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Meeting with Armenian bishops, Pope Francis prays for peace

“How many conflicts and massacres have we witnessed, always tragic and always pointless?” the Pope asks. “Let us all take up the cry for peace."

By Joseph Tulloch

The dire geopolitical situation in Armenia, the importance of collaboration with the country’s Orthodox Church, and the need for bishops to be close to their flocks.

These were the themes at the centre of Pope Francis’ address to the Bishops of the Armenian Catholic Church on Wednesday morning.

As the Pope is recovering from a cold, his speech was read aloud by Msgr. Filippo Ciampanelli, an official at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

A 'tragic and pointless' war

Last year, more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians were forced to flee the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave after a military offensive carried out by neighbouring Azerbaijan. There are fears that another attack may follow.

“Your Beatitude, dear Brothers,” Pope Francis said, “how can we not turn our thoughts to Armenia, not only in words but above all in our prayers, particularly for all those fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh and for the many displaced families seeking refuge?”

“The First World War,” he continued, “was supposed to be the last …Yet since then, how many conflicts and massacres have we witnessed, always tragic and always pointless?”

“Let us all take up the cry for peace,” the Pope urged, “so that it may touch hearts, even hearts untouched by the sufferings of the poor and lowly. And above all, let us pray.  I pray for you and for Armenia.”

Pope Francis with the Armenian Catholic bishops
Pope Francis with the Armenian Catholic bishops

Catholic-Orthodox cooperation

Another key topic of the Pope’s speech was the importance of cooperation between the Armenian Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church, an Orthodox body.

The Pope touched on this subject twice, and chose bring his address to an end with a prayer from Saint Nerses the Gracious, a 12th-century Armenian bishop recognised as saint in both the Catholic and Armenian Orthodox Churches:

All-merciful Lord,

have mercy on all those who believe in you;

on my beloved ones, and on those who are strangers to me;

on all those I know, and on those unknown to me;

on the living and on the dead;

even forgive my enemies, and those who hate me,

forgive the trespasses they have committed against me;

and relieve them from the malice they bear towards me,

so that they become worthy of your mercy. 

Just last week, Catholicos Karekin II, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, met with Cardinal Claudio Gugerotti, Prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for the Eastern Churches.

According to a press release from the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Catholicos "spoke with satisfaction about the fraternal cooperation" between the two Churches, and "conveyed his fraternal best wishes to Pope Francis."

A bishop's care for his flock

Pope Francis also urged the Armenian bishops to remain close to those they serve.

“In a world so full of isolation and loneliness,” he said, “we must ensure that those entrusted to our care feel the closeness of the Good Shepherd.”

This includes, he noted, priests, especially young ones, who need to “feel close to their Bishops.”

The Pope then urged the Bishops to select their successors wisely, picking individuals who will be “devoted to the flock, faithful to pastoral care, and not driven by personal ambition.”

“You may well remind me that your Church is not large in numbers,” Pope Francis said. “Yet let us remember that God loves to work wonders with those who are small.”

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28 February 2024, 11:33