ISTANBUL (Lraper)–Invited by His Eminence Cardinal Roger Etchagaray–the President of the Pontifical Commission for the Jubilee–His Beatitude Patriarch Mesrob II of Istanbul attended the Roman Catholic Christmas and Jubilee Year celebrations in Rome between December 22 and 26.
Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan met His Holiness Pope John Paul II in front of a private audience on December 23. On various occasions–he also spoke with Their Eminencies Cardinal Roger Etchagaray–Cardinal Camillo Ruini–Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy–Cardinal Lorenzo Antonetti–Patriarch-Emeritus John Peter XVIII Kasparian of the Armenian Catholics–Their Excellencies Bishop Walter Kasper–Bishop Rino Fisichella–Ambassador Altan Gueven of Turkey–Ambassador Armen Sarkissian of Armenia–Very Rev. Mons. Vincenzo Paglia–Very Rev. Mons. Elia Der Yeghiayan–Minister General of the Franciscans Fr. Augustino Gardin–the Superior of the Sacred Convent in Assisi Fr. Guilio Berrettoni–and Director of the Franciscan Ecumenical Center in Assisi Fr. Maximilian Mizzi.
Patriarch Mesrob attended the opening of the Holy Door of Saint Peter Basilica by His Holiness Pope John Paul II and the Christmas liturgy that followed. He also attended the opening of the Jubilee Door at Saint John Lateran Cathedral by the Pope and the following solemn vespers.
He spoke to a large crowd of young members of the Community of Saint Egidio in Santa Maria Basilica in Trastevere–visited the Basilica of San Bartolomeo on the islet of Tiberino–attended and spoke at the Armenian Catholic Liturgy at San Nicola di Tolentino and participated in the Christmas Liturgy at the Basilica in Assisi.
Returning to his Patriarchal See in Istanbul–His Beatitude the Patriarch expressed his special thanks to the Reverend Friar Johann Bonny of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity–Rev. Fr. Marco Gnavi and those members of the Community of Saint Egidio who assisted him during his pilgrimage and visit to the Church of Rome.
Evaluating his visit–the Patriarch said–"It was first and foremost a pilgrimage to a holy apostolic site–where–together with the Pope and numerous other friends–I had the chance to pray on the threshold of the Third Millennium.
It was also good to renew fraternal ties with the Church of Rome.
Given the fact that his health was so frail–it was sort of a miracle that His Holiness the Pope could undertake such long services on the occasion of the Opening of the Holy Doors.
The doors have been opened also to a new period which can be one of unity for all Christians. I have always been at the service of church unity–personally–and from within the unity of the Armenian Church as a whole.
Not just persons or leaders by themselves–but the Church as a whole should be engaged in ecumenical spirituality and relations.
And this is the challenge; an educational process is necessary."