By Vito Nicastro
On April 23, in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, an historic event took place. There have been ecumenical services commemorating the Armenian Genocide before and that is good; this one was unique in the way we brought the message of the Holy Father Pope Francis to the Armenian people to life on the local level here in Boston. It was also a welcoming, an opening of our church, our house, to our Armenian brothers and sisters in Christ.
In the service, we acknowledged the vast and fruitful spiritual life of the Armenian people, first nation to become Christian in 301 A.D: over seventeen centuries of faithful witness; fidelity in the face of every sort of invasion and persecution; your saints, martyrs, monks, nuns, clergy, faithful, churches, monasteries, liturgy, hymnody, traditions, devotions, arts, and spirituality; St. Gregory the Illuminator, key to converting a nation; the alphabet invented by St. Mesrob to disseminate the Good News; the Church’s corporal works of mercy set up by St. Nerses the Great; St Gregory of Narek, newest doctor of the Church; their history and influence on other countries throughout the world; an entire civilization that has grown up in the light of the Gospel. We revered their beautiful Christian heritage, adorned by God with spiritual treasures for all the Christian world: “a treasury from which” we in the Western Church have “drawn extensively- in liturgical practice, spiritual tradition, and law (Unitatis Redintigratio, 14).” Their tradition is given to enrich us all, and the light which St. Gregory the Illuminator sparked- the light of Christ- is the same light we all gather around. We all desire to gather closer to Him, as we gathered around the Easter Candle which symbolized the Light of Christ.
Another part of our desire to complete the real though imperfect unity we share already is that Christ in us recognizes Christ in our Armenian Christian brothers and sisters. Light calls to light. Christian unity is a mandate based upon the nature of that light, the nature of God, as ontologically One. This is why when Pope St. John Paul II wanted to celebrate the Eucharist for the Catholics in Armenia His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II invited him “with a brother’s love” to do it on the altar of Holy Echmiadzin (Sept. 27, 2001). This is why the Holy Father Pope Francis plans to visit Armenia this June.