Pope Francis started his visit to Armenia
Pope Francis prayed in the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Holy Etchmiadzin on Friday upon arrival in the country on his 14th Apostolic Journey, along with His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch-Catholicos of All the Armenians, and a select group of around 100 other dignitaries, Vatican Radio informs.
Pope Francis and His Holiness Karekin II exchanged a sign of peace and prayed Psalm 122 together at the high altar.
In remarks prepared for the occasion, Pope Francis thanked God for "the light of faith kindled in your land, the faith that has given Armenia its particular identity and made it a herald of Christ among the nations".
He said faith prompted Armenia to become the first nation to accept Christianity as its religion in the year 301, as persecutions under the Emperor Diocletian still raged throughout the Roman Empire.
"For Armenia, faith in Christ has not been like a garment to be donned or doffed as circumstances or convenience dictate, but an essential part of its identity, a gift of immense significance, to be accepted with joy, preserved with great effort and strength, even at the cost of life itself."
The Holy Father also thanked God for "the journey that the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church have undertaken through sincere and fraternal dialogue for the sake of coming to share fully in the Eucharistic banquet".
Despite the advance in ecumenical union, Pope Francis noted the conflicts and division which mark our world and which require a solid, shared Christian witness.
"Tragically, our world is marked by divisions and conflicts, as well as by grave forms of material and spiritual poverty, including the exploitation of persons, not least children and the elderly. It expects from Christians a witness of mutual esteem and fraternal cooperation capable of revealing to every conscience the power and truth of Christ’s resurrection."
He also said the spirit of ecumenism both encourages dialogue and "also prevents the exploitation and manipulation of faith, for it requires us to rediscover faith’s authentic roots, and to communicate, defend and spread truth with respect for the dignity of every human being and in ways that reveal the presence of the love and salvation we wish to spread".
The Holy Father concluded his address asking God to bless all Armenians and preserve them in the faith received from their ancestors.
"May Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Saint Gregory the Illuminator, 'pillar of light for the Holy Church of the Armenians', and Saint Gregory of Narek, Doctor of the Church, bless all of you and the entire Armenian nation."
During his visit to Armenia Pope Francis will be in Yerevan, Etchmiadzin, Gyumri and will visit ancient monastery Khor Virap.