CWN - June 25 was the second day of Pope Francis’s three-day apostolic journey to Armenia, a nation described as the world’s first Christian nation because of its acceptance of the Christian faith in the early fourth century.
Today, 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.
Pope Francis began his schedule of public events on June 25 with a visit to Tsitsernakaberd, the Armenian Genocide memorial. There, he prayed in silence, laid down a wreath, and met with descendants of Armenian refugees housed by Pope Pius XI in the Apostolic Palace in the 1920s.
The Pope then flew to Gyumri, Armenia’s second-largest city, and celebrated an outdoor Mass. During his homily, he described memory, faith, and merciful love as “three stable foundations upon which we can tirelessly build and rebuild the Christian life” and paid tribute to St. Gregory of Narek, the Armenian doctor of the Church, as “a great herald of divine mercy.”
After visiting the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic cathedrals in Gyumri, the Pope flew back to Yerevan, the nation’s capital and largest city, where he took part in an evening ecumenical prayer vigil for peace.
“With great joy, we are walking together on a journey that has already taken us far, and we look confidently towards the day when by God’s help we shall be united around the altar of Christ’s sacrifice in the fullness of Eucharistic communion,” Pope Francis said in his address. “As we pursue that greatly desired goal, we are joined in a common pilgrimage; we walk with one another with sincere trust in our fellow pilgrims, putting aside all suspicion and mistrust.”