Pope and Armenian Seek to Surmount Schism
Benedict XVI Visits Cathedral to Attend Prayer Service
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.
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
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.