Pope Francis’ Historic Trip to Armenia
Over the course of this historic Papal visit, June 24-26, Pope Francis will visit with numerous religious, governmental and civic figures in addition to addressing the public at various services. The Armenian Missionary Association of America is thankful to Catholicos Karekin II for welcoming and including Armenian Evangelical leadership to participate in reception ceremonies. Armenian Evangelicals were represented by Rev. Harout Selimian, President, Armenian Protestant Community in Syria.
In advance of his trip, Pope Francis conveyed his anticipation as a pilgrim to ‘visit to the first Christian country.’ (Vatican Radio’s English translation of the original Italian is below in full.)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In a few days I will have the joy to be with you, in Armenia. Even now, I invite you to pray for this Apostolic journey.With the help of God, I come among you to fulfil, as the motto of the trip says, a “visit to the first Christian country”. I come as a pilgrim, in this Jubilee Year, to draw on the ancient wisdom of your people and to steep myself the sources of your faith, which is steadfast as your famous crosses carved in stone.
I come to the mystical heights of Armenia as your brother, animated by the desire to see your faces, to pray with you and to share the gift of friendship. Your history and the events of your beloved people stir in me admiration and sorrow: admiration, for you have found in Jesus’ Cross and in your own wits, the wherewithal ever to pick yourselves up and start anew – even after sufferings that are among the most terrible in human memory; pain, for the tragedies that your fathers have lived in their flesh.
Let us not allow the painful memories to take possession of our hearts; even in the face of the repeated assaults of evil, let us not give ourselves up. Let us rather do as Noah, who, after the flood, never tired of looking to heaven and releasing the dove again and again, until one day it came back to him, bringing a tender olive leaf (Gen. 8:11): it was the sign that life could resume and [that] hope must rise.
As servant of the Gospel and a messenger of peace I desire to come among you, to support [your] every effort towards peace – and I would share our steps on the pathway of reconciliation, which generates hope.
May the great saints of your people, especially the Doctor of the Church, Gregory of Narek, bless our meetings, to which I look forward with tender longing. In particular, I look forward to embracing my Brother, Karekin, and, along with him, to give fresh impetus to our path towards full unity.
Last year, from several countries, you came to Rome, and at the tomb of St. Peter, we prayed together. Now I come to your blessed land to strengthen our communion, to advance along the path of reconciliation, and to allow ourselves together to be animated by hope.