Unity, honor and hope on pope’s agenda for Armenia

Pope Francis arrives to greet pilgrims in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican last year. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis arrives to greet pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican last year. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis said he would travel to Armenia June 24-26 to promote closer bonds with the Armenian Orthodox church, honor the Armenian people’s steadfast faith in the face of tragedy and support them in their efforts to build a peaceful future.

In a video message transmitted June 22 on Armenian television, the pope said he admires the Armenian people but also shares their pain over the difficult moments of the country’s history and its people.

In more than 1,700 years as an officially Christian nation, he said, “you have found in the cross of Christ and in your genius the strength always to rise again even from the sufferings that were among the most terrible that history recalls.” The remarks were an obvious reference to what is widely known as the Armenian Genocide when 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks in 1915-18.

However, he said, “we must not allow painful memories to take possession of our hearts. Even in the face of repeated assaults of evil, we cannot give up.”

Connecting with Armenia’s traditional attachment to the story of Noah’s Ark, which according to legend came to rest on Mount Ararat, which is now in neighboring Turkey, Pope Francis told the people that they should be like Noah, “who after the flood never tired of looking toward the heavens and kept releasing doves.”

When a dove finally returned carrying an olive branch, he said, Noah knew “that life could begin again and hope could be revived.”

The pope said he would visit Armenia “as a pilgrim in this jubilee year to draw from the ancient wisdom of your people and drink from the springs of your faith.”

As a guest of the patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II, Pope Francis said he hoped to “strengthen our communion” and “advance on the path of reconciliation.”

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