Rome Newsroom, Dec 14, 2020 / 13:00 pm
A papal envoy traveled to Armenia last week to speak with civil and Christian leaders in the aftermath of the country’s 44-day war with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Archbishop José Bettencourt, the papal nuncio to Georgia and Armenia, who is based in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, visited Armenia Dec. 5-9.
Upon his return, the nuncio expressed concern that much remains unresolved a month after the Russian-brokered ceasefire negotiations and appealed for the preservation of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Christian cultural heritage.
“The ‘ceasefire’ signed on Nov. 10 is only the beginning for a peace agreement, which turns out to be difficult and precarious for all that remains unresolved on the ground of negotiations. The international community is certainly called to play a leading role,” Bettencourt said in an interview with ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian-language news partner.
The nuncio pointed to the role of the “Minsk Group” of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) -- a group that is led by representatives from the United States, France and Russia -- as critical to mediating “compromises to lower the tension” through diplomatic means.
During his trip to Armenia, the papal diplomat met with Armenian President Armen Sargsyan for nearly an hour. He also took time to meet refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh, to “convey hope” and the pope’s solidarity.
“After Holy Mass was offered in the Armenian Catholic Cathedral of Gyumri, I had the opportunity to meet some families who had fled from the war regions. I saw on their faces the pain of fathers and mothers who struggle every day to give a future of hope to their children. There were seniors and babies, several generations united by a tragedy,” Bettencourt said.
An estimated 90,000 people fled their homes in the Nagorno-Karabakh region amid the missile and drone strikes during the six-week conflict, according to Armenia’s foreign minister. Since the ceasefire agreed on on Nov. 10, some have returned to their homes, but many more have not.
The papal nuncio visited the Missionaries of Charity who care for some of these refugees in Spitak and visited a Catholic hospital in Ashotsk, northern Armenia.