Ecumenism to be a central focus of Pope's Armenia visit

2016-06-24 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis arrives in the Armenian capital Yerevan on Friday afternoon for his 14th foreign pastoral visit. He’ll be spending three days in the country, travelling to the nearby town of Etchmiadzin, seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church, as well as to the northern city of Gyumri and to the famous Khor Virap monastery on the border with Turkey.

Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as the state religion at the beginning of the fourth century and the great majority of people in the country today belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church which is part of the Oriental Orthodox family.

Relations with other Christian communities, including the small Armenian Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches, are very good and Pope Francis will be focusing on the importance of ecumenical dialogue and action at a prayer service on Saturday in Yerevan’s Republic Square.

To find out more, Philippa Hitchen spoke to Fr John Barker who heads the tiny Anglican community in Armenia and represents the Archbishop of Canterbury for relations with the Armenian Apostolic Church….

Listen: 

Fr John says there is an impressive level of warmth, agreement and mutual understanding in Armenia between all the different Churches.

He says the people have a dual hope for this papal visit: firstly that the memory of the genocide, a century ago, will be brought back into the public eye. But “just as importantly” he says, there is a hope that “it will show again that we have the potential to speak as one Christian voice, irrespective of whether we come from an Apostolic, a Catholic or an Anglican background.

The Armenian Church today, he continues, have a “very significant voice” in public life, since around 95% of people are members of the Church and around half of those practice their faith on a regular basis. 

(from Vatican Radio)