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” Let us pay heed to the younger generation, who seek a future free of past divisions.” After attending the divine liturgy of the Armenian Apostolic Church, celebrated by Catholicos Karekin II in Etchmiadzin – just as yesterday Karekin attende the Catholic mass in Gyumri – Pope Francis renewed his appeal for unity, looking beyond ecumenism and relations betwen Churches and opening up to the conflicts and wounds that still afflict the Armenian people.
The celebration took place outdoors, ata the great open-air altar of Holy Etchmiadzin, “Armenia’s Vatican”. Karekin II and the Pope entered togetehr in procession, under the red canopy carried by four deacons. During the celebration, Francis sat on a throne that was identical to that of the Catholicos and wore a red stole which belonged to Benedict XVI.
In his homily, Karekin talked about the current situation: “Faith is put to the test by extremism and other kinds of ideologies; xenophobia, addictions, passions and self-centred profits. The processes of secularism are intensifying, spiritual and ethical values and views are distorted, and the family structure, established by God, is being shaken. The root of evil in modern life is in trying to build a world without God, to construe the laws and commandments of God which bring forward economic, political, social, environmental and other problems, that day by day deepen and threaten the natural way of life. Nevertheless, the world does not cease from being the center of God’s love and care.”
“During these days together with our spiritual brother, Pope Francis,” Karekin II added, “with joint visits and prayers we reconfirmed that the Holy Church of Christ is one in the spreading of the gospel of Christ in the world, in taking care of creation, standing against common problems, and in the vital mission of the salvation of man who is the crown and glory of God’s creation. The inseparable mission of the Church of Christ is the strengthening of solidarity among nations and peoples,” he underlined, thanking the Pope. “We and our people will always pray for you, beloved brother, and for your efforts made towards peace and prosperity of humanity and towards the advancement of the Church of Christ.” Finally, he asked “for the protection and support of the Holy Right Hand of Almighty God to shelter those suffering from wars and terrorism, as well as those who are in starvation, poverty and other kinds of afflictions.”
In his final greeting, the Pope spoke about the experience of living with the Cathlocos in Etchmiadzin over the pas few days: “We have met, we have embraced as brothers, we have prayed together and shared the gifts, hopes and concerns of the Church of Christ.” “We have felt as one her beating heart, and we believe and experience that the Church is one.” “Our meeting comes under the aegis of the holy Apostles whom we haveencountered. Saints Bartholomew and Thaddeus,” he added, “who first proclaimed the Gospel in these lands, and Saints Peter and Paul who gave their lives for the Lord in Rome and now reign with Christ in heaven, surely rejoice to see our affection and our tangible longing for full communion.”
“May the Holy Spirit make all believers one heart and soul; may he come to re-establish us in unity,” the Pope said, borrowign the words of St. Gregrory of Narek, who invoked the Holy Spirit, asking: “may the cause of our scandal be dissolved by this love” and among these is, above all, Francis remarked, “the lack of unity among Christ’s disciples.” “May the Armenian Church walk in peace and may the communion between us be complete. May an ardent desire for unity rise up in our hearts, a unity that must not be ‘the submission of one to the other, or assimilation, but rather the acceptance of all the gifts that God has given to each. This will reveal to the entire world the great mystery of salvation accomplished by Christ the Lord through the Holy Spirit’.”
“Let us respond to the appeal of the saints” Francis urged,” let us listen to the voices of the humble and poor, of the many victims of hatred who suffered and gave their lives for the faith. Let us pay heed to the younger generation, who seek a future free of past divisions. From this holy place may a radiant light shine forthonce more, and to the light of faith, which has illumined these lands from the time of Saint Gregory, your Father in the Gospel, may there be joined the light of the love that forgives and reconciles.”
The Pope ended his speech by recalling how the apostles rushed to Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning, despite “all their hesitations and uncertainties” and hoped that Catholics and Armenians would “follow God’s call to full communion and hasten towards it”. Finally, Francis asked Karekin II to bless him, the Catholic Church and “this our path towards full unity”.