On Thursday, April 5, 2018, the Vatican unveiled a statue of St. Gregory of Narek, in the presence of Roman Catholic Pope Francis and His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians.
Catholicos of Cilcia His Holiness Aram I and Armenia’s President Serge Sargsyan were also present for the unveiling.
Other church dignitaries included Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian; Archbishop Nathan Hovhannisyan (Director of the External Relations and Protocol Department of the Mother See); Fr. Shahe Ananyan (Director of Ecumenical Relations of the Mother See); and Fr. Vahram Melikyan (Director of the Information Services Department of the Mother See.
All had traveled to Rome to take part in the ceremony honoring one of the great historical figures of the Armenian Church.
Armenians have long revered St. Gregory of Narek as the author of the collection of mystical poems known as the “Book of Lamentations,” among other spiritual treasures. But in 2015, the 10th-century Armenian monk was approved by Pope Francis as a Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church recognizes only 36 doctors of the church, including Augustine of Hippo, John Chrysostom, and Thomas Aquinas. Gregory of Narek is the most recent figure to be placed among this exalted group. His feast day among Catholics is February 27.
Speaking to reporters, Armenia’s ambassador to the Vatican Mikayel Minasyan said: “St. Gregory of Narek is a bridge. He is the bridge between the Armenian Church and Catholic Church; a bridge between our two realities, and … a bridge between two worlds: the Armenian world and the Western world, East and West.”
According to the Vatican’s news agency, the April 5 unveiling event in the Vatican Gardens will have a sequel in late 2018, when a replica of the same statue, currently in production, will be placed in the gardens of the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin, with an accompanying inauguration ceremony.