VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope John Paul II paid tribute to the Christian roots of Armenia's history and culture on Saturday ahead of his upcoming trip to the former Soviet republic.
John Paul said he is preparing for his September 22-27 trip to Armenia and Kazakstan "with joy" and said he hoped the visits would improve ties with the Orthodox church.
The pontiff spoke at length of Armenia's history during a meeting with its new ambassador to the Holy See, Eduard Nalbandian, who presented his credentials to the pontiff Saturday.
“Your country has a long history - and a long Christian history,” John Paul told the ambassador. "The history of Armenia is marked by many sufferings, due in grand part to its geographic situation, confined by great powers ... but its cultural and religious identity always survived," he said.
He referred to the 1915 massacre of Armenians in Turkey, saying Armenia had achieved its independence after the “immense distresses at the start of the last century,culminating with the tragic events of 1915.”