VATICAN—His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia on Thursday held a private meeting with Pope Francis I. Following the meeting Pope Francis met with the Catholicos and his delegation.
The two pontiffs exchanged remarks. In his remarks, Aram I spoke of the special relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the Catholicosate of Cilicia both during the time of the Kingdom of Cilicia and after the Genocide when it settled in Antelias, Lebanon.
The focal point of Aram I’s address was highlighting the role the Vatican has played in the pursuit of the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, as well as the pope’s own statement reaffirming the Genocide and condemning Turkey for its denial.
In discussing the 2015 Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, the Catholicos thanked the Pope for his past positions on the Armenian cause and spoke of the 1.5 million Armenians who had lost their lives and of the churches, homes, sources of livelihood, spiritual and cultural heritage that had been lost as a result of the Genocide.
“Your solidarity with the Armenians during the 100th Anniversary Commemorations of the Genocide will be a valuable contribution to our just cause,” said Aram I, who also paid tribute to Pope Benedict XVth who denounced the Armenian Genocide in a letter to Sultan Mehmet V in 1915. The Catholicos also asked Pope Francis I to continue advocating for the rights of the Armenian People.
Referring to the Armenian Genocide, the pope said that “the Armenian people represent a part of the Christian world that is irrevocably marked by a history of trials and sufferings courageously accepted for the love of God. The Armenian Apostolic Church has had to become a pilgrim people; it has experienced in a singular way what it means to journey toward the Kingdom of God.”
“The history of emigration, persecutions and martyrdom experienced by so many of the faithful has inflicted deeps wounds on the hearts of all Armenians. We must see and venerate these as wounds inflicted on the very body of Christ, and for this very reason a cause for unfailing hope and trust in the provident mercy of the father,” added Francis I
In his remarks, the pope also praised Aram I’s “Commitment to the cause of Christian unity” highlighting the Catholicos’s leadership role in the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches, which is at the forefront of advocating for the rights of Christian minorities during conflict and challenges in the region.
The pope also elevated “the significant contribution which Your Holiness and the representatives of the Catholicosate of Cilicia have made to the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches. I am convinced that on our journey towards full communion we share the same hopes and a similar sense of responsibility as we strive to be faithful to the will of the Lord Jesus Christ.”