Pope Invited to Armenia Karekin I Leaves for Rome

VATICAN CITY–YEREVAN–ISTANBUL (Reuters–Noyan Tapan–Marmara)–Pope John Paul has been invited to visit the former Soviet republic of Armenia–the country’s ambassador to the Vatican said on Tuesday.

Ambassador Armen Sarkissian told reporters that the Pope could make the visit this year but did not elaborate.

"We are working on the technical aspects of the visit. We hope this visit will take place this year," Sarkissian said.

The envoy said the invitation had been made by the Armenian government as well as the Armenian Catholic Church.

The Pope has already visited several countries of the former Soviet Union. He made a trip to the Baltic states of Estonia–Latvia and Lithuania in 1993.

His Holiness Karekin I–the Catholicos of All Armenia’s left for the Vatican Tuesday to open the exhibition "Armenia-Rome" at the Sistine Chapel jointly with the president of Armenia. The exhibition is dedicated to the 1700th anniversary of adoption of Christianity in Armenia.

A delegation from the Holy See of Etchmiadzin will leave for the Vatican Wednesday to join the Catholicos. The delegation will be led by Vicar General of the Catholicos archbishop Garegin Nersissian.

Also Patriarch of Jerusalem archbishop Torgom Manoukian–archbishop Vache Hovsepian–archbishop Gyut Nakkashian–archbishop Mesrop Ashjian–archbishop Khajag Barsamian–archbishop Hovnan Terterian will join the Catholicos in Vatican.

Karekin I is scheduled to meet with Pope John Paul II.

Western Prelate Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian also left for the Vatican to join a delegation of the Holy See of Cilicia headed by His Holiness Aram I.

Not attending the Armenia-Rome exhibit will be Istanbul Patriarch Arch. Mesrob Mutafyan.

The Istanbul-based Marmara newspaper reported that Mutafyan–following consultation with Arch. Shahan Svadjian–the Patriarchate Religious Council and various leaders of the community has opted not to attend the 1,700th exhibition festivities in Rome.

Mutafyan has said that since the Vatican visit was not a ecumenical visit to the Pope–but rather a political gathering–given reports that Kocharian would be making his first ever official trip to the Vatican and to Italy.

The Patriarchate has also weighed other Armenian media reports–in which an invitation to His Holiness Karekin I and Armenian religious faction was never mentioned.

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