The Holy Father and His Holiness Karekin II, the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, met privately at the Vatican this morning and then went on to pray the Midday Liturgy of the Hours with the Armenians delegation. The Holy Spirit, the Pope encouraged in his remarks to the group, can work miracles to bring about unity between Christians if we are open to Him.
The group of 75 Armenian faithful and 18 bishops gathered in the Clementine Hall with their patriarch to celebrate Midday Prayer, while the Holy Father led the prayers.
After the Patriarch's greeting, the Pope spoke to those assembled about the importance of striving for Christian unity.
Recalling that Sunday is the Solemnity of Pentecost, Benedict XVI said that, on this day, "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."
Pope Benedict also drew upon the history of the Armenian people, saying, "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 re- birth."
This past Wednesday Patriarch Karekin II also picked up on the Armenian Church’s history at the general audience. Karekin II addressed the crowd of 20,000 in English and raised the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 as an act of ‘genocide’. The Patriarch said that, “the denial of these crimes is an injustice that equals the commission of the same."
Benedict, however, pointed beyond the atrocity to "the restoration of freedom to the Church in Armenia” as “a source of great joy for us all.” He also praised the fact that ‘remarkable pastoral results that have been achieved in such a short time."
"Thanks to your pastoral leadership," the Pope assured, "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," he added, "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".
Despite these obstacles, the Holy Father applauded the progress made over the last five years of ecumenical dialogue with the Armenian Church, saying, “important progress has been made in clarifying the doctrinal controversies that have traditionally divided us.”
Pope Benedict finished his address on a note of hope, praying that ecumenical dialogue “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."