A Reception in honor of His Holiness Pope Francis took place today at the Presidential Palace which was also attended by the RA authorities, representatives of the Armenian society, and diplomatic corps accredited in Armenia.

At the reception, President Serzh Sargsyan and His Holiness Pope Francis made statements.


Speech օf the President of the Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan
at the meeting of His Holiness Pope Francis with the representatives of the Armenian authorities, public and diplomatic corps accredited in Yerevan

Your Holiness,
Dear Guests,
What a special day the Lord has made for us.

It is an immense honor for our people and me personally to welcome the leader of the Catholic World, His Holiness Pope Francis on the Armenian soil, which was the first to adopt Christianity as a state religion and withstood sufferings through millennia for the Christian identity and values.

Your Holiness,

Your visit was long-awaited in our country. With Your dedication to humanitarian ideas and the universal values of love, peace, and kindness, and with your constant care for matters of concern to the Armenians, You enjoy the great respect and admiration of the Armenian people.

Thank you for gracing us all with this warm historic moment. Thank you for bringing blessing, happiness, and peace to our nation with your presence, for filling our homes and hearts with warmth. Approving the official motto of your visit as a “Visit to the First Christian Nation” and characterizing the trip as a “pilgrimage” by Your Holiness, bears testament to the care Your Holiness has towards our country and our people. It equally attests to the unique bond between the Roman Catholic Church and Armenian Apostolic Church. For this, we are thankful and grateful to you.

Distinguished Guests,

15 years ago, in 2001, the visit to Armenia of His Holiness Pope John Paul II was on the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of declaring Christianity as the state religion in our country. Today, this historic visit of Pope Francis signifies another key anniversary—the 25th anniversary of restoring independent Armenian statehood—a cherished celebration for every Armenian.

Throughout the voyage of our millennia-long history, the Armenian people have faced many hardships — from Genocide and foreign oppression to indifference of friends and denial. It faced but never lost the ability to believe in the ideals of humanity, tolerance, and solidarity. It never lost owing to the faith, the values, the peace-loving nature, and for the great humanists who extended a helping hand.

One cannot but believe in the Triumph of Justice when in 100 years, a timeframe that divides 1915 from 2015, the message of justice is being conveyed to the mankind from the heart of the Catholic World heralding that the first of the mass atrocities having affected the humanity, the Armenian Genocide, is a historical fact and an undeniable reality; when notwithstanding all circumstances falsification and denial start to shake in the face of historic justice. This was testified by the new wave of recognition of the Armenian genocide that followed the Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

We don’t look for culprits. We don’t spread accusations. We simply want things to be called by their names, as it will allow two neighboring peoples to move towards genuine reconciliation and a shared prosperous future by recognizing the past and embracing forgiveness and a clean conscience.

Your Holiness,
Dear Guests,

The Armenian people's decision to declare Christianity as a state religion in 301 was indeed a key event in world history. However, it went beyond defining the destiny of the Armenian people: the Christian Faith became the hallmark of the Armenian identity, predetermining our historical course and the values and culture that steered us to the 21st century, to the present, to this historic moment.

Christianity is deeply-rooted into the Armenian soil and Armenian souls. To remain faithful to Christianity this is a key characteristic of the Armenian people. There is a reason why Armenian churches and cross-stones can be found virtually any country of the world. There is a reason why Saint Gregory of Narek, a bright child of the Armenian people, was declared Doctor of the Universal Church, the highest title of the Catholic Church, joining the 36 greatest thinkers in Christianity. It is an honor, a milestone in the appreciation of the nation, which reaffirmed the same-source Christian value system underlying the bonds between Armenia and the Holy See.

Christianity is more than a religion for us. It is a lifestyle, one that instilled in the Armenian people the desire to live in peace and the philosophy of overcoming difficulties with dignity. The more Christian we became, the more we respected and appreciated the faith of others, the more tolerant and peace-loving we became, capable of coexisting peacefully with other peoples and taking even better care of the spiritual-cultural legacy of others on our land.

Examples of inter-religious friendship are numerous. Cooperation between the Republic of Armenia and the Islamic Republic of Iran is a case in point. Or, in the Middle East, until the unfavorable developments of the recent past, the presence of peaceful and prosperous Armenian communities and their harmonious coexistence with the host nations and national and religious minorities. We are watching with great sorrow the practices of vandalism and xenophobia in the Middle East, the only aim of which is the deletion of historical memory from those areas through a cultural massacre.

Your Holiness,

As you rightly noted in your address on 12 April, the peoples of this complicated region of ours need peace, referring to the peoples that, in the past, despite their differences and pressure, enjoyed extensive periods of peaceful life and even helped one another in times of hardship.

Today, Armenia still aspires for peace. In any event, we prefer peaceful negotiation to shooting. We are ready for peaceful regional coexistence, as hard as the road to peace may be. It is perhaps because durable peace is based upon the idea of people's freedom and free expression of will.

