VATICAN CITY, 6 MAY 2008 (VIS) - His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, will make an official visit to the Church of Rome and to the Holy Father from 6 to 9 May.

According to a communique released by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the patriarch will be accompanied by 18 bishops of the Catholicosate of all Armenians and by a group of 75 Armenian Apostolic faithful, from Armenia and other countries in east and west. They will participate in the main events of the visit.

Karekin II, who was elected as the 132nd Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians in October 1999, is due to arrive in Rome this evening.

Tomorrow, 7 May, having prayed at the tomb of St. Peter and visited the statue of St. Gregory the Illuminator, patron saint of Armenia, which is located in the north patio of the Vatican Basilica, the Pope will welcome him at the beginning of the general audience in St. Peter's Square. In the afternoon, the Catholicos is to receive a doctorate "honoris causa" in "the theology of youth pastoral care" from the Pontifical Salesian University.

On Thursday 8 May, the Patriarch will visit the Pontifical Armenian College and, during the afternoon, participate in an academic congress being held at the Pontifical Oriental Institute on "holy sacrifice in the Armenian tradition".

On the morning of Friday 9 May, His Holiness Karekin II and his entourage will visit the offices of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, after which Benedict XVI will receive the Catholicos in the Vatican Apostolic Palace. Following a private meeting between the two, the Pope will also receive the bishops accompanying the Patriarch. A celebration of the Word is due to take place, jointly presided by the Pope and Karekin II, at which the Armenian Apostolic faithful of the Patriarch's entourage will also participate.

On the evening of 9 May, the Catholicos and his entourage will participate in the celebration of Vespers at the papal basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the- Walls, the final event of the Patriarch's visit to Rome.

In November 2000, scarcely a year after his election, His Holiness Karekin II visited the Church of Rome and John Paul II. During that visit the Pope and the Patriarch presided at a Liturgy of the Word in the Vatican Basilica during which John Paul II gave the Catholicos a relic of St. Gregory the Illuminator which had been conserved for many years at the Convent of St. Gregory the Armenian in Naples, Italy.

In September 2001, John Paul II made a visit to Armenia and to the See of Etchmiadzin where the Catholicos resides. The Patriarch also came to Rome for the Polish Pontiff's funeral on 8 April 2005.

The communique concludes by explaining that, on the occasions of the various meetings between Bishops of Rome and the Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church, joint declarations have been signed on questions of great ecumenical importance in the historical, theological and pastoral fields.



You were transfigured on the mountain, O Christ God, * showing Your glory to Your Disciples as far as they were able to bear it. * Through the prayers of the Mother of God, * let Your everlasting Light shine also upon us sinners. * O Giver of Light, glory to You! (Troparion, Tone 7)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Upon the mountain You were transfigured, O Christ God, * and Your Disciples beheld Your glory as far as they could receive it, * so that when they would see You crucified, * they would understand that You suffered willingly; * and they would preach to the world * that You are truly the radiance of the Father. (Kontakion, Tone 7)