The two-day International Meeting for Peace concluded on Thursday with an ecumenical prayer for peace at Rome’s Colosseum. Francis, Garegin and representatives of other Christian denominations also observed a minute of silence in memory of the victims of all wars.
“Let us unambiguously urge that arms be set aside and military spending reduced, in order to provide for humanitarian needs, and that instruments of death be turned into instruments of life,” Francis said in his address at the event reported by the Vatican news service.
Garegin spoke at the conference organized by the St. Egidio Community, a lay Catholic association, earlier on Thursday.
Meeting with Francis on Wednesday, Garegin focused on the aftermath of last year’s Armenian-Azerbaijani war. A statement by his office said he touched upon “current challenges facing Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh” and stressed the need for the release of dozens of Armenian soldiers and civilians still held by Azerbaijan.
“The Armenian Pontiff also expressed his gratitude to His Holiness Pope Francis for the support to the Armenian people and Armenia during the war,” added the statement.
It said Francis greeted after the conversation members of an Armenian delegation accompanying Garegin. They included Arman Tatoyan, Armenia’s human rights ombudsman.
Tatoyan said afterwards that he handed the pontiff copies of his offices’ reports on what he called Azerbaijani atrocities committed during and after the six-week war.
The delegation headed also held a separate meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state. Garegin’s office said they discussed “issues related to the security of the people of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), the encroachments on the sovereign territories of Armenia as well as the preservation of the Armenian spiritual and cultural heritage in the territories under the control of Azerbaijan.”
Francis saluted Armenia for making Christianity an “essential part of its identity” when he visited the South Caucasus nation in June 2016. He and Garegin held an ecumenical liturgy in Yerevan’s central square which attracted thousands of people. The two religious leaders praised the “growing closeness” between their churches in a joint declaration issued at the end of the papal trip.
While in Armenia, Francis also reaffirmed his recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey, prompting a strong condemnation from Ankara.