From left, Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, Pope Francis and Archbishop Mashalian

Catholicos Karekin II Meets with Pope Francis


VATICAN — Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II traveled to Rome this week to take part in a conference and ecumenical gathering, organized by the Roman Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio: the international association of lay Roman Catholics dedicated to social service.

The conference, titled “Popoli Fratelli, Terra Futura” (“Peoples as Brothers, Earth’s Future”) and subtitled “Religions and Cultures in Dialogue,” brought together religious leaders from around the world from October 6 through 8. Among the participants were Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

As the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin delivered the homily during the October 7 closing ceremony: an ecumenical prayer service at the Roman Colosseum. Catholicos Karekin II will also be part of a panel discussion earlier that same day, titled “Widening the Horizon, Rediscovering the Others.” Speaking on the same panel will be Noubar Afeyan, co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and chairman of the biotech company Moderna.

In a special gathering at the Vatican, Catholicos Karekin II met with Pope Francis to express thanks for the Pope’s support of the Armenian people and Armenia during last year’s Artsakh war. The Catholicos had started a pontifical visit to Rome last year, when news of the Azeri surprise attack broke. He cut short his meeting with Pope Francis on that occasion to return to Armenia to be among his people.

During this week’s meeting, the Catholicos described the terrible consequences of the 44-day war, the painful challenges facing Armenia and Artsakh in the war’s aftermath, and the ongoing issue of Azerbaijan’s unrelenting detention of Armenian prisoners of war and other captives.

Later, the Armenian Church delegation met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. In discussing the urgent need to ensure the preservation of Armenian spiritual and cultural monuments in territories currently under Azeri control, the Catholicos emphasized the critical need for international support of Armenia’s rights.

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Archbishop Sahak II Mashalian, the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, is also in Rome to attend the conference and ecumenical prayer service, and has taken part in the Vatican meetings with Catholicos Karekin II.

Accompanying Catholicos Karekin II as members of his delegation were Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Pontifical Legate of Western Europe; Bishop Tatev Hakobyan, Primate of the Romania; Bishop Moushegh Babayan, Grand Sacristan of the Mother See; Armenia’s Human Rights Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan; Fr. Karekin Hambardzumyan, of Echmiadzin’s Committee to Preserve the Spiritual-Cultural Heritage of Artsakh; and Fr. Anania Tsaturyan, staff-bearer to the catholicos.