Pope to Catholicos Karekin II: 'We have embraced as brothers'

Pope Francis greets Catholicos Karekin II during divine liturgy June 26 2016 Credit Edward PentinCNA Pope Francis greets Catholicos Karekin II during divine liturgy, June 26, 2016. | Edward Pentin/CNA

Pope Francis reiterated his desire for full communion with the Armenian Apostolic Church during its divine liturgy on Sunday, the final major event of his three-day visit to the Caucasus nation.

Delivering his address after the homily of Catholicos Karekin II, who presided over the liturgy, the Pope also asked the supreme leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church to bless him, the Catholic Church, and "this our path towards full unity."

"We have met, we have embraced as brothers, we have prayed together and shared the gifts, hopes and concerns of the Church of Christ," the pontiff said. "We have felt as one her beating heart, and we believe and experience that the Church is one."

"May the Armenian Church walk in peace and may the communion between us be complete."  

Pope Francis attended the June 26 divine liturgy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, after privately celebrating Mass in the morning. The liturgy was held out of doors in the Saint Tiridates square of the Etchmiadzin Apostolic Palace.

The meeting between the Pope and Karekin, Francis said, was under the auspices of the apostles – Bartholomew and Thaddeus, "who first proclaimed the Gospel" in Armenia, and "Saints Peter and Paul who gave their lives for the Lord in Rome and now reign with Christ in heaven, surely rejoice to see our affection and our tangible longing for full communion."

"For all this, I thank the Lord, for you and with you: Park astutsò! (Glory to God!)."

The Pope referenced the prayers of the day's liturgy, such as the solemn Trisagion chant, and the invocation of the Holy Spirit.

"May abundant blessings of the Most High fill the earth through the intercession of the Mother of God, the great saints and doctors, the martyrs, especially the many whom you canonized last year in this place," he said.

Citing the words of St. Gregory of Narek, he went on to pray to the Holy Spirit for unity, especially "among Christ's disciples."

Francis added that this unity should not be one of submission or assimilation, "but rather the acceptance of all the gifts that God has given to each."

"Let us respond to the appeal of the saints, let us listen to the voices of the humble and poor, of the many victims of hatred who suffered and gave their lives for the faith," Pope Francis said. "Let us pay heed to the younger generation, who seek a future free of past divisions."

Just as the Apostles rushed toward the place of Jesus' resurrection on Easter, despite their "hesitations and uncertainties," the Pope said, "so too on this holy Sunday may we follow God's call to full communion and hasten towards it."

Pope Francis concluded by asking Karekin to bless him, to bless the Catholic Church, and "to bless this our path towards full unity."

Earlier, in his homily for the divine liturgy, Catholicos Karekin II expressed his gratitude for Pope Francis' "brotherly visit" to Armenia.

The three-day visit with "our spiritual brother, Pope Francis," he said, "reconfirmed that the Holy Church of Christ is one in the spreading of the gospel of Christ in the world."

This includes caring for creation, "standing against common problems, and in the vital mission of the salvation of man who is the crown and glory of God's creation."

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Karekin II also spoke on the challenges faced today against the faith, such as secularism, the distortion of spiritual and ethical values, and the shaking of the family structure.

Temptations against faith in God occur both amid hardships and amid "times of wealth and lavishness, when they are disengaged with the concerns of those who long for daily bread and are in pain and suffering," he said.

"Faith is put to the test by extremism and other kinds of ideologies; xenophobia, addictions, passions and self-centred profits."

"The root of evil in modern life is in trying to build a world without God, to construe the laws and commandments of God which bring forward economic, political, social, environmental and other problems, that day by day deepen and threaten the natural way of life."

Catholicos Karekin concluded his homily reiterating his appreciation for Pope Francis' visit.

"We and our people will always pray for you, beloved brother, and for your efforts made towards peace and prosperity of humanity and towards the advancement of the Church of Christ," he said.

"May God give you strength, bless and keep firm our Churches in love and collaboration and may He grant us new opportunities for witness of brotherhood."

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Pope Francis' June 24-26 to Armenia was organized following the invitation of Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II, the nation's civil authorities, and the Catholic Church.

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