03/20/2006, 00.00
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Pope: "Terrible persecution" of Armenians lingers in history

Receiving members of the Patriarchate of Cilicia, Benedict XVI praised the loyalty of the Armenians to Christianity and expressed the hope that continued division between the different Churches will be overcome.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – "Metz yeghèrn, the great evil": this is what Armenians still call the genocide they suffered in the years of the First World War, at the hands of the then Ottoman Empire. The phrase was repeated by Benedict XVI when he received Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, Patriarch of Cilicia for Armenians, who was accompanied by members of the Patriarchal Synod. He talked about the "great persecution" at the roots of the diaspora of that people, and also about the division which persists among Armenian Christians, expressing the hope that it will soon be overcome.

"The Armenian Church that refers to the Patriarchate of Cilicia (in Lebanon n.d.r.), is certainly a full participant of historical events lived by the Armenian people throughout the centuries and, especially, of the suffering they bore in the name of the Christian faith in the years of the terrible persecution which remains known in history by the sadly significant name of metz yeghèrn, the great evil. How can one not remember, in this regard, the many invitations sent by Leo XIII to Catholics, to go to the rescue of the poverty and suffering of the Armenian peoples?"

Benedict XVI continued: "The Armenians, who have always sought to integrate themselves with their industriousness and dignity in the societies where they found themselves, continue to bear witness to their faithfulness to the Gospel still today." This is a fidelity that is also a "strong attachment, sometimes even to the point of martyrdom, which your Community has always shown towards the See of Peter, in a reciprocal and fertile relationship of faith and affection".

A relationship that the Pope would like to see extended to other Christian communities of Armenia, which are still divided, although they recognize St Gregory the Illuminator as their common father founder and even if "in recent decades all have resumed a cordial and fruitful dialogue to the end of rediscovering their common roots. I encourage this rediscovered fraternity and collaboration, with the hope that new initiatives for a shared path towards full unity will spring from this. And if historical events have seen the fragmentation of the Armenian Church, may Divine Providence allow that one day it will return to being united, with its hierarchy in brotherly internal harmony and in full communion with the Bishop of Rome."

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