- John L. Allen Jr.
- Jun 28, 2016
Papal trips are important for many reasons, including what they reveal about a pope’s personality and priorities. Francis’s June 24-26 outing to Armenia was no exception, offering insights about the importance of Argentina, his seriousness about the Orthodox, and his stubborn streak.
Many non-Catholics fear that unity with Rome would mean being swamped by the papacy, but by treating the head of the small Armenian Apostolic Church as a complete equal over the last three days, Pope Francis, in effect, suggested that in the end, size doesn’t matter.
In a part of the world where memory so often seems a dangerous thing, nursing resentments and fueling new conflicts, Pope Francis made the audacious claim in Armenia on Saturday that memory, coupled with faith, is actually the only route to peace.
Ecumenism can sometimes be a tough sell as a transcendent cause, but two little-known lessons from northern Armenia, one involving a church and the other a hospital, illustrate why the press for Christian unity really does matter.
In a departure from his prepared text on Friday, Pope Francis used the magic word “genocide” in describing the suffering and loss of life of Armenians at the hands of the dying Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century. Invoking that term generally brings political and diplomatic protests from Turkey.
On day one of his June 24-26 trip to Armenia, Pope Francis hailed a new peace deal in Colombia, avoided taking a strong position on the U.K.’s decision to exit the European Union, and praised the Armenian Apostolic Church for its openness to closer ecumenical relations.