“Even the greatest pain, transformed by the saving power of the Cross, can become a seed of peace for the future. Armenians are heralds and witnesses of this power.” The words belong to His Holiness Pope Francis, spoken in the course of his visit to Armenia last weekend.
“The whole world needs this message,” Pope Francis assured the people of our homeland. “It needs your presence; it needs your purest witness. Khaghaghoutiun amenetzoun!”
It was just one of many uplifting moments in the Pope’s deeply affecting pilgrimage to the world’s first Christian nation.
His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, welcomed his brother pontiff to Armenia on Friday, June 24. Over the course of three days, the two would stand side-by-side in services at Holy Etchmaidzin, Yerevan’s Republic Square, the Dzidzernagapert Genocide Memorial, Gyumri’s Azdvadzadzin church, and Khor Virab monastery (the site of St. Gregory the Illuminator’s imprisonment), among other locales.
He met with Armenia’s President Serge Sargsyan and dignitaries from the Armenian Church and government. But most of all, his presence was felt among Armenia’s people-often in spontaneous moments of personal contact with children and their families, which vividly brought to life the Pope’s tender pastoral qualities.
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese, and Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, the Diocese’s Legate and Ecumenical Director, were prominent among the clergy participating in the services and various functions of the weekend. And a group of pilgrims from the Eastern Diocese also traveled to Armenia to witness the visit. (See below to read about the special contribution one member of our Diocese made to the occasion.)
Outside of Armenia, the Pope’s visit was widely shared on social media, notably via the Twitter hashtag #PopeInArmenia, where commenters offered their impressions of the visit in real time. The trip also made international news headlines; click on the following links to read a story in the New York Times, and a pre-visit interview with Archbishop Barsamian that ran in the National Catholic Register.
But to feel the meaning of the Pope’s sojourn in Armenia, nothing compares to watching the recordings of Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II praying together among the crowds of faithful Armenians. Click on the following video links to watch full recordings of the Pope’s welcome service, the prayer at the Genocide Memorial, the ecumenical gathering in Republic Square, and the farewell event at Khor Virab.