Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pope, Armenian patriarch pray for restored unity

Vatican, May. 9, 2008 ( - At a midday meeting on May 9 with the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) looked forward to Pentecost Sunday and said, "we will pray in a particular way for the unity of the Church."

The Holy Father was joined by Catholicos Karekin II in an ecumenical prayer service in the Clementine Hall of the apostolic palace. Karekin was accompanied by a number of Armenian bishops and a large group of lay faithful of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

"If our hearts and minds are open to the Spirit of communion, God can work miracles again in the Church, restoring the bonds of unity," the Pope said. "Striving for Christian unity is an act of obedient trust in the work of the Holy Spirit."

Recalling the breakthroughs in ecumenical dialogue with the Armenian Church over the past several years, the Pope said that the two churches must pray "that the day will come when our unity in faith makes possible a common celebration of the Eucharist." The immediate predecessors of the two Church leaders, Pope John Paul II (bio - news) and Catholicos Karekin I, signed a theological accord that settled the major Christological disputes that have divided the churches for 15 centuries. A joint commission is now working toward common agreements on remaining theological differences.

Catholicos Karekin, during brief remarks that he delivered at the Pope's public audience on Wednesday, May 7, had called for a general recognition of the Armenian genocide. Pope Benedict responded to that plea during their Friday meeting, and also alluded to the oppression of religious faith under the Communist regime, noting that "the recent history of the Armenian Apostolic Church has been written in the contrasting colors of persecution and martyrdom, darkness and hope, humiliation and spiritual re-birth."

In more recent years, the Pope continued, "the restoration of freedom to the Church in Armenia has been a source of great joy for us all." He praised the leadership of the Armenian patriarchs, under whose leadership "the glorious light of Christ shines again in Armenia and the saving words of the Gospel can be heard once more."

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