From Catholic News Service
Pope encourages unity of Armenian Christians
By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Armenian
Orthodox and Catholics, who trace their origins back to St. Gregory
the Illuminator, to work to restore their unity in one community
united with the pope.
Meeting March 20 with members of the synod of the Armenian
Catholic Church and nearly 200 Armenian Catholic pilgrims, the pope
praised the ecumenical initiatives undertaken by the Armenian
Catholic patriarchate, based in Beirut, Lebanon, and the Armenian
Apostolic Church, an ancient and independent Oriental Orthodox
Church that in recent years has improved its relations with the
The Armenian Apostolic Church is the dominant religious
denomination in Armenia, claiming a membership of more than 90
"I encourage this new-found fraternity and collaboration, hoping
that from it there would arise new initiatives for a common path
toward full unity," the pope told the group led by Patriarch Nerses
Bedros XIX Tarmouni of Beirut, the Armenian Catholic patriarch.
Pope Benedict praised the faith of Armenian Christians who have
shared the trials Armenians faced throughout the centuries,
"particularly the sufferings endured in the name of the Christian
faith in the years of terrible persecution recorded in history with
the sadly significant name of 'metz yeghern,'" or "the great
massacre," in which an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed
by Ottoman Turks in 1915-18.
Armenians, persecuted by the Ottoman Turks and in the former
Soviet Union, ended up fleeing to other countries, which further
split the Christian community.
Pope Benedict said, "If historic events led to the fragmentation
of the Armenian church, divine providence will ensure that one day
it will be united with its hierarchy in fraternal harmony and in
full communion with the bishop of Rome."
He encouraged Armenians to work and pray for the day when there
will be "one flock under one shepherd."
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