By Mirko Testa
ROME, MAY 9, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church have a duty to be ever more united in their defense of human rights, said Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians.
The patriarch affirmed this today at a press conference at Vatican Radio, shortly after having been received in audience by Benedict XVI. Karekin II and a delegation of bishops and Armenian Apostolic faithful are in Rome for events through Sunday.
The Armenian Church leader emphasized the positive state of relations between the two Churches.
Noting centuries of effort toward unity and a common declaration signed in 1970 by Pope Paul VI and Armenian Patriarch Vasken I, Karekin II said the current visit "comes once again to reinforce that warm atmosphere of love and respect which was formed between our two Churches."
"The love received from our Lord Jesus Christ bears much good fruit in the field of ecumenism today. Faithful to the holy Church fathers and their legacy, despite our differences and unique characteristics, we shall place greater importance on that which unites us," he said.
The Armenian Apostolic Church separated from Rome after the Council of Chalcedon in 451, over controversy arising from the council's adoption of the Christological terminology of two natures in one person. However, most now agree that the controversy arose over semantics, not doctrine.
It has since taken steps toward unity, notably thanks to a 1996 declaration signed by Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Karekin I on the nature of Jesus.
Warm and close
Karekin II said it is "especially pleasing for us to confirm that the spirit of love and collaboration between the Armenian and Catholic Churches finds its tangible expression in our times. The living testimony to the Spirit can be found in the fact that relations between our two Churches are warm and close, not only at the level of Church leaders and headquarters, but also among the communities, parishes and dioceses throughout the world."
The Armenian patriarch said that in a globalized world with its political, social and economic challenges, "the greater consolidation of diligent efforts and partnership are an imperative for Christian Churches. [...] Only through inclusive cooperation shall we be able to better serve the establishment of peace in the world and to better defend human rights, and the rights of nations, families, and those classes of society which are at-risk.
"The transfiguration of life through the values of the Gospel shall be our path to the creation of a prosperous and virtuous world."
Christianity in Armenia traces its roots back to the preaching of the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus.
The Armenian people converted to Christ at the dawn of the fourth century, in the year 301. A century later, the monk Mesrop Mastoc invented the Armenian alphabet so as to be able to translate the Bible.