By Emil DanielyanThe Armenian Apostolic Church issued on Tuesday another condemnation of the weekend bomb attacks on Iraqi Christians, with Catholicos Garegin II expressing his “solidarity” with the Roman Catholic Church in a letter to Pope John Paul II.
At least eleven people were killed and more than 50 others injured in a clearly coordinated series of explosions outside five churches in Baghdad and the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. One of the attacked Baghdad churches belongs to the Armenian Catholic Church subordinated to the Vatican.
“We regret that certain extremist elements wish to imperil the centuries-old friendship and peaceful co-existence of the Christian and Islamic peoples of the East, and address Our prayers to God so that the love of our Lord Jesus Christ settles in people’s souls and that violence and war are obliterated around the world,” Garegin said in the letter, according to the Armenian Church headquarters in Echmiadzin.
Garegin’s office said a similar message was sent to Patriarch Nerses Petros Tarmuni, the spiritual leader of the Armenian Catholics living in Armenia and major Diaspora communities around the world.
Sunday’s church bombings, blamed by Iraq’s interim government on the Al-Qaeda terror network, have been denounced around the world. Christian and Muslim leaders in the Middle East say they were aimed at driving a wedge between the two religious communities.
"Neither Islam nor Christianity will accept violence as a way to solve problems," the Beirut-based Catholicos Aram I, the number two figure in the Armenian church hierarchy, said in a statement. He urged the Iraqi government to ensure the security and well-being of “all the citizens.”
The government of Armenia also joined in the chorus of condemnations, with President Robert Kocharian expressing through a spokesman “deep concern over the terrorist act.” “The Armenian Diaspora, with its history of many centuries, has been and remains an inalienable part of the Iraqi people,” the spokesman said, according to the Associated Press.
There are an estimated 20,000 Armenians living in Iraq. Most of them are affiliated with the independent Apostolic Church.
Garegin’s letter to the Pope underscored a close relationship forged by the Armenian church and the Vatican since the collapse of Communism. In September 2001 John Paul became the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to ever visit Armenia. The trip was timed to coincide with the 1700th anniversary of the Armenians’ adoption of Christianity as a state religion.
The pontiff paid tribute at the time to “the glorious history of Christianity” in the country, saying that “martyrdom has been the special mark of the Armenian Church and the Armenian people.”
(Photolur archive: John Paul II accompanied by Garegin II during the visit to Armenia.)