By Emil Danielyan
Catholicos Garegin II left for the Vatican Tuesday on a four-day visit which his office said will “further strengthen brotherly relations and cooperation” between the Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic churches.
A statement by the office said Garegin will meet with Pope Benedict XVI and other senior Vatican officials. It will be Benedict’s first meeting with the top Armenian cleric in his capacity as head of the Catholic Church. The two pontiffs are scheduled to preside over a joint ecumenical service that will underscore growing ties between their churches.
The statement added that Garegin will also visit the Papal University in Rome and take part in a conference on Armenian Christian liturgy to be held in the Pontifical Oriental Institute.
The trip comes two months after Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, visited Armenia to meet with its political and religious leaders. A Vatican newspaper quoted Bertone as telling Garegin that the pope "joyfully awaits you in Rome to express in person his admiration for the extraordinary cultural and spiritual treasure that Armenians have given to humanity."
“The Cardinal expressed the complete support of the Catholic Church to the Armenian Church, for her efforts utilizing her high moral standing … so that the dignity of the Armenian people and state remain unharmed within international society,” Garegin and Bertone said in a joint communiqué.