The Eastern Christian Churches by Ronald Roberson

1983: Armenian Apostolic

The Vatican, April 19, 1983

1. The meeting between the Catholicos of Cilicia and the Bishop of Rome, in the Paschal light of the Holy Year of the Redemption 1983, opens a new stage in the relations between our Churches. For over twenty years fraternal dialogue had progressed in a spirit of charity and of truth and in a number of different ways: the fruitful participation of the observers of the Catholicossate in the labours of Vatican Council II, the meeting of Pope Paul VI and the Catholicos Khoren I of blessed memory, common research in theology, local instances of pastoral collaboration, positive contributions to Christian unity and to social justice within the framework of various requirements of the ecumenical movement on the international, regional and local levels. But today our Churches are called upon to respond together to more and more urgent appeals, and this meeting in the name of their common Lord confirms them in their common desire to respond to these.

2. There is first of all the urgency of the full communion of our Churches in view of their essential mission: the salvation of mankind today. On this third Sunday of Easter when the Armenian Church is celebrating “the Church of the Universe” (Ashkharhamadour) the meeting between the pastors of our Churches witnesses to the importance of direct and personal relations between brothers, servants of the sole Saviour of men; and these will be continued into the future. Moreover, it is important that there be continued common theological research – the dialogue of faith – animated by the more and more clear and refined awareness that, within the unity of the faith diversity is a divine richness and an indispensable condition of the unity of the ecclesial communion.

Our Churches also have before them an immense field of cooperation where they can henceforth advance and work out, in mutual understanding, esteem, trust and an effective charity: the theological formation of both clerics and lay people, collaboration in the catechetical instruction of the young and of adults, the practical solution of situations of common pastoral concern, social action, cultural promotion, humanitarian services … in all these domains where the Spirit of the Lord is urging us to witness to Christ, Son of God our Saviour, it is certain that without neglecting the structures of collaboration on the international and regional levels, priority is to be given on the level of the local Churches. Just as indeed the Risen Christ is “manifested in our midst” in the celebration of the divine Liturgy (cf. the kiss of peace in the Eucharist according to the Armenian tradition), so also is he manifested in the midst of all by the divine Diaconia of his Church as servant of men.

3. If in the world of today all the Churches have become “frontier” Churches in existential relation with other religious or ideological world-views, this is especially true in the case of the local Churches of the Middle East. Such has been the particular vocation of the Armenian Church since the very beginnings, and it is therein engaged in our days within the framework of Christian witness in that region and in the other countries of its diaspora.

But the road along which the search for unity has already made our Churches advance opens out, in the present decade, on another matter of urgency for the well-being of all men: the rights of man, or better, the divine dignity of man, of each individual man. We must labour here together, not only with all men of good will but also in the clarity of our faith and the certitude of our Christian hope. This implies our common service of the dignity of persons as well as of the right of peoples to their legitimate national aspirations and to the cultural identity of their origin. But, in order that humanity today may be able to acknowledge and promote the divine dignity of man and justice for the peoples, our Churches can follow but one road: not that of the “powers of this world” (I Cor 2), but the one who is the Way of Life through the Truth (Jn 14:6). Thus, through all their trials, our Churches exist in this world only to serve, revealing thereby their Lord, the unique Servant and Saviour of all. In this month of April in particular, during which the Armenian people recall their martyrs, those living witnesses of the Christian faith and of the basic human rights, our Churches unite with all the Churches and all the peoples who are engaged in the service of the same sacred ideals.

4. Our Churches wish to respond by an active witness, in collaboration with the other Churches, to this appeal, this cry for more justice, which rises from the depths of humanity at this end of the second millennium. This witness is urgent, particularly in the region of the Middle East, where it will involve both developing understanding, respect and cooperation between men regardless of their religious affiliation, and working to assure all peoples of the region harmonious development of their identity, of their liberty and of their culture in peace and justice.

In particular as regards Lebanon where there is taking place the decisive struggle of hope versus despair in view of its unity, of its integrity and of its sovereignty, our Churches are engaged in reinforcing the eternal bonds that unite Christians not only among themselves but also with their brothers of the other communities of their common fatherland: what is involved here is the fundamental values of their country and those of the other countries of the world.

The Easter meeting of the “Sunday of the Church of the Universe” where our two Churches have shared at the source of prayer, of light and of love, participates in the unending Day of the Resurrection of their Lord: it opens toward new beginnings. “Christ is risen from the tomb! Blessed be the Resurrection of Christ!” (Chriados hariav i meremotz! orhnial e haroutioun’n Chrisdossi!).

Last Modified: 23 March 2010

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