Paris (AsiaNews) – For Armenian President Serzh Sarkissian, Pope Francis’s historic visit to Armenia was the visit of a "great friend of our nation and people." The Armenian leader spoke at the end of the pope’s three-day apostolic visit to the Caucasus.
A host on state TV said the pope’s words “went straight to the hearts of the people of Ararat, a cyclone that has challenged too many convictions and stances".
Despite Turkish pressures, the Holy Father did not waver in calling evil by its name, i.e. genocide, which the pope’s entourage wanted him not to use to avoid a crisis with Ankara.
The pope stressed once again the importance of recognising one’s faults as a first step towards justice and true reconciliation.
in his speeches, Pope Francis several times defended the right and duty of the Armenian people to remember. “May God protect the memory of the Armenian people. Memory should never be watered-down or forgotten. Memory is the source of peace and the future.”
However, he also called on "first Christian nation" not to get stuck in the past, to take a step back and look forward into the future and not deprive humanity of its important role.
He urged Armenians to make peace with the Turks as well as in Nagorno-Karabakh, knowing full well that Turkey is not yet ready to face its own history and end its own denial.
Releasing two doves towards Turkey, he called for opening of the border posts at a site where Saint Gregory the Illustrator baptised Armenia, where the dove of Noah's Ark announced a new era for the survivors of the flood.
He especially called on the Armenian people to re-establish their essential role in today's world, since they became the proof that hope is stronger than hardship.
For Mgr Raphael Minassian, head of the Eparchy of Armenia, Georgia, Russia, and Eastern Europe, the pope’s words are a source of reflection.
For the general director of Oeuvre d'Orient, Mgr Pascal Gollnisch, the role that Armenians can play today is clear. "They are an extraordinary people, found all over the world as descendants of genocide survivors, scattered across the planet in the Armenian Diaspora. They are in fact bearers of dual cultures, joined through the Armenian culture ".
Some are Armenian and Slavic in culture, living in Eastern Europe and Russia. Some are Middle Eastern Armenians, at home in the countries of the Middle East. Others are Armenian and Western, in Europe and the Americas.
"Everything today is at stake in these countries,” Mgr Gollnisch said. “The mission to which Armenians are destined, according to the pope, is to unite the world by serving as a bridge between the Arab, Slavic and Western worlds." This is Armenia’s vocation.
As a people "torn apart by a pain that drove them into all the corners of the Earth as ambassadors of Armenia, the only country in the world that is still 98 per cent Christian."
They can play the role of intermediaries in bringing back memory, faith and mercy, in other words peace and coexistence in these troubled times.
These are also the key words and the meaning of the message of the joint statement signed yesterday by the Holy See and the Armenian Catholicossat in Etchmiadzin.
Armenian President Sarkissian said that his country is “ready for a lasting regional peace”. He added that Armenians are good at inter-religious coexistence, which makes them able to “live harmoniously with the people of other religions and minorities as evidenced by the excellent relations with the Islamic Republic or Iran”.
The clearest response is also evinced by the gift the Armenian Apostolic Church gave Francis, namely a sculpture of Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat.
The Ark has the form of a bronze vase bearing the letter ‘E’ in Armenian (symbol for God) with a vine, filled by the Pope and the catholicos with earth and water provided by Armenians from countries of the Middle East: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Iran, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. No answer could be more eloquent.