Armenian Assembly of America Reflects on Pope Francis’ Trip to Armenia
Updated: Jul 1, 2021
Pope Francis Prays for Armenian Genocide Victims
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Reflecting on the meaning of Pope Francis’ historic visit to Armenia, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) expressed its gratitude for the Pope’s prayers in memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide and welcomed his appeal for peace and reconciliation. The Armenian Assembly delegation led by Anthony Barsamian, Assembly Board of Trustees Co-Chair and Massachusetts Council of Churches President, attended the events organized for Pope Francis this past weekend.
“The holy father’s pilgrimage to Armenia was transformative for the people of Armenia and for each of us. At a time when Armenia’s and Karabakh’s security is at risk from aggression, Pope Francis calling for peace and reconciliation among neighboring nations with full genocide recognition is an inspiration for us all,” Barsamian said.
To hear more about Barsamian’s views on the Pope’s visit to Armenia, click here to watch his interview with the Eurasia Partnership Foundation.
Armenian Assembly of America Regional Director Arpi Vartanian and Board of Trustees Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian at the Ecumenical Encounter and Prayer for Peace in Yerevan’s Republic Square on June 25.
The Pope’s unprecedented trip from June 24-26 follows his historic statement last year affirming the Armenian Genocide, saying that “concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.” Barsamian attended Pope Francis’ Divine Mercy Sunday Mass at the Vatican in 2015, marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and condemning the actions that led to the genocide.
“The sufferings of the Armenians are our own, they are the sufferings of the members of Christ’s Mystical Body,” Pope Francis tweeted while in Armenia. “May the Armenian Church walk in peace and may the communion between us be complete,” he added.
The Pope’s comments and prayers of unity throughout the weekend echoed the motto of the trip: “Visit to the First Christian Nation."
During a reception in honor of His Holiness Pope Francis at the Presidential Palace, Pope Francis restated his condemnation of the Armenian Genocide. "The [solemn celebration in Saint Peter’s Basilica] was the commemoration of the centenary of the Metz Yeghern, the ‘Great Evil’ that struck your people and caused the death of a vast multitude of persons. Sadly, that tragedy, that genocide, was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century, made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims that darkened the minds of the tormentors even to the point of planning the annihilation of entire peoples,” Pope Francis said in his speech. “It’s so sad how, in this case and in the other two, the great international powers looked the other way."
His Holinesses Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II next to President Serzh Sargsyan praying at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Armenia on June 25.
Pope Francis visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial, paying homage to "the many victims of hatred who suffered and gave their lives for the faith.” Pope Francis spoke of that “immense and senseless slaughter,” calling it a duty to keep the memory of that tragedy alive. In 2001, Pope John Paul II also visited the Genocide Memorial and offered his own acknowledgment of the genocide, praying for the victims. The Vatican has a long history responding to the Armenian Genocide dating back to 1915. Joining a group of descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors, whom Pope Pius XI gave refuge at the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo, Pope Francis offered an intercessory prayer and extensive silent prayer for the victims. After the service, Pope Francis blessed and watered a tree in remembrance of his visit to the memorial.
A joint declaration signed at the end of the trip by Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II recalled “the extermination of a million and a half Armenian Christians, in what is generally referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century.” In a misinformed statement by the Deputy Prime Minister, the Turkish Government accused His Holiness of a ‘crusader mentality’ for reminding the faithful about the human costs of the Armenian Genocide. Reflective of its hard line policies, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs added that “Pope Francis’s trip to Armenia did not make any contribution to peace and stability in Southern Caucasus.” The Vatican disregarded these statements, and responded that the Pontiff never used the word genocide “with an offensive spirit, but objectively."
On his last day in Armenia, Pope Francis released a dove from Armenia towards Turkey near the border at Khor Virap, hoping this will be the beginning of peaceful relations between the two nations.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a 501©(3) tax-exempt membership organization.