.- After a day which began with the solemn celebration of the Feast of St. Andrew with the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch and continued with the signing of a joint Catholic-Orthodox statement, a visitation to the Museum of Hagia Sofia, as well as to Istanbul’s Blue Mosque, Pope Benedict XVI traveled to the city’s Armenian apostolic patriarchate, where he participated in a prayer service with His Beatitude Mesrob II, patriarch of Turkey’s Armenian Apostolic Christians.
After a brief greeting the two prelates entered the Armenian Cathedral of the Mother of God. Following the celebration of the Word, both Patriarch Mesrob and Pope Benedict offered brief remarks.
The Holy Father first offered his greeting through Mesrob to Catholicos Karekin II, the spiritual leader of the world’s approximately seven million Armenian Apostolic Christians.
“I give thanks to God for the Christian faith and witness of the Armenian people, transmitted from one generation to the next, often in very tragic circumstances such as those experienced in the last century,” when Armenia was subject to Soviet rule, the Pope said.
"Our meeting," he added, "is more than a simple gesture of ecumenical courtesy and friendship. It is a sign of our shared hope in God's promises and our desire to see fulfilled the prayer that Jesus offered for His disciples on the eve of His suffering and death: 'that they may all be one.'”
“The tragic divisions which, over time, have arisen among Christ's followers openly contradict the Lord's will, give scandal to the world and damage that most holy cause, the preaching of the Gospel to every creature. Precisely by the witness of their faith and love, Christians are called to offer a radiant sign of hope and consolation to this world, so marked by conflicts and tensions,” Pope Benedict affirmed.
"We must continue therefore to do everything possible to heal the wounds of separation and to hasten the work of rebuilding Christian unity," said the Holy Father. "In this respect I can only offer heartfelt thanks to the Lord for the deeper fraternal relationship that has developed between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church."
In closing, the Pope quoted the words of one of the great Doctors of the Armenian Church, Nerses of Lambron, who lived in the thirteenth century, "'Now, since we all need peace with God, let its foundation be harmony among the brethren.' ... These words of Nerses have lost nothing of their power. Together let us continue to pray for the unity of all Christians."
The Armenian Apostolic Church broke with the Catholic Church in 554 over a dispute regarding the relation of Christ’s human and divine natures. The Armenian Apostolic liturgy is much like the Latin Rite, though with certain aspects more closely associated with Eastern Rites.
Following the ceremony, a stone tablet in the form of an Armenian cross was unveiled, bearing inscriptions in Latin and Armenian recalling the visits to the cathedral by Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.