By Emil Danielyan
Armenia’s political and spiritual leaders lavished praise on the Roman Catholic Church and emphasized their desire to deepen ties with the latter as they received the Vatican’s foreign minister over the weekend.
Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Holy See’s secretary for relations with states, met with President Robert Kocharian, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and Catholicos Garegin II as part of his two-day official visit.
According to official sources, the two sides discussed ways of further developing bilateral cooperation, with Kocharian welcoming the recent years’ rapprochement between the Catholic and Armenian Apostolic churches. “The president of Armenia highly assessed the Vatican’s role not only as a spiritual center, but also as a defender of human rights and moral norms and as a supporter of peace and stability around the world,” Kocharian’s press service said.
Oskanian echoed the praise, pointing to the Vatican’s role in the “dialogue of global religions and cultures.” A Foreign Ministry statement also quoted him as saying that the world’s largest and most powerful Christian denomination is fostering Armenia’s integration into European organizations.
The tone of the comments underlined the importance attached by official Yerevan to relations with the Vatican that have improved markedly since the two churches resolved in 1996 a long-running theological dispute that had for centuries fueled mutual mistrust. The rapprochement culminated in the September 2001 visit to Armenia by Pope John Paul II.
The trip was timed to coincide with official celebrations of the 1700th anniversary of Armenia’s conversion into Christianity. The Pope paid tribute to “the glorious history of Christianity” in the country that was the first to embrace it as a state religion.
Meeting with Tauran in his Echmiadzin residence on Sunday, Garegin said the Armenian and Catholic churches now enjoy “brotherly relations and mutual trust.” “His Holiness expressed confidence that they will continue and bring positive results to the members of the two churches,” the Catholicos’s press service said.
The Vatican official was also reported to discuss international and regional affairs with the Armenian leaders. Oskanian, in particular, briefed him on the current state of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and “expected developments” in the international efforts to resolve it.