The Armenian Apostolic Church has described as “warm and brotherly” its relationship with the Vatican following Pope Francis’s landmark visit to Armenia.
The state-backed church’s Supreme Spiritual Council headed by Catholicos Garegin II met at his headquarters in Echmiadzin on Tuesday, two days after Francis wrapped up the three-day trip.
The council comprising high-ranking Armenian clergymen from Armenia and its worldwide Diaspora discussed the papal visit and its results during the meeting that lasted for three days.
“Members of the Council noted with joy that Pope Francis’s three-day visit to Armenia was the best indication of warm and brotherly relations and partnership existing between the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic Churches,” Garegin’s office said in a statement released on Thursday evening.
Francis celebrated a Catholic mass in Gyumri, addressed an Armenian Apostolic liturgy in Echmiadzin and held a joint ecumenical service with Garegin in Yerevan’s largest square during the visit. The pontiff also reaffirmed his public recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey.
The rapprochement between the two churches gained momentum in 1996 when they essentially ended their long-standing theological differences. In 2001, John Paull II became the first Pope to have ever visited Armenia.
Successive Armenian governments have also sought closer ties with the Vatican. President Serzh Sarkisian, whose influential son-in-law is Armenia’s ambassador to the Holy See, attended most of Francis’s engagements in Armenia.
Francis and Garegin praised the “growing closeness” between the two Christian denominations in a joint declaration issued at the end of the pontiff’s visit on June 26. “Today we are convinced of the crucial importance of furthering this relationship, engaging in deeper and more decisive collaboration not only in the area of theology, but also in prayer and active cooperation on the level of the local communities,” they said.
Francis made a case for an eventual union between the two churches when he spoke at the Echmiadzin mass earlier on Sunday. He said it “must not be the submission of one to the other or assimilation.”