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Monday, November 24, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 24 NOV 2008 (VIS) - This morning Benedict XVI and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians, presided at an ecumenical celebration held in the "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel of the Vatican Apostolic Palace. A delegation from the Catholicosate of Cilicia of the Armenians also participated in the event.

  In his English language greetings, the Pope recalled how the Catholicos is due to visit the Roman basilica of St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls where, with the monastic community of the basilica, he will be united in prayer "to the great host of Armenian saints and martyrs". In this context he mentioned "St. Nerses Shnorkhali and St. Nerses of Lambon who, as bishop of Tarsus, was known as 'the second Paul of Tarsus'". The testimony of these saints "culminated in the twentieth century, which proved a time of unspeakable suffering for your people", he said.

  "The faith and devotion of the Armenian people have been constantly sustained by the memory of the many martyrs who have borne witness to the Gospel down the centuries. May the grace of that witness continue to shape the culture of your nation and inspire in Christ's followers an ever greater trust in the saving and life-giving power of the Cross".

  Going on to refer to the dialogue between the Eastern Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church, which "has benefited significantly" from the presence of Armenian delegates, the Holy Father expressed the hope that such dialogue will "clarify theological issues which have divided us in the past but now appear open to greater consensus. I am confident that the current work of the International Commission - devoted to the theme: 'The Nature, Constitution and Mission of the Church' - will enable many of the specific issues of our theological dialogue to find their proper context and resolution".

  "An increased understanding and appreciation of the apostolic tradition which we share will contribute to an ever more effective common witness to the spiritual and moral values without which a truly just and humane social order cannot exist. For this reason, I trust that new and practical means will be found to give expression to the common declarations we have already signed".

  Closing his remarks the Holy Father gave assurances of his "daily prayers and deep concern for the people of Lebanon and the Middle East. How can we not be grieved by the tensions and conflicts which continue to frustrate all efforts to foster reconciliation and peace at every level of civil and political life in the region?

  "Most recently we have all been saddened by the escalation of persecution and violence against Christians in parts of the Middle East and elsewhere. Only when the countries involved can determine their own destiny, and the various ethnic groups and religious communities accept and respect each other fully, will peace be built on the solid foundations of solidarity, justice and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples".
AC/.../CATHOLICOS ARAM I                    VIS 20081124 (500)

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