ETCHMIADZIN, Armenia—His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians on Friday welcomed Pope Francis to the Etchmiadzin and officially kicked off the two-day Papal Visit being called “Visit to the First Christian State.”
After a join prayer at the altar at Etchmiadzin Cathedral, the Catholicos offered the following remarks:
Your Holiness, beloved brother in Christ,
We give glory and thanks to God, as we welcome you, and the delegation accompanying you today, with brotherly love and prayer in this holy cathedral, where the Only-Begotten Son descended. We are deeply touched that per Our invitation You have visited Armenia, to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. This ancient cathedral is the testimony of the covenant set between our people and God. It is on this sacred site that Jesus Christ descended and with His venerable Holy Right Hand established Holy Etchmiadzin which is the Holy of Holies of the entire Armenian nation.
By divine providence, through the vision and zealous efforts of the second Enlightener of the Armenians, Catholicos Gregory; the lanterns of faith that were lit in the hearts of our people through the preaching of St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew, were renewed.
Since that day the light that is emanating from Holy Etchmiadzin binds our people with their history, sacred treasures and homeland – spread around Ark-bearing Mount Ararat.
We are immensely delighted that today in this holy cathedral of Etchmiadzin the prayers of the two pontiffs of the Sees of St. Peter and Sts. Thaddeus and Bartholomew, are united in the glory of God, pleading peace for our faithful and for all the world, calling for a strong spirit of love and brotherhood and fruitful cooperation.
At this moment it is with warm feelings, that we remember the visit of St. John Paul II to Armenia in 2001, on the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the proclamation of Christianity as the State religion in Armenia.
That was the first visit of a Pontiff of the See of St. Peter to our land, which became a new incentive for cooperation in the brotherly relationship between our Churches.
You also have made notable impact in strengthening the brotherly relationships between our Churches, by showing particular kindness towards the Armenian Church and our people on various occasions throughout your ministry.
The visit of Your Holiness is a renewed testament to the brotherly relationships and collaboration of our Churches and is mutually empowering for the faithful of both the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. Your visit also fills us with optimism that our testimonies of faith, reinforced with Christian love, will be felt more strongly in our lives.
Our people remember with gratitude your solemn Mass celebrated in memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide in the Basilica of St. Peter, with your historic sermon condemning the genocide.
We give thanks to God that today together with Your Holiness, the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church, with our faithful Armenians, including those who have come to Armenia on the occasion of Your visit, can pray and beseech the intercession of the canonized martyrs of the Armenian Genocide, whose bloodshed is a testimonial of victory not only for the Armenians but also for the Christian faith as a whole. As the apostle says, abundance of grace is multiplied through the Glory of God by the thankfulness of many, (2 Corinthians 4:15).
After the destruction caused by the Armenian Genocide and the Godless years of the Soviet era, our church is living a new spiritual awakening by freely realizing the Christ-bestowed mission in the lives of our people in conditions of independent statehood in our Homeland. Our church is also engaging in a greater participation in the life of pan-Christian relations, strongly believing that at a time when the world is filled with deepening spiritual, political, economic, and humanitarian crisis, it is important more than ever for the Sister Churches to jointly pray and cooperate for the fruitfulness of the mission of Christ’s holy Church, for keeping and cherishing Christian ethical values in the world, for strengthening love towards mankind, through which true results of security and prosperity can be actualized.
We extend our prayer for the stability and prosperity of the Holy Church of Christ, for the spread of the spirit of love and favor of our Lord, and for increasing peace and life in solidarity in the world.
We call on the Lord to support Your Holiness, and wish you a long and healthy reign, for the sake of prosperity of the Roman Catholic Church and for consolation of the faithful.
Welcome to the Biblical land of Armenia and to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.
Let the mercy, grace and blessings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ remain with us all, evermore. Amen.