Armenians around the world found their hearts deeply touched on Sunday, April 12, as Pope Francis celebrated a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. In an exquisite service in the Armenian rite, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church offered prayers in memory of the Armenian martyrs of 1915, and expressed his profound solidarity with the Armenian people in their historic struggles and continuing aspirations.
His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and His Holiness Aram I, the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, were both present for the liturgy, as was Armenian Catholic Patriarch His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX (who con-celebrated the Mass with Pope Francis) and other Armenian religious dignitaries. President Serzh Sargsyan of the Republic of Armenia was also in attendance.
Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian was in Rome with a contingent of Armenian-Americans from the Eastern and Western Dioceses, on a “spiritual journey” to witness the historic liturgy.
The Pope’s powerful statements throughout the service made world headlines (click these links to read the stories in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal) as he affirmed the words of his predecessor Pope John Paul II, recalling “the tragic experience one hundred years ago ‘in what is generally referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century.'”
With evident emotion and conviction, Pope Francis called on “the entire human family,” and especially world leaders, to heed the lessons of the Genocide and its kindred mass exterminations of the past century. “Today too, in fact, these conflicts at times degenerate into unjustifiable violence, stirred up by exploiting ethnic and religious differences,” he said. “All who are heads of state and of international organizations are called to oppose such crimes with a firm sense of duty, without ceding to ambiguity or compromise.”
Also during Sunday’s Mass, the great Armenian mystic St. Gregory of Narek was officially conferred by the Pope with the title “doctor of the church,” joining Augustine of Hippo, John Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas and 32 others who are considered to offer key theological insights for the faith.
In anticipation of the service, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian was interviewed by Victor Gaetan of the National Catholic Register. Click here to read the article, which offers special insight into the meaning and significance of the Pope’s gesture of solidarity.