Pope and Armenian Seek to Surmount Schism

Benedict XVI Visits Cathedral to Attend Prayer Service

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ISTANBUL, Turkey, NOV. 30, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The ecumenical character of Benedict XVI's journey to sister Churches in Turkey was further highlighted with his visit to the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral.



The Pope visited the cathedral today to attend a prayer service and to meet with Patriarch Mesrob II Mutafina.

During the celebration of the Word, following the patriarch's address, Benedict XVI clarified that "Our meeting is more than a simple gesture of ecumenical courtesy and friendship."

"It is a sign of our shared hope in God's promises and our desire to see fulfilled the prayer that Jesus offered for his disciples on the eve of his suffering and death: 'That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I in you, may they also be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me,'" the Pope said, quoting from John 17:21.

"We must continue therefore to do everything possible to heal the wounds of separation and to hasten the work of rebuilding Christian unity," the Holy Father continued. "May we be guided in this urgent task by the light and strength of the Holy Spirit."

The Armenian Apostolic Church separated from Rome after the Council of Chalcedon in the year 451, which it was unable to attend because of war.

Misunderstandings arose when it came to translating the terms of the Council, thus altering its conceptual comprehension. That, and the political confrontation with Byzantium, caused the schism, though Armenian "Monophysitism" always remained a purely verbal error.

Plaque unveiled

The personal meeting and common prayer, as well as the unveiling of a plaque in the Armenian and Turkish tongue, in memory of the visits of Paul VI and John Paul II and, now, of Benedict XVI sought to express the bond that exists between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church.

It was a moment of recollection, in which the prayers and ritual sequences making up the prayer service were drawn from various elements of the Eucharistic celebration of the Armenian liturgy.

Before the entrance procession in the cathedral, in accordance with the Armenian national tradition, the Holy Father was presented with bread, salt and rose water as symbols of welcome and good wishes.

As Benedict XVI and Patriarch Mesrob II entered the cathedral, the choir performed the chant Herasciapar Asdvadz (O Wondrous God), which recounts the story of the conversion of the Armenian people to Christianity -- the first Christian nation in history -- through the efforts of St. Gregory the Illuminator.

At the foot of the altar, a prayer was recited. The Holy Father and the patriarch then took their places before the sacred altar, from which the Gospel, carried in procession from the entrance of the cathedral, was solemnly proclaimed.

The prayer service in the Armenian cathedral expressed the joy of the Armenian Apostolic Church at the visit of Benedict XVI.