Pope Francis on Saturday urged young people in Armenia to be active peacemakers in a world suffering from persecutions and conflict. Speaking at an open air prayer service in Yerevan to leaders of all the Churches in Armenia, the Pope called on people of faith to abandon “rigid opinions and personal interests”, showing instead humility and generosity on the path towards full Christian unity.
During the prayer service for peace in Yerevan’s central Republic Square, the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, to which most believers in the country belong, Catholicos Karekin II spoke bluntly about the suffering and conflicts that plague the Caucasus region today. He recalled the fighting that flared again last April in the contested Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh where, he said, “Armenian villages were bombarded”, killing both soldiers and civilians.
The Patriarch also talked again about the Armenian genocide a century ago, noting how countries including Germany, an ally of Turkey during the First World War, have recently moved to recognize the atrocities as a key step towards peace and reconciliation in the region.
Pope Francis, in his words to the Christian leaders, also spoke of that “immense and senseless slaughter”, saying it is not only right, but also a duty to keep the memory of that tragedy alive. But memory, he insisted, must be transformed by love and by the driving force of faith to sow seeds of peace for the future. Memory, infused with love, he said, becomes capable of setting out on new and unexpected paths, where designs of hatred become projects of reconciliation
The Pope also spoke of the wars and conflicts in the Middle East today, fueled by the proliferation of weapons and by the arms trade. Adressing the young people present in the windswept square, he urged them to become peacemakers, “actively engaged in building a culture of encounter and reconciliation”.
Citing a famous 12th century Armenian figure, Catholicos Nerses IV, remembered as a champion of efforts towards church unity, Pope Francis said Christians must find the courage to abandon rigid opinions and personal interests in order to “heal memories and bind up past wounds”. He urged Armenians to work with humility and generosity for a peaceful society, based on dignified employment for all, care for those most in need and the elimination of corruption.
At the end of the prayer service, the Pope and the Patriarch watered seedlings of a vine planted by young Armenians in a model of Noah’s Ark, believed to have come to rest after the great flood on the slopes of Mount Ararat, whose snow capped peaks dominate the eastern part of the country.
Pope Francis will conclude his three day visit to Armenia today.
Source: Vatican Radio