of Easter, Pope Francis celebrated Solemn Mass for the Centenary of the Armenian Martyrdom. Read the full text of his opening address below, along with the message of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians:
"On a number of occasions I have spoken of our time as a time of war, a third world war which is being fought piecemeal, one in which we daily witness savage crimes, brutal massacres and senseless destruction. Sadly, today too we hear the muffled and forgotten cry of so many of our defenceless brothers and sisters who, on account of their faith in Christ or their ethnic origin, are publicly and ruthlessly put to death – decapitated, crucified, burned alive – or forced to leave their homeland.
Today too we are experiencing a sort of genocide created by general and collective indifference, by the complicit silence of Cain, who cries out: “What does it matter to me? Am I my brother’s keeper?” (cf. Gen 4:9; Homily in Redipuglia , 13 September 2014).
In the past century our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies. The first, which is widely considered “the first genocide of the twentieth century” (JOHN PAUL II and KAREKIN II, Common Declaration , Etchmiadzin, 27 September 2001), struck your own Armenian people, the first Christian nation, as well as Catholic and Orthodox Syrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Greeks. Bishops and priests, religious, women and men, the elderly and even defenceless children and the infirm were murdered. The remaining two were perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism. And more recently there have been other mass killings, like those in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi and Bosnia. It seems that humanity is incapable of putting a halt to the shedding of innocent blood. It seems that the enthusiasm generated at the end of the Second World War has dissipated and is now disappearing. It seems that the human family has refused to learn from its mistakes caused by the law of terror, so that today too there are those who attempt to eliminate others with the help of a few and with the complicit silence of others who simply stand by. We have not yet learned that “war is madness”, “senseless slaughter” (cf. Homily in Redipuglia , 13 September 2014).
Dear Armenian Christians, today, with hearts filled with pain but at the same time with great hope in the risen Lord, we recall the centenary of that tragic event, that immense and senseless slaughter whose cruelty your forebears had to endure. It is necessary, and indeed a duty, to honour their memory, for whenever memory fades, it means that evil allows wounds to fester. Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it!
I greet you with affection and I thank you for your witness. With gratitude for his presence, I greet Mr Serž Sargsyan, the President of the Republic of Armenia. My cordial greeting goes also to my brother Patriarchs and Bishops: His Holiness Kerekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians; His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarch of Cilicia of Armenian Catholics; and Catholicosates of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Patriarchate of the Armenian Catholic Church.
In the firm certainty that evil never comes from God, who is infinitely good, and standing firm in faith, let us profess that cruelty may never be considered God’s work and, what is more, can find absolutely no justification in his Holy Name. Let us continue this celebration by fixing our gaze on Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, victor over death and evil! "
Your Holiness and Beloved Brother in Christ,
Through the merciful will of God, We visit Rome once again. We come with the President of the Republic of Armenia, Mr. Serzh Sargisyan; with Our spiritual brother, Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia; and with the Bishops of the Armenian Church and the representatives of the Armenian faithful worldwide. With the joy of the Holy Resurrection and love of Christ, We bring Our fraternal greetings and best wishes to Your Holiness, and bring Our prayerful participation in the Holy Mass celebrated by Your Holiness in the Basilica of Saint Peter, in commemoration of the 100thanniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
During this sacred service testifying to the friendship of Our two sister Churches, to the contentment of Our people and to Us, one of our Armenian Church Fathers – Saint Gregory of Narek – was declared by Your Holiness, per the designation of the Catholic Church, a “Doctor of the Church”.In the tenth century, St. Gregory of Narek – the teacher of prayers and bearer of the light of the universe – offered incense to heaven through his supplication of penitence and confession of all generations of mankind, by “Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart”.This holy monk, with his “Living Book” revered by the Armenian people, showed the way of salvation granted by the grace of Christ: “for the guilty and the just, for the brazenly haughty and the falsely modest, for the good and the evil” (Prayer 3), leading the faithful of all times to God.
