All Christians Need Trust, Hope and Help, Pope Says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — All Christians, not just those facing conflict and persecution, need to trust, hope and help each other be more like Christ, Pope Francis said.

Meeting the Lebanon-based Armenian Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia on 5 June, the pope said, “As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to learn humbly to bear one another’s burdens and to help each other to be better Christians, better followers of Jesus.”

Pope Francis and Catholicos Aram first held a private meeting in the papal library before joining a delegation from the Armenian Apostolic Church in the Clementine Hall, where the two leaders read their speeches. After an exchange of gifts, they participated in a prayer service in the Vatican’s Redemptoris Mater Chapel with a number of Armenian faithful from around the world.

“Trust and hope. How much these are needed! They are needed by our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East, especially those living in areas racked by conflict and violence,” the pope said in his speech.

But trust and hope are needed by all Christians, too, he said.

Christians who have been “spared such sufferings,” still “so often risk losing our way in the desert of indifference and forgetfulness of God, or living in conflict with our brothers and sisters or succumbing in our interior struggles against sin,” he said.

While the pope acknowledged the “trials and sufferings” as well as “the history of emigration, persecutions and the martyrdom” of the Armenian people, Catholicos Aram underlined that the worldwide diaspora “was a result of the genocide and the deportations carefully planned and systematically executed by the Ottoman-Turkish Empire” starting in 1915.

An estimated 1.5 million Armenians — more than half the Armenian population at the time — died in the forced evacuation between 1915 and 1918. Turkey rejects the accusation of genocide, saying the deaths were due largely to disease and famine.

Catholicos Aram told the pope it was essential there be recognition of the genocide and people’s requests for reparations.

The catholicos said 2015 would mark the centennial of the Armenian genocide, telling the pope, “the solidarity of Your Holiness with the Armenian people on the 100th anniversary … will have indeed a pivotal importance for our people at this important juncture in their modern history.”

In his speech, the pope asked that the Holy Spirit help “renew the face of the earth, be a source of healing for our wounded world, and reconcile the hearts of all men and women with God the creator.”

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