The Armenian Apostolic Church called on its followers on Wednesday to gather at its main cathedral in Echmiadzin to greet Pope Francis at the start of his landmark visit to Armenia on June 24.
“The Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin invites its faithful to the Mother Cathedral at 15:35 on June 24 to participate in the official welcoming ceremony for Pope Francis, the Holy Bishop of Rome, which will be held upon his arrival,” read a statement posted on the church website late.
Worshippers will not need official invitations to attend the religious ceremony, it said.
Garegin (Karekin) II, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and President Serzh Sarkisian invited Francis to visit their country when they separately travelled to the Vatican in 2014. Both men also attended his papal inauguration in 2013, highlighting Armenia’s growing ties with the Roman Catholic Church.
The official logo of the three-day visit is clearly designed to symbolize that rapprochement. It is a round seal painted yellow and purple: the official flag colors of the Vatican and the Armenian Church respectively. The logo also displays the emblems of the two churches.
Francis will have a busy schedule during the upcoming trip. His planned engagements include a visit to the Armenian genocide memorial in Yerevan, an open-air mass for Armenian Catholics in Gyumri, and a joint ecumenical service with Garegin in Yerevan’s central Republic Square.
Francis has repeatedly paid tribute to some 1.5 million Armenians that were massacred or starved to death by the Ottoman Turks during the First World War. He described the massacres as “the first genocide of the 20th century” during an April 2015 mass at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.
Turkey accused the pontiff of distorting history and recalled its ambassador to the Vatican in protest. Armenia denounced the furious Turkish reaction.
The late Pope John Paul II recognized the Armenian genocide in a joint declaration with Garegin that was adopted during his 2001 visit to Armenia. Francis is also due to issue a joint declaration with Garegin.