President Serzh Sarkisian and Catholicos Garegin II, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, flew to the Vatican late on Monday to attend the inauguration of the new Pope Francis I.
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to gather in St. Peter’s Square and adjacent streets for a mass on Tuesday that will formally install the former Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Many foreign dignitaries will also be in attendance.
The Vatican said that although it did not issue invitations to representatives of world governments they are welcome to attend the ceremony. “There are no invitations. There are no privileges and no one is refused. While one country may have problems with someone else, we invite no one,” a Vatican spokesman said, according to Reuters.
In separate letters, Sarkisian and Garegin promptly congratulated Francis on being elected as Pope by a secret conclave last Wednesday. They expressed hope that the Catholic Church’s ties with Armenia will strengthen during his pontificate.
Both Garegin and Sarkisian met with Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, in the Vatican in 2008 and 2011 respectively.
The Armenian president is travelling to the Holy See less than two weeks after his government decided to open an embassy in the Vatican. The embassy will be headed by Mikael Minasian, his son-in-law and reputedly most influential adviser.