Your Holiness,

“Peace is both God's gift and a human achievement.” I agree completely. I believe in human achievements, in the ones who maintain peace at the price of their lives every second, in the ones that compel peace.

I am an optimist: I believe that humanity’s dreams of freedom and peace, cherished for centuries, will become reality one day.

Welcome to the First Christian Nation.



Speech օf His Holiness Pope Francis at the meeting with the representatives of the Armenian authorities, public and diplomatic corps accredited in Yerevan

Mr President,
Honourable Authorities,
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It gives me great joy to be here, to set foot on the soil of this beloved land of Armenia, to visit a people of ancient and rich traditions, a people that has given courageous testimony to its faith and suffered greatly, yet has shown itself capable of constantly being reborn.

“Our turquoise sky, our clear waters, the flood of light, the summer sun and the proud winter borealis… our age-old stones … our ancient etched books which have become a prayer” (ELISE CIARENZ, Ode to Armenia). These are among the powerful images that one of your illustrious poets offers us to illustrate the rich history and natural beauty of Armenia. They sum up the rich legacy and the glorious yet dramatic experience of a people and their deep-seated love of their country.

I am most grateful to you, Mr President, for your kind words of welcome in the name of the government and people of Armenia, and for your gracious invitation that has made it possible to reciprocate the visit you made to the Vatican last year. There you attended the solemn celebration in Saint Peter’s Basilica, together with Their Holinesses Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch-Catholicos of All Armenians, and Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, and His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, recently deceased. The occasion was the commemoration of the centenary of the Metz Yeghérn, 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.

I pay homage to the Armenian people who, illuminated by the light of the Gospel, even at the most tragic moments of their history, have always found in the cross and resurrection of Christ the strength to rise again and take up their journey anew with dignity. This shows the depth of their Christian faith and its boundless treasures of consolation and hope. Having seen the pernicious effects to which hatred, prejudice and the untrammelled desire for dominion led in the last century, I express my lively hope that humanity will learn from those tragic experiences the need to act with responsibility and wisdom to avoid the danger of a return to such horrors. May all join in striving to ensure that whenever conflicts emerge between nations, dialogue, the enduring and authentic quest of peace, cooperation between states and the constant commitment of international organizations will always prevail, with the aim of creating a climate of trust favourable for the achievement of lasting agreements.

The Catholic Church wishes to cooperate actively with all those who have at heart the future of civilization and respect for the rights of the human person, so that spiritual values will prevail in our world and those who befoul their meaning and beauty will be exposed as such. In this regard, it is vitally important that all those who declare their faith in God join forces to isolate those who use religion to promote war, oppression and violent persecution, exploiting and manipulating the holy name of God.

Today Christians in particular, perhaps even more than at the time of the first martyrs, in some places experience discrimination and persecution for the mere fact of professing their faith. At the same time, all too many conflicts in various parts of the world remain unresolved, causing grief, destruction and forced migrations of entire peoples. It is essential that those responsible for the future of the nations undertake courageously and without delay initiatives aimed at ending these sufferings, making their primary goal the quest for peace, the defence and acceptance of victims of aggression and persecution, the promotion of justice and sustainable development. The Armenian people have experienced these situations firsthand; they have known suffering and pain; they have known persecution; they preserved not only the memory of past hurts, but also the spirit that has enabled them always to start over again. I encourage you not to fail to make your own precious contribution to the international community.

This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Armenia’s independence. It is a joyful occasion, but also an opportunity, in cherishing the goals already achieved, to propose new ones for the future. The celebration of this happy anniversary will be all the more significant if it becomes for all Armenians, both at home and in the diaspora, a special moment for gathering and coordinating energies for the sake of promoting the country’s civil and social development of the country, one that is equitable and inclusive. This will involve constant concern for ensuring respect for the moral imperatives of equal justice for all and solidarity with the less fortunate (cf. JOHN PAUL II, Farewell Address from Armenia, 27 September 2001: Insegnamenti XXIX/2 [2001], 489). The history of your country runs parallel to its Christian identity preserved over the centuries. That identity, far from impeding a healthy secularity of the state, instead requires and nourishes it, favouring the full participation of all in the life of society, freedom of religion and respect for minorities. A spirit of unity between all Armenians and a growing commitment to find helpful means of overcoming tension with neighbouring countries, will facilitate the realization of these important goals, and inaugurate for Armenia an age of true rebirth.

The Catholic Church is present in this country with limited human resources, yet readily offers her contribution to the development of society, particularly through her work with the poor and vulnerable in the areas of healthcare and education, but also in the specific area of charitable assistance. This is seen in the work carried out in the past twenty-five years by the Redemptoris Mater Hospital in Ashotzk, the educational institute in Yerevan, the initiatives of Caritas Armenia and the works managed by the various religious congregations.

May God bless and protect Armenia, a land illumined by the faith, the courage of the martyrs and that hope which proves stronger than any suffering.


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