Papal Trip to Armenia Set for September

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Officials in Yerevan announced Pope John Paul II will visit Armenia in September. A spokeswoman for President Robert Kocharian told RFE/RL that the trip–first ever head of the Roman Catholic Church–has been tentatively scheduled for September 25.

The papal visit to Armenia was initially scheduled for June 1999–but was canceled due to the illness of Catholicos Karekin I–the former head of the Armenian Church–who passed away shortly afterwards. His successor–Karekin II–extended another official invitation to the pontiff during his visit to the Vatican last November.

The two clerics declared in a joint communiqu at the time that "the fraternal relations between the See of Rome and the See of Etchmiadzin have further developed and deepened in recent years." The joint communiqu also said–"The Catholic Church and the Armenian Church share a long history of mutual respect–considering their various theological–liturgical and canonical traditions as complementary–rather than conflicting."

The same statement also referred to the 1915 mass killings of Armenia’s in the Ottoman Empire as a genocide in what amounted to the Vatican’s official recognition of the tragedy.

The Pope’s visit will coincide with the ongoing official celebrations of the 1700th anniversary of Armenia’s conversion to Christianity.

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