(Vatican Radio) The head of the Catholic Church in Armenia says Pope Francis' recent visit to the country has helped to strengthen and confirm people in their faith. The Pope visited the Armenian capital Yerevan, the northern city of Gyumri and the ancient monastery of Khor Virap on the Turkish border from June 24th to 26th. He will return to the region for a visit to Azerbaijan and Georgia at the end of September.
Among those accompanying the Pope during his stay in Armenia was Archbishop Raphael Minassian who is responsible for the Armenian Catholic Church throughout the Eastern European region. He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the spiritual legacy of the visit …
The Archbishop says there has already been a visible result “in the soul of the people” who heard the Pope’s message during the Mass at Gyumri and it resounded deeply within them. The heart of that message, he says, was the simplicity, spirituality and modest style that the Pope showed in his approach to all people in Armenia.
Archbishop Minassian says people have already reacted by visiting churches more frequently and contacting their clergy. He recalls the profound silence of the 30.000 people attending the Mass who were “hypnotized” by the Pope’s presence and atmosphere of prayer.
Martyrs for the faith
Commenting on the political implications of the visit, he says: “For me, the genocide is a historical fact” so the Pope’s use of the word to describe the 1915 massacre is not so significant. Also he notes that since the battle of Vartanantz in 451, so many thousands of Armenian Christians have been martyred for their faith.
He says that of all the places in the world where he has served in his 43 years of priestly ministry, it is in the Caucuses region where people of all ages are most strongly attached to their Christian faith.
Asked about his hopes for the Pope’s visit to Azerbaijan and Georgia, Archbishop Minassian speaks of the Holy Father’s “magic” way of reaching out to people but he adds that all Christians have an obligation to be messengers of peace like him.