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Pope’s Address to Armenian Catholic Synod on 100th Anniversary of Massacre

“My people are not only those suffering for Christ, but especially risen ones in Him”

Here is a translation of the address the Pope gave today when he received in audience the Patriarchal Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church. The group is in Rome leading up to the events to take place on this Sunday’s Divine Mercy Sunday when the Pope will celebrate a service in the Armenian Catholic rite to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the mass killing of Armenians by Turks.

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Beatitude, Excellencies!

I greet you fraternally and thank you for this meeting, which is placed in the imminence of next Sunday’s celebration in the Vatican Basilica. We will elevate the Christian prayer of suffrage for the sons and daughters of your beloved people, who were victims some one hundred years ago. 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.

In you and through you I greet the priests, the men and women Religious, the seminarians and the lay faithful of the Armenian Catholic Church: I know that many have accompanied you these days here in Rome, and that even more will be spiritually united to us, from countries of the Diaspora, such as the United States, Latin America, Europe, Russia, Ukraine, up to the Motherland. I think with sadness in particular of those areas such as that of Aleppo — the Bishop told me “the martyr city” — that one hundred years ago were a sure landing place for the few survivors.  In this last period, such regions have seen the ongoing reality of Christians put in danger, not only the Armenians.

Your people, which tradition recognizes as the first to be converted to Christianity in 301, has a 2,000-year history and preserves 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. I invite you to cultivate always a sentiment of gratitude to the Lord, for having been able to maintain fidelity to Him even in the most difficult times. Moreover, it is important to ask God for the gift of wisdom of heart: the commemoration of the victims of one hundred years ago puts us in fact before the darkness of the mysterium iniquitatis. It is not understood without this attitude.

As the Gospel says, from the depth of man’s heart the darkest forces can be unleashed, capable of going so far as to plan systematically the annihilation of a brother, to consider him an enemy, an adversary, or even an individual deprived of human dignity itself. However, for believers the question of evil carried out by man introduces also to the mystery of participation in the redemptive Passion: not a few sons and daughters of the Armenian nation were capable of pronouncing the name of Christ only with the effusion of blood or death by starvation in the interminable exodus to which they were constrained.

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. Therefore, it is important to remember the past, but to draw from it new lymph to nourish the present with the joyful proclamation of the Gospel and with the testimony of charity. I encourage you to keep to the path of permanent formation of priests and of consecrated persons. They are your first collaborators: the communion between them and you will be reinforced by the exemplary fraternity that they will be able to perceive in the heart of the Synod and with the Patriarch.

Our grateful thought goes at this moment to all those who did their utmost to bring some relief to the drama of your ancestors. I am thinking especially of Pope Benedict XV who intervened with Sultan Mehmet V to put an end to the massacre of Armenians. 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. 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.

I entrust to his intercession especially the ecumenical dialogue between the Armenian Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church, mindful of the fact that one hundred years ago as today, martyrdom and persecution have already realized “the ecumenism of blood.”

I now invoke upon you and your faithful the blessing of the Lord, while I ask you not to forget to pray for me! Thank you!

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

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