Pope Francis laid a wreath and prayed at the Armenian genocide memorial in Yerevan on Saturday on the second day of his visit to Armenia.
The pontiff visited the Tsitsernakabert memorial together with President Serzh Sarkisian and Catholicos Garegin II, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
The three men walked towards the hilltop monument along an alleyway that was lined with schoolchildren wearing yellow and purple T-shirts symbolizing the colors of the Roman Catholic and Armenian church flags respectively.
Francis prayed silently for several minutes in front of his wreath placed by one of the monument’s 12 inward-bending columns before approaching its eternal fire to hold a joint prayer service with Garegin.
“Christ … hear us from your holy heavens, by the intercession of the holy Generatrix of God and by the prayer of your saints and those whom we remember today,” the Pope said during the 15-minute ceremony.
Francis then left a handwritten message in the guestbook of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute adjacent to the memorial. “May God preserve the memory of the Armenian people,” he wrote in Italian. “The memory cannot be stained or forgotten. The memory is a source of peace and future.”
Francis spoke afterwards with several descendants of survivors of the 1915 Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire. He gave cross necklaces to some of them.
Francis again described the slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide at the start of his trip to Armenia on Friday.
The Armenian Apostolic Church declared the genocide victims saints in April 2015 during official commemorations of the centenary of the genocide.