Speaking with CNA after the celebration of Mass in the presence of the Shroud in the Cathedral of Turin on Monday, the Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church reflected on the value of the linen to the faith and expressed his hope for internal renewal from the upcoming Synod of Middle Eastern bishops.
After having taken part in meetings in Rome to prepare for October's Special Synod for the Middle East, Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX went on pilgrimage to Turin with 12 others. While at the Cathedral in Turin, the patriarch took a moment to speak with CNA.
Although he did not deliver a homily during the Mass, he told CNA afterward that the Shroud represents a "very eloquent testimony on the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ."
"If one has faith, just a little faith," said the head of Armenian Catholics, "he already believes it all, even though the Church still hasn't pronounced on it yet."
It is his hope, the patriarch said, "that the image of the Holy Shroud might always fortify and help us in the difficult moments of our lives to never lose the orientation that Jesus Christ has given us, which is to love our enemies, an impossible thing humanly but possible with the grace of the Holy Spirit."
Speaking about the preparations for the Synod of Middle Eastern Bishops, set to take place next October in Rome, the patriarch revealed that the third round of preparatory meetings was held from April 23-24 at the Holy See.
Explaining the scope of the synod in his own words, he said that it has "three windows": an “internal renewal" of the communion between the Catholic Churches, improving communion with non-Catholic Churches such as the Orthodox and Protestant Churches and providing "another opening" to the non-Christian world, particularly to the Islamic and Jewish faiths.
The Armenian Catholic patriarch said that he is eagerly anticipating the release of the synod's working document by Pope Benedict on June 5 in Cyprus. This document, he told CNA, was prepared last Friday and Saturday during meetings between patriarchs in the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.
Reflecting on the individual expectations that the Armenian Church has for the synod, he explained that it seeks that same objectives as the other Churches involved. "We hope for an internal renewal, this is the most important (aspect). If there is no internal renewal, they are only beautiful words that don't give objective fruit for our life, for our Church."
He also said he hopes that through the work of the Holy Spirit, other Christian Churches would be guided to full communion with the Holy See.
The Armenian Catholic Church, centered in Beirut, Lebanon, has a presence all over the world. In the U.S. it has eight parishes that serve approximately 25,000 faithful.