Pope seeks Christian unity, welcomes head of Armenian Apostolic Church

.- Continuing his efforts to build Christian unity, Pope Benedict XVI will be welcoming His Holiness Karekin II, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, for a three day visit, May 6-9.

Karekin II’s trip is one that will include several liturgical celebrations and opportunities for dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church. Throughout his visit, he will be accompanied by an entourage of 18 bishops as well as 75 faithful from Armenia and other countries in the region.

The schedule for the visit is packed with events.

On Wednesday, after having prayed at the tomb of St. Peter and visited the statue of St. Gregory the Illuminator, the saint who converted Armenia to Christianity, Karekin II will be welcomed by Pope Benedict at the beginning of the general audience in St. Peter's Square.

In the afternoon, the Catholicos will receive a doctorate "honoris causa" in "the theology of youth pastoral care" from the Pontifical Salesian University. Patriarch Karekin is known for his use of technology, especially television broadcasts, as a tool of evangelization and outreach, according to the Armenian Church of America’s web site.

On Thursday, the Patriarch will visit the Pontifical Armenian College and, during the afternoon, participate in an academic congress being held at the Pontifical Oriental Institute on "holy sacrifice in the Armenian tradition".

His Holiness Karekin II and those accompanying him will visit the offices of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity on Friday morning.

Benedict XVI will then meet privately with Karekin II in the Vatican Apostolic Palace. After the private meeting between the two leaders, the 18 Armenian Apostolic bishops will be received in audience by the Pope.

Later in the day on Friday, the two church leaders will jointly preside over a celebration of the Word with the Armenian Apostolic delegation.

The Catholicos and his entourage will conclude their visit by praying Vespers at the papal basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls.

Karekin II has had good relations with the Roman Catholic Church since his election in October 1999. A statement issued announcing the visit describes past joint declarations signed between the Pope and the Catholicos as significant, since they deal with “questions of great ecumenical importance in the historical, theological and pastoral fields.”


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