Pope Voices Desire to Mend a 1,500-Year Split

Promotes Unity With Armenian Apostolic Church

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 20, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI signals his desire to promote unity with the Armenian Apostolic Church, a Christian confession that separated from Rome in the fifth century.



The Pope expressed his desire for unity today when he received in audience His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, Catholic patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, Lebanon, with members of the patriarchal synod and a group of pilgrims.

The Mideast-based patriarch leads 600,000 Catholic faithful in communion with Rome, assisted by 120 priests and about 90 women religious, according to Vatican Radio.

By contrast, more than 90% of the Armenian Christians are under the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchate, which separated from Rome after the Council of Chalcedon in 451. A key step toward overcoming this division was taken in 1996 when Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Karekin I signed a joint declaration on the nature of Jesus.

Benedict XVI, in his address to guests of the Armenian Catholic Church in communion with Rome, recalled the sufferings of the Armenian people "in the name of the Christian faith."

At the same time the Holy Father manifested his satisfaction because in recent years "a cordial and fruitful dialogue" has begun among the Armenian Christians for unity with Rome.

"I encourage this renewed fraternity and collaboration hoping that it may give rise to new initiatives for a joint journey towards full unity," he said, "with its own hierarchy, in fraternal interior harmony and full communion with the Bishop of Rome."

Benedict XVI concluded: "We all wish to be instruments at the disposal of Christ. May he -- who is the Way, Truth and Life -- enable us to continue with all our strength, so that, as soon as possible, there may be one flock with one pastor."