The statue of St. Gregory of Narek

New Statue of St. Gregory of Narek Unveiled in Vatican Gardens

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VATICAN CITY (Combined Sources) — Pope Francis on Thursday, April 5, consecrated the bronze statue of Saint Gregory of Narek (Grigor Narekatsi), a 10th-century poet and monk.

The historic event was attended by President Serzh Sargsyan, Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II and Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I as well as the head of the Armenian Catholic Church Krikor Bedros XX Gabroyan.

From left, Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, President Serzh Sargsyan, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I and the head of the Armenian Catholic Church Krikor Bedros XX Gabroyan

For the first time in history, all three Armenian Church leaders were gathered together with the Roman Pontiff. It is something that Pope Francis prayed for in 2015.

The bronze statue, designed by David Yerevantsi, was forged in the Czech Republic under the joint sponsorship of Mikael Minasyan, Armenia’s ambassador to the Holy See, and Artur Janibekyan, the director of Gazprom Media Holding (Moscow).

In an interview with the Vatican News on Wednesday, Minasyan said, “The idea to erect the statue of Saint Gregory of Narek in the gardens of Vatican stands as a symbol of fraternity between the two churches and all the Christians, particularly those in the Middle East.”

Gregory of Narek was a 10th-century monk, poet and mystical writer and composer. His best-known literary work is a book of prayers, known as the Book of Lamentations. It is considered a masterpiece of Armenian literature. St. Gregory himself defined the work as an “encyclopedia of prayer for all nations.” He voiced hope that his book would provide guidance in prayer for people of all walks of life in order to reach God.

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The groundwork for the ceremony was laid by Pope Francis on April 12, 2015 when he celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica marking the centenary of the genocide of a million and a half Armenians whom the Pope referred to as martyrs. “A century has passed since that horrific massacre which was a true martyrdom of your people, in which many innocent people died as confessors and martyrs for the name of Christ,” Pope Francis said on that occasion.

During that same liturgy, Pope Francis elevated St. Gregory of Narek to the rank of a Doctor of the Universal Church. The Pope characterized St. Gregory as a monk who “knew how to express the sentiments of your people more than anyone,” and who, as “an extraordinary interpreter of the human soul, offers words which are prophetic for us.”

From left, the head of the Armenian Catholic Church Krikor Bedros XX Gabroyan, Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, Pope Francis and Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I

Later in June 2016, he visited Armenia. Calling the genocide “the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century,” Pope Francis praised the faith of the Armenian people, “who, illuminated by the light of the Gospel, even at the most tragic moments of their history, have always found in the cross and resurrection of Christ the strength to rise again and take up their journey anew with dignity.”

A copy of the same statue is currently in production and will be placed in the gardens of the Cathedral of Echmiadzin where an inauguration ceremony will be held at the end of 2018.

In the relations of the two churches an important event was the visit of Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II to Vatican on December 10, 1996 during which the catholicos met with Pope John Paul II. A joint statement was signed based on the visit results which called on the clergymen of the two churches “to more actively and effectively develop the cooperation, become agents for solidarity, peace and justice” and etc.

On November 9, 2000 John Paul II and Karekin II signed a joint statement according to which Vatican recognized the Armenian Genocide. The document in particular says: “The 20th century was market by an extreme cruelty. The Armenian Genocide in the beginning of the century was the prelude for future horrors: two world wars, countless regional conflicts and deliberately organized massacres that claimed lives of millions of believers.”

The Armenia-Vatican relations entered qualitatively new stage by the visit of Pope John Paul II’s delegation to Armenia on September 25-27, 2001. The visit took place at the invitation of former Armenian President Robert Kocharyan and Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II.

The Vatican issued series of postage stamps on November 23, 2017 dedicated to Pope Francis’ 2016 visits. Among the stamps there was one dedicated to the Pope’s visit to Armenia in 2016. Pope Francis is depicted on the stamp, and behind him is the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial.

Pope Francis and President Serzh Sargsyan greet each other.

Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan had an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican on April 6. Sargsyan expressed gratitude for the Pope’s decision to erect the statue of 10th century Armenian monk Gregory of Narek in the heart of Vatican.

The President and the Pontiff then exchanged gifts. Sargsyan donated a silver model of the Armenian St. Gayane Church to the Pope.

Pope Francis, in turn, presented a marble copy of the sculpture of the Holy Family kept in the Vatican Museum, as well as the copies of his most recent three books.

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