YEREVAN—As a centerpiece of his Papal Visit to Armenia, Pope Francis held an Ecumenical service for peace in Yerevan’s Republic Square, during which he urged Armenia’s youth to be active peacemakers in a world “suffering from persecutions and conflict.”
Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II led the procession to the Republic Square as all bells at Yerevan churches tolled simultaneously to mark this historic occasion.
In the presence of thousands of Yerevan residents who had flocked to Republic Square, the pope spoke of the Armenian Genocide as an “immense and senseless slaughter,” and that it is not only the right, but also the duty of all to keep the memory of the Genocide alive. He also touched on the wars and conflicts raging in the Middle East today, which he said are fueled by the proliferation of weapons and by the arms trade.
Directing his remarks to the youth, the pope urged them to become peacemakers “actively engaged in building a culture” that brings people together and advances reconciliation.
Citing the 12th century Armenian Catholicos Nerses IV, who is considered a champion of efforts toward church unity, Pope Francis said Christians must find a way to heal memories and past wounds, urging the Armenian people to work towards a peaceful society,” based on dignified employment for all, care for those most in need, and the elimination of corruption.”
Later, citing his message to the Armenian people on April 12, 2015, during the Holy Mass held at the Vatican for the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, the Pope asked for God’s blessing for the Armenian people and to “grant that the people of Armenia and Turkey take up again the path of reconciliation, and may peace also spring forth in Nagorno-Karabagh.” He then concluded his address with the Armenian blessing Kha’gha’ghutiun amenetzun! (Peace to you!).
In his address during the service, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians spoke about the conflicts that are plaguing the Caucasus and surrounding regions, including the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He specifically made mention of the large-scale offensive launched by Azerbaijan against the people of Artsakh in early April. “Armenian villages were bombarded,” the Catholicos said,” which killed both soldiers and civilians. The Catholicos also spoke about the Armenian people’s rejection of wars and terrorism.”
At the end of the service, Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II watered seedlings of a vine planted by young Armenians in a model of Noah’s Ark designed by sculptor Michael Aram that was presented to the pope as a gift.