Pope Benedict and the Roman Catholic faithful were joined in the Paul VI audience hall today by Aram I, Catholicos of Cicilia of the Armenians and a group of Armenian clergy and laity. Before he delivered his general audience address, the Pope thanked Aram I for his efforts to further ecumenical dialogue and prayed for full unity between the two Churches.
"This fraternal visit," Pope Benedict said, speaking to the Armenian delegation in English, "is a significant occasion for strengthening the bonds of unity already existing between us, as we journey towards that full communion which is both the goal set before all Christ's followers and a gift to be implored daily from the Lord."
The group of about 50 faithful from the Armenian Apostolic Church is visiting Rome until November 27, and today they will visit the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul.
The Holy Father invoked "the grace of the Holy Spirit on your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and I invite all present to pray fervently to the Lord that your visit, and our meetings, will mark a further step along the path towards full unity."
The Pontiff was also sure to mention his gratitude to Aram I for his "constant personal involvement in the field of ecumenism, especially in the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and in the World Council of Churches."
As he finished speaking to the Armenians, Pope Benedict reminded them that St. Peter’s basilica has a statue of their founder, St. Gregory the Illuminator, on its façade.
"The presence of this statue evokes the sufferings he endured in bringing the Armenian people to Christianity, but it also recalls the many martyrs and confessors of the faith whose witness bore rich fruit in the history of your people. Armenian culture and spirituality are pervaded by pride in this witness of their forefathers, who suffered with fidelity and courage in communion with the Lamb slain for the salvation of the world," the Pope said.
"Together let us invoke the intercession of St. Gregory the Illuminator and above all of the Virgin Mother of God, so that they will enlighten our way and guide it towards the fullness of that unity which we all desire," he concluded.