VATICAN (CWNews–VIS)–Pope John Paul II received the new Armenian Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia–Nerses Bedros XIX–in a private audience on December 13–after celebrating the Divine Liturgy with the patriarch and about 100 members of the Armenian Catholic synod.
Remarking on the "delicate responsibilities" of the Armenian patriarch–whose see is in Beirut–the Holy Father spoke of the need for "reorganization of the Armenian Catholic Church."
He praised the newly elected patriarch as a "tireless promoter of communion" among the Christian churches. And the Pope raised the prospect that full communion might soon be achieved between the Armenian Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The Pope urged all Armenia’s to respect "the treasures of spirituality which are part of the Armenian tradition," especially the liturgy of the Armenian rite.
Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX was elected in October 1999 by the Armenian Catholic synod. There are approximately 102,000 Armenian Catholics–most of them now living in the area around Lebanon–Syria–and Turkey. The Armenian Catholic Church resumed full communion with the Holy See during the 18th century.
The Armenian Apostolic Church–which has been separated from Rome since the Council of Chalcedon–numbers two million people–most of them living in Armenia itself. In the past few years–the Holy See has made great strides toward ending the conflict with the Armenian Apostolic Church–including the signing of a joint theological statement ending a centuries-old theological dispute.
"Your ministry requires vibrant spiritual strength. Awaiting you is the exhilarating task of reorganizing the Armenian Catholic Church–the starting point of which is confirming and consolidating that Church in faith," the pope told the Catholicos–reported the Vatican Information Service.
John Paul II affirmed: "Priests will be the principle object of your care. They request your help in finding the root and meaning of their ministry truly and solidly in Christ–and not in social position or personal prestige." The Pope also entrusted monks and men and women religious to the patriarch’s pastoral care–"May the heritage of whole generations not be lost. Apart from the Pope–the entire Armenian people request this from you–for them the service of culture is also a guarantee of survival."