THE MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS KAREKIN II, CATHOLICOS OF ALL ARMENIANS, DURING THE PRAYER OF PEACE, ON THE OCCASION OF THE VISIT OF THE PONTIFF OF ROME, POPE FRANCIS
(June 25, 2016 Yerevan, Republic Square)
“Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9)
Your Holiness, beloved brother in Christ,
Your Excellency, President of the Republic of Armenia,
Graceful spiritual brothers and dear faithful,
With the praise of the holy name of God Most High on our lips, today in the center of the capital Yerevan, under the blessed gaze of the biblical Mount Ararat, we have gathered together for a joint prayer. From the land of Noah from which God emanated the rainbow of peace, we raised our plea towards heaven together with Our beloved brother in Christ, Pope Francis, for establishment of peace in the world and for a secure and prosperous life. We reflect with emotion that praying with us in this square are also victims of wars, terrorism, and violence who are refugees from Azerbaijan as well as from Syria, and Iraq. With hope in God they wait for peaceful days to arrive in their native lands.
Indeed, one and a half decades ago we were greeting the third millennium with the hope that it would be the beginning of coexistence in solidarity among nations and good cooperation among countries for the sake of creating a peaceful and just world. Yet every day we hear troubling news of increased activities of war and acts of terror, unspeakable human suffering, and irreplaceable losses. Children, teenagers, women, and elderly in different corners of the world, of different nationalities, religions and confessions, become the victims of weapons of death and brutal violence, or they choose the path of refugees, overcoming inexplicable difficulties in order to find a haven of safety.
Exactly a century ago our nation was walking on this same path, finding herself in a grave situation, where because of the Armenian Genocide she had lost the majority of the homeland, and having one and a half million innocent martyrs, was fighting for the right of her existence. Today as well our nation lives under the difficult situation of an undeclared war, protecting peace within the borders of our country at a heavy price and the right of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to live in freedom in their maternal cradle. In response to our people’s peaceful aspirations, Azerbaijan violated the ceasefire and began military operations on the borders of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh in the month of April. Armenian villages were bombarded and destroyed, soldiers who were protecting the peace as well as school-aged children were killed and wounded, peaceful and unarmed civilians were tortured.
By confronting these difficulties our people also feel empathy, for the ruins and losses which are continuing in the Near East, for the acts of terror that have occurred in major European cities, in Russia, the United States, Asia and Africa, and for the religious and cultural heritages which are unsparingly being destroyed in the conflict zones. How many sacred sites were desecrated and valuable artifacts destroyed in Syria, Iraq, and in the countries of the East and Africa? How many cross stones were destroyed in Azerbaijan? Buried under the wreckage, pain of loss and need, are the values and emotions of human souls.
In such situations, the mission of the Christian churches and religious leaders cannot only be confined to helping the victims, consoling them, and giving pastoral care. More practical steps must be taken on the road to searching for peace by consolidating our efforts in preventing evil, by fostering the spirit of love, solidarity and cooperation in the societies through ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, according to God’s command, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Your Holiness, it is evident that your pastoral service is truly reflecting your wholehearted dedication to the God-bestowed commandment of peace in the world and reconciliation among nations. One of the testimonies of this was your solemn mass, celebrated last year in the Basilica of St. Peter on the occasion of the centenary of the Armenian Genocide in memory of our innocent victims, when in your message you voiced the urgency of reestablishment of justice and stated; “Concealing and denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it!”
Led by the same principle, in the last year new countries and organizations, once and for all condemned the Armenian Genocide, including Germany which was an ally of Turkey during the First World War, who in recent days recognized the Genocide committed against the Armenians.
Our people are grateful to Your Holiness and to all who advocate for and protect justice, and anticipate that Turkey, following Your message and the plea of many countries as well as international institutions, will demonstrate enough bravery to face their history, to end the illegal blockade of Armenia and to cease from supporting Azerbaijan’s militaristic provocations targeted against the right of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to live in freedom and peace.
Indeed, peace cannot be realized without justice, human lives cannot become the subject of speculations and cannot be neglected. As the apostle says, “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34-35). Only justice that is rooted in the protection of rights of individuals and nations, can become a strong foundation for prevention of crimes committed against humanity, and the most successful path towards comprehensive conflict resolution.
It is with an eager heart that we beseech God for the realization of this objective, so that He may hear our prayers and by abundantly pouring the graces of the Holy Spirit, He may crown the brotherly love and cooperation of the Churches with fruitful results. May our merciful Lord cleanse the world from the tragedies of evil and grant peace and protection, and as the prophetic words state, they shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4).
Having in our hearts the spiritual joy of our meeting, which is grated to us by our benevolent God, we beseech our Lord and Savior for His grace and peace for us all, and invite You, Our beloved Brother in Christ, to deliver Your message and convey Your abundant blessings to the thousands of faithful gathered here.