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In joint statement, Pope Francis, Armenian Catholicos lament persecution of Christians

June 27, 2016

On June 26, the final day of his three-day apostolic journey to Armenia, Pope Francis met with Armenian Catholic bishops before taking part in the Divine Liturgy in the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral.

93% of Armenians are members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, an Oriental Orthodox church that ceased to be in full communion with the Holy See following the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451. 6% of Armenians are Catholic.

During the liturgy, Pope Francis delivered a brief address.

“Saints Bartholomew and Thaddeus, who first proclaimed the Gospel in these lands, and Saints Peter and Paul, who gave their lives for the Lord in Rome and now reign with Christ in heaven, surely rejoice to see our affection and our tangible longing for full communion,” he said.

“May the Holy Spirit make all believers one heart and soul; may he come to reestablish us in unity,” the Pope added. “May an ardent desire for unity rise up in our hearts, a unity that must not be the submission of one to the other, or assimilation, but rather the acceptance of all the gifts that God has given to each.”

Later in the day, Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, signed a common declaration in which they lamented the persecution of Christian and upheld marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

“We are witnessing an immense tragedy unfolding before our eyes, of countless innocent people being killed, displaced or forced into a painful and uncertain exile by continuing conflicts on ethnic, economic, political and religious grounds in the Middle East and other parts of the world,” they said. “As a result, religious and ethnic minorities have become the target of persecution and cruel treatment, to the point that suffering for one’s religious belief has become a daily reality.”

After denouncing the use of religion to justify violence and calling for assistance to refugees, the two turned to secularization:

The secularization of large sectors of society, its alienation from the spiritual and divine, leads inevitably to a desacralized and materialistic vision of man and the human family. In this respect we are concerned about the crisis of the family in many countries. The Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church share the same vision of the family, based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between man and woman.

“We urge our faithful to work in harmony for the promotion in society of the Christian values which effectively contribute to building a civilization of justice, peace and human solidarity,” they added. “The path of reconciliation and brotherhood lies open before us. May the Holy Spirit, who guides us into all truth (cf. John 16:13), sustain every genuine effort to build bridges of love and communion between us.”

 
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