Pope Benedict XVI called today for greater unity--both internally, and with the See of Rome--for the Armenian people as he met with His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians in Lebanon.

His Beatitude was accompanied by members of the patriarchal synod as well as a group of Armenian pilgrims.

The Holy Father began by speaking about the history of the Armenian people over the centuries, particularly addressing the suffering "they underwent in the name of the Christian faith during the years of terrible persecution, which remain enshrined in history with the sadly meaningful name of 'Metz Yeghern,' the great evil."

Nonetheless, he said, "the Armenians, who have always sought to integrate themselves with hard work and dignity in the societies in which they found themselves, continue even today to bear witness to their faithfulness to the Gospel."

Recalling the geographic diversity of the Armenian-Catholic community, which is spread over many countries, the Pope said that "Providence placed the patriarchate of the Armenian Catholics in the Middle East, in Cilicia and, later, in Lebanon. All the Armenian-Catholic faithful look to that patriarchate as a solid point of spiritual reference for their centuries-old cultural and liturgical tradition."

Noting that "various Churches…recognize St. Gregory the Illuminator as their common founding father”, he lamented that they are “divided from one another, although over the last few years they have resumed a cordial and fruitful dialogue with the aim of discovering their shared roots.”

The Holy Father encouraged this “renewed fraternity and collaboration hoping that it may give rise to new initiatives for a joint journey towards full unity, ... with its own hierarchy, in fraternal interior harmony and full communion with the Bishop of Rome."

He said that "One comforting sign of this hoped-for unity was the celebration of the 1700th anniversary of the foundation of the Armenian Church, with the participation of my beloved predecessor John Paul II."

The pontiff added that "We all wish to be instruments at the disposal of Christ. May He - Who is Way, Truth and Life - enable us to continue with all our strength, that, as soon as possible, there may be one flock with one pastor."