Pope: ‘I come among you to fulfill, as the motto of the trip says, a ‘visit to the first Christian country’
VATICAN CITY (A.W.)—The official schedule of Pope Francis’ three-day visit to Armenia was released this week by Vatican Radio, the official broadcasting station of the Holy See. According to the schedule, Pope Francis will arrive to Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport at 3 p.m. (local Yerevan time) on June 24, where a special welcoming ceremony will be held. His Holiness will then visit Etchmiadzin Cathedral—the mother church of the Armenian Apostolic Church—where greetings will be given by Karekin II Catholicos of All Armenia and Pope Francis.
On the evening of June 24, Pope Francis will visit Armenian President Serge Sarkisian at the Presidential Palace, where he will also meet with civil authorities and the Diplomatic Corps. The Pope will then hold a private meeting with Catholicos Karekin II at the Apostolic Palace in Etchmiadzin.
On Sat. June 25, Pope Francis will visit the Tzitzernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex, after which he will travel to Gyumri—Armenia’s second largest city— where he will hold Holy Mass in Vartanants Square. While in Gyumri, the Pope will also visit the Holy Martyrs Armenian Catholic Cathedral. On Saturday evening, Pope Francis will hold an Ecumenical Encounter and Prayer for Peace in Yerevan’s Republic Square.
On Sun. June 26, Pope Francis will be holding a meeting with the Catholic Bishops of Armenia in the Apostolic Palace at Etchmiadzin, after which he will participate in the Divine Liturgy at the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral. The Pope will then participate in an ecumenical lunch with Catholicos Karekin II, Archbishops, and Bishops of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholic Bishops of Armenia, and Cardinals and Bishops from the Papal entourage in the Apostolic Palace. After a meeting with delegates and benefactors of the Apostolic Armenian Church in the Apostolic Palace and the signing of a joint declaration in the Apostolic Palace, the Pope will hold a special prayer at Khor Virap Monastery—the site of Gregory the Illuminator’s imprisonment—and will return to Rome after a farewell ceremony at Zvartnots Airport.
Ahead of his visit to Armenia, Pope Francis sent a video message to the people of Armenia. “With the help of God, I come among you to fulfill, as the motto of the trip says, a ‘visit to the first Christian country,’” he said in the message.
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 fulfill, 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.
Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-West