in eight deaths.
The Armenian government declared a 20-day state of emergency, forbidding even small groups to gather in the nation’s capital.
At the meeting today, a Vatican communiqué reported that the cardinal “conveyed the warmest greetings of unity in Jesus Christ and the fraternal love,” from Benedict XVI to Karekin II.
The secretary of state also delivered a handwritten letter from the Pope, which included an invitation for Karekin II to visit the See of Peter.
The Vatican note continued: “His Holiness and His Eminence offered their gratitude to God for this cordial meeting — a sign of the continuing development of ties between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church — to know one another better, to appreciate each other’s incomparable spiritual heritage, and to love one another, confirming their equal calling to serve mankind as is required by our one Lord Jesus Christ.
“They agreed to continue taking steps on these blessed paths.”
Addressing the unrest afflicting the country, the statement said both Karekin II and Cardinal Bertone “appealed to God during these difficult days for Armenia, so that peace and reconciliation be established within the country. They prayed together for the souls of the victims and asked the Lord to keep and protect the Armenian people and reinforce them with faith, hope and love.”
“The Cardinal expressed the complete support of the Catholic Church to the Armenian Church,” continued the communiqué, “for her efforts utilizing her high moral standing, aimed at providing solutions to all concerns through the promotion of dialogue and peaceful means and fostering a common sense of responsibility, so that the dignity of the Armenian people and state remain unharmed within international society.”
The two also prayed to God “to make statesmen and politicians realize that politics is also a spiritual calling, which demands honesty, mutual respect, love tolerance and defense of the rights of the poor and vulnerable.”
In Azerbaijan on Thursday, Cardinal Bertone is scheduled to meet with the head of the Muslim leaders and other religious officials. He will express to them the Church’s desire to cooperate in the common commitment to peace, concord among peoples and the good of the human family.
The cardinal will be present at the inauguration of a new Catholic church In Azerbaijan’s capital built on land donated to Pope John Paul II by President Heydar Aliyev, father of the nation’s current head of state.