On September 30–1998 Armenia’s Ambassador to the Vatican–Armen Sarkissian was the inaugural speaker of the conference "Being an Ambassador to the Holy See today." The conference is an annual event–bringing together politicians–ambassadors of various countries and focusing on a wide spectrum of themes; both cultural and political.
The talk was Sarkissian’s first public address after a year and a half absence from the political arena. Sarkissian resigned as Prime Minister of Armenia in early 1997 due to a severs illness and has since been recuperating.
The conference was chaired by the Chairman of the Council for Christian Unity–Cardinal Edward Cassidy–and attended by Prof. Alfredo Lucianni–Chairman of Carita Politica–politicians–ambassadors accredited to the Holy See of the Vatican–officials of the Pontificate and prominent members of the local Armenian community. The conference was recorded live and is to be transmitted by Italian TV on its RAI Channel on Sunday. The conference was covered by an army of journalists–including reporters from the Vatican’s official "L’Osservatore Romano" newspaper.
Opening his address–Sarkissian congratulated the Supreme Pontiff on the 20th anniversary of his enthronement and thanked Pope John Paul II for presenting him with the Order of the Great Cross of St. Gregory–in honor of his distinguished services.
During his speech Sarkissian presented a short history of the Armenian people and the national Church–stressing the importance of the self-determination of nations in a modern world–and emphasizing that perhaps Armenia was the first in the world to exercise this right by becoming the world’s first nation to declare Christianity as its state religion–despite being threatened by hostile empires.
Sarkissian paid tribute to the international role of the Vatican–not just as a religious state–but also as an ardent defender of human rights and an outspoken advocate for the protection of minorities. Referring to the genocide committed against the civil Armenian population living in Ottoman Turkey at the turn of the century–and the present status of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict–Ambassador Sarkissian called upon the Vatican to lend its support to the ethnic Armenia’s in Nagorno Karabakh and support Armenia’s initiatives to redress the genocide issue in all international arenas–with the aim of attaining justice in recognition of the atrocities.
Concluding his speech to his distinguished audience–Sarkissian announced that from March through July 1999–an exhibition celebrating Armenia’s 1700 years of Christianity will take place in the halls of the illustrious Sistine Hall. The exhibition is being organized under the auspices of the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia to the Vatican–the Holy See of Etchmiadzin and with the full cooperation of the Holy See in the Vatican.,
During his week-long visit to the Vatican–Sarkissian also met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano–Secretary of State (prime minister) of the Vatican–Cardinal Giovanni Batista Re–Under Secretary of State (home affairs)–Mons. Celestino Miliore–Under Secretary of State (foreign affairs) and discussed with various matters of mutual concern for both countries–especially the possibility of a papal visit of Pope John Paul II to Armenia.
Sarkissian also attended a special High Mass offered by Cardinal Angelo Sodano for the repose of the souls of the last two Popes of blessed memory–Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I.
At the invitation of the Armenian Catholic Patriarch–John Peter XVIII–Sarkissian was the Guest of Honor at the Armenian Levonian Seminary on September 30 1998.