BY CINDY WOODEN
VATICAN CITY (Catholic News Service)–When he visits Armenia in July–Pope John Paul II will pay tribute to the fidelity of Armenian Orthodox believers and to the millions of Armenia’s who died this century under persecution or in natural disasters.
Pope John Paul is scheduled to stay at the residence of His Holiness Karekin I–Catholicos of All Armenia’s–during his July 2 to 4 visit.
The Armenian Apostolic Church is one of six independent Oriental Orthodox Churches. They are in communion with each other but not with the Catholic Church or with the Orthodox churches that split with Rome in the 11th century.
About 90 percent of the nation’s 3.6 million people belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church; Catholics make up less than 4 percent of the population.
The pope’s itinerary for the visit includes several meetings with his Orthodox hosts and two ecumenical prayer services–one a memorial service for the estimated 55,000 people who were killed in a 1988 earthquake.
The only public Catholic liturgy on the papal schedule is the Armenian-rite celebration on the grounds of the hospital built as a gift of the pope to the people of Armenia after the earthquake.
Pope John Paul also plans to pray at the Dzidzernagapert memorial monument for the victims of the Armenian Genocide.
Here is the pope’s schedule as released May 19 by the Vatican.
On July 2–the Pope will depart from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci International airport at 10 a.m. and will arrive in Yerevan at 5 p.m. where a welcoming ceremony will be held at Zvartnots airport. He will visit holy Etchmiadzin that afternoon.
On Saturday–the Pope will celebrate Mass at Etchmiadzin and will travel to Khor Virab–where he will also conduct prayers. The same morning the Pope is scheduled to meet with Armenian president Robert Kocharian–following which he will visit Dzidzerbagapert.
That same evening the Pope is scheduled to lead an ecumenical Mass at Etchmiadzin Cathedral.
A Mass will be celebrated at the private chapel at Holy Etchmiadzin on the morning of July 4.
He will then travel to Ashotsk where an Armenian Catholic liturgy will be held on the grounds of the Redemptoris Mater Hospital–followed by recitation of the Angelus.
That afternoon–the pope and his entourage will travel to Gumri for a visit of the residence of Archbishop Nerses Der Nersessian–ordinary for Armenian Catholics in Eastern Europe.
An ecumenical memorial prayer service for the victims of the 1988 earthquake in the Armenian Apostolic cathedral of Gumri is also scheduled.
Back at Etchmiadzin a farewell ceremony is scheduled–after which the pope will head to Zvartnots airport and head back to Rome.