ETCHMIADZIN–His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II concluded his weeklong working visit to the Vatican, where he met with the Bishop of Rome and the Catholic Pope, the Press Service of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin reported.
Accompanying His Holiness throughout the duration of the visit were His Eminence Archbishop Nourhan Manoogian, Grand Sacristan of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem; His Grace Bishop Aram Ateshian, Grand Sacristan of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople; and approximately 20 additional archbishops and bishops of the Armenian Church–primates of Armenian Dioceses in North and South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
The Catholicos and his delegation arrived at Ciampino Airport in Rome on Tuesday, May 6. Also joining Karekin II were more than 75 devoted laymen of the Armenian Church from throughout the world who were invited by the Catholicos to participate in the historic visit to the Vatican and Italy. This was His Holiness’ third visit to the Vatican since his election as Catholicos of All Armenia’s in 1999.
The visit to Italy was composed of three parts: a four-day visit to the Vatican, a one-day visit to the Armenian community of Milan and a two-day visit to the Mekhitarian Congregation on the Island of San Lazzaro in Venice.
On Wednesday Karekin II and his delegation visited the newly named St. Gregory the Illuminator plaza inside St. Peter’s courtyard and viewed the statue of the patron saint of the Armenian Church, placed there during the pontificate of John Paul II.
Immediately afterwards, the Armenian delegation of clergy and laity participated in the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, jointly held by Pope Benedict XVI and Catholicos Karekin II. The two church heads exchanged messages of greeting, a fraternal embrace and kiss of peace on the platform in front of the mother cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church. Before a crowd of more than 35,000 faithful, the Catholicos called on world to condemn Genocide and its denial.
" We Armenia’s are a people who have survived genocide, and we know well the value of love, brotherhood, friendship, peace and a secure life," he said. "Today, many countries of the world recognize and condemn the Genocide committed against the Armenian people by Ottoman Turkey, as did the Holy See, by His Holiness Pope John Paul II of blessed memory during our fraternal visit to Rome in 2000."
"We as Pontiff of the Armenia’s, appeal to all nations and lands to universally condemn all genocides that have occurred throughout history and those that continue through the present day, so that those who yield power and authority realize their responsibilities and results of those crimes which have been and continue to be committed against the creation of God, and that the denial of these crimes is an injustice that equals the commission of the same," the Catholicos remarked.
That same afternoon, the Catholicos was presented with an Honoris Causa doctorate degree from the Pontifical Salesian University recognizing his fruitful work in Christian Education and Youth Instruction. Attending the ceremony representing the Pope were His Eminence Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, Vatican State Secretary and His Eminence Walter Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
On Thursday, May 8, Karekin II and his delegation visited the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, where a symposium dedicated to the study of the Armenian Divine Liturgy was taking place. The symposium was organized by Fr. Robert Taft and included presentations by Armenian and Catholic learned scholars from throughout Europe and North America. His Eminence Leonardo Cardinal Sandri, Prefect for the Vatican’s Council for Oriental Churches, also accompanied His Holiness to the symposium.
The final event at the Vatican was an Ecumenical Prayer Service, offered at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, where the grave of St. Paul the Apostle is located. His Holiness Karekin II presided during the service, which included the participation of Roman Catholic and Armenian Church bishops and clergy.
In addition to the official events throughout the course of the week, His Holiness and the church hierarchs also visited a number of Armenian and Catholic churches and shrines. His Holiness and the high-ranking clergymen departed Rome for Milan on Saturday morning.
Upon the invitation of the Pope Benedict XVI His Holiness Karekin II paid an official visit to Vatican from May 6-9, 2008 accompanied by 18 Archbishops, Bishops of the Armenian Church. The fraternal relations between the See of Rome and the See of Etchmiadzin have further developed and deepened in recent years. The Armenian Church and the Catholic Church share a long history of mutual respect, considering their various theological, liturgical, and canonical traditions as complementary.