Pope calls on Armenians to draw “new vitality” from their martyrdom in order to proclaim the Gospel
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - It is important to remember "the martyrdom and persecution" inflicted upon the Armenian people a hundred years ago “to draw out of it new vitality and nurture the present with the joyful proclamation of the Gospel and the witness of charity,” said Pope Francis during an audience with the Patriarchal Synod of the Armenian Catholic Church, currently in Rome for Sunday’s Armenian Mass in St Peter’s Basilica.
During this meeting, the pontiff said that he would call upon Divine Mercy to "help us all, in love for truth and justice, to heal every wound and hasten concrete gestures of reconciliation and peace among the Nations that have not yet reached a reasonable consensus on the reading of such sorrowful events."
In recalling the events of a hundred years ago, the pope did not use the word genocide, a term disliked by Turkey, but spoke of the mysterium iniquitatis, the mystery of evil.
In so doing, he referred to the situation in the Middle East, where very "few" Armenian survivors found refuge.
He also endorsed ecumenical dialogue with the Armenian Apostolic Church, "mindful of the fact that a hundred years ago today, martyrdom and persecution led already to the ‘ecumenism of the blood’.”
"In you and through you,” the pontiff said, “I greet the priests, men and women religious, seminarians and lay faithful of the Armenian Catholic Church. I know that many people have accompanied you at this time here in Rome, and that many more are united with us in spirit, in the lands of the diaspora, like the United States, Latin America, Europe, Russia, Ukraine, and even in the Motherland.
“Sadly, my thoughts go in particular to those areas, like Aleppo, that a hundred year ago were a safe haven for the few survivors. In recent times, the presence of Christians, not only Armenians, has been endangered in such places.
“Your nation, who according to tradition was the first to convert to Christianity in 301, has a two-thousand-year history. It has an admirable heritage of spirituality and culture, combined with an ability to recover from the many persecutions and trials to which it was subjected.
“I call upon you to cultivate always a sense of gratitude to the Lord, for your ability to remain faithful to him even in the most difficult of times. It is also important to ask God for the gift of wisdom of the heart – the commemoration of the victims of a hundred years ago in fact places us before the darkness of the mysterium iniquitatis.
“As the Gospel says, the darkest forces can lash out from the depths of the human heart, capable of systematically planning the annihilation of one’s brother, of considering him an enemy, an opponent, or someone devoid of human dignity itself.
“Yet, for believers the issue of evil done by man also leads to the mystery of participation in the redemptive Passion. Many sons and daughters of the Armenian nation were able to pronounce the name of Christ until they shed their blood or died of starvation in the endless exodus to which they were forced.
“The pages of suffering in the history of your people carry on, in a certain sense, the passion of Jesus, but in each of them there is the seed of his Resurrection. May you pastors not lose the desire to teach the laity how to read reality with new eyes, so as to say every day: my people is not only those who suffer for Christ, but especially those who were resurrected in Him.
“For this reason, it is important to remember the past in order to draw out of it new vitality to nurture the present with the joyful proclamation of the Gospel and the witness of charity.
“I encourage you to support the process of continuing education of priests and consecrated persons. They are your first collaborators. The communion between you and them will be strengthened by the exemplary brotherhood that they can see in the Synod and with the Patriarch.
“At this time, our gratitude goes to those who worked to bring some relief to your ancestors’ tragedy. I am thinking especially about Pope Benedict XV who called on Sultan Mehmed V to stop the massacres of the Armenians.
“This pope was a great friend of the Christian East. He established the Congregation for Oriental Churches and the Pontifical Oriental Institute. In 1920, he added Saint Ephraim the Syrian among the Doctors of the Universal Church.
“I am pleased that our meeting should be held on the eve of the same action that on Sunday I will have the joy of making with the great figure of Saint Gregory of Narek.
“I especially entrust the ecumenical dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Armenian-Armenian Apostolic Church to his intercession, mindful of the fact that a hundred years ago today, martyrdom and persecution already led to the ‘ecumenism of the blood’."
“I now call the blessing of the Lord upon you and your faithful, as I ask you not to forget to pray for me."