Born into a diaspora family, the new patriarch lost his grandparents in the 1915genocide. His orphaned father was welcomed at Castel Gandolfo at the behest of Benedict XV. Raphaël Bedros welcomed Francis during his visit to Armenia in 2016, stressing Armenians’ "debt of gratitude” to the pontiff. When the Pope received the new patriarch, he emphasised the "joy" of the Armenian people.
Rome (AsiaNews) - The Armenian Catholic community has a new patriarch.
The Synod of Bishops of the Patriarchal Church of Cilicia of the Armenians (Lebanon), convened by Pope Francis in Rome on 22 and 23 September, elected Mgr Raphaël François Minassian.
Hitherto Titular Archbishop of Caesarea of Cappadocia of the Armenians and Ordinary for the Armenian Catholic faithful of Eastern Europe, the new patriarch took the name of His Beatitude Raphaël Bedros (Peter) XXI Minassian upon his election.
This morning Pope Francis met the new patriarch in audience, to whom he granted the Ecclesiastica Communio and delivered a letter in which he joins the "joy" of the Armenian Catholic people who were “waiting” for their pastor.
The election, the pontiff writes, “has come at a time when people are particularly burdened by various challenges. I am thinking of the suffering in Syria and Lebanon – countries where the Church of Cilicia of the Armenians is present – as well as the pandemic, which is still far from being overcome in many parts of the world.”
“We know the Armenian people as expert in suffering, because of the many trials throughout its more than 1,700 years of Christian history, but also because of its inexhaustible capacity to flourish and bear fruit”.
The Armenian Church “is fully integrated in the affairs of the Armenian people, preserving their memory and traditions, and at the same time deeply linked to the Successor of the Apostle Peter.”
In concluding, Francis writes: “I entrust to you the care of the younger generations, the promotion of vocations, the wise harmony you must be able to find between the different entities of your community”.
The new patriarch was born in Beirut on 24 November 1946. He attended the Patriarchal Seminary in Bzommar (1958-1967), and studied philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University between 1967 and 1973. His studies include a specialisation course in psycho-pedagogy at the Pontifical Salesian University.
He was ordained into the priesthood on 24 June 1973 as a member of the Patriarchal Congregation of Bzommar (Institut du Clergé Patriarcal de Bzommar). From 1973 to 1982 he served as parish priest at the Armenian Cathedral in Beirut.
From 1982 to 1984, he was secretary to Patriarch Hovannes Bedros XVIII Kasparian. He was responsible for setting up the parish complex of the Holy Cross in Zalka, Beirut, from 1984 to 1989.
From 1985 to 1989, he was judge at the ecclesiastical tribunal of the Armenian Church in Beirut, and taught Armenian liturgy at the Pontifical University of Kaslik.
Soon after he was transferred to the United States, where he served as a parish priest in New York for a year. Later, until 2003, he was parish priest for Armenian Catholics in California, Arizona and Nevada.
In 2004 he founded and directed Telepace Armenia, while the following year he was appointed Patriarchal Exarch of Jerusalem and Amman for the Armenians.
On 24 June 2011 he was appointed Ordinary for Armenian Catholics in Eastern Europe, with the titular episcopal see of Caesarea of Cappadocia of the Armenians and the title of Archbishop ad personam.
A former president of Caritas Armenia, he comes from a diaspora family of the Armenian-Catholic Church, which broke away the Armenian Apostolic Church and entered into communion with the Holy See in 1742.
His grandparents died in the Armenian genocide, which he has strongly denounced over the years, while offering words of dialogue and reconciliation to the Turkish people.
His orphaned father was saved in 1919 and brought with hundreds of other children to Castel Gandolfo at the behest of Pope Benedict XV.
From 24 to 26 June 2016, then Archbishop Minassian welcomed Pope Francis during his apostolic visit to Armenia.
Speaking to AsiaNews on that occasion, the future patriarch underlined the "clear and simple” words used by the pontiff in commemorating the Armenian genocide at the Vatican in April 2015, “the first of the 20th century”, which “is why we have a debt of gratitude towards him.”
Some of the most poignant moments of the papal visit, which had “double value”, were the solemn Mass in Gyumri and the ecumenical prayer for peace in Yerevan.
During the visit, Francis showed that he “cares for the Armenian people” and the country as the “first Christian nation in history that bore witness to its faith for centuries in martyrdom”.
While the pontiff “has special affection” for the Armenian people, Armenians are grateful to the Pope for “speaking so boldly before the world about the Armenian genocide of 1915.”