Our people who gave birth to Saint Gregory of Narek, have throughout history endured countless horrors and faced calamities for their Christian faith and national identity.One century ago, the brutal crime of genocide was committed against our people in Ottoman Turkey.With a deliberate plan, with horrific atrocities, one and a half million Armenians were slaughtered.Our ancient people were uprooted from their cherished cradle of life – their historic homeland – and scattered over different countries. Our centuries-old Christian legacy heritage was ruined, obliterated, and seized.
Nothing, however, no suffering, nor persecutions, not even death caused our people to waiver or stray from their holy faith.The greatness of the spiritual bravery of a nation’s martyrdom which our people displayed, is depicted before us today, once again proclaiming the definition of our identity, which was decreed in the fifth century: ‘Christianity for us is not clothing we put on; it is the color of our skin.’ (Yeghishé the Historian).
By the mercy of our compassionate God, our people have straightened their broken backs; new life has sprouted under the shelter of a reestablished statehood on an eastern portion of Armenia and in the communities of the Diaspora.Our people have created their path to ascent, having faced many deprivations and difficulties.Today, our people live under an illegal blockade implemented by Turkey and Azerbaijan; struggle for the right of our people to live free in Mountainous Karabagh, and with faith in the triumph of justice, continue efforts for the sake of our rights – for the universal recognition, condemnation, and just reparation for the Armenian Genocide.
At the time, humanity was unable to prevent the genocide of the Armenians, to eliminate its consequences, and witnessed the Holocaust and genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and more.Today also, due to conflicts, wars, and terrorism, people and nations are in pain and need; are persecuted and are paying for their faith with their very lives.We believe that the universal recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide – as an effective example of the realization of justice and establishment of rights – will benefit the creation of a safe and just world.In this sense, the 100thanniversary of the Armenian Genocide is an invitation to the world to not remain indifferent to human suffering and contemporary martyrdoms, and to invest greater efforts to stop and prevent crimes against humanity.This is the fruit which shall grow from the roots of martyrdom.
During the celebration of this Holy Mass on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, before the cherished memories of our martyrs, We reflect with gratitude that Your Holiness’ predecessors of blessed memory, Benedict XV, raised His voice of protest against the genocide, and Saint John Paul II, in a joint communiqué with Us in 2001, recognized and condemned the Armenian Genocide.In this regard, the publication of historical documents by the Vatican Archives plays an important role.Our people remember with gratitude all those who not only spoke out and condemned the Armenian Genocide, but also implemented humanitarian missions, by caring for orphans, giving refuge to survivors, and helping them to overcome countless difficulties.
On the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, on April 23rd of this year, with the prayerful participation of sister Churches – among them the representatives of Your Holiness – and high ranking guests and thousands of our sons and daughters from throughout the world, our innumerable victims who accepted the crown of martyrdom ‘for faith and homeland’ will be canonized in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.We will appeal for the intercession of our holy martyrs, now united with the heavenly host, for divine peace to pour over the life of mankind, and for the tragedy of genocides to no longer find a place in this world.
Dear Brother in Christ,
We share Your view that martyrdom does not recognize the differences of denominations.Indeed, the martyrs unite us as children and servants of our one Lord Jesus Christ, to gather together and implement unified efforts for the sake of the establishment of love, justice, and peace in the world, and the promotion of dialogue between civilizations and religions, as the Holy Bible exhorts us, “And let us consider how to encourage one another to love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24).
In this holy sanctuary of Saint Peter, let the prayers and supplications that ascend from our hearts up to heaven, be heard by our heavenly Father, to bless and guide on true paths all efforts that are made aimed at peace on earth and the secure and prosperous life of humanity.We pray for Your Holiness’ health and the vibrancy of the Roman Catholic Church, and appeal for the protection and blessings of God for all of us, with the heartfelt words of Saint Gregory of Narek:
But you, who are capable of everything,
grant me the spirit of salvation,
the sheltering right arm, the helping hand,
the command of goodness, the light of mercy,
the word of renewal, the cause of pardon,
and help of the staff of life.
For you are the hope of refuge, Lord Jesus Christ,
blessed with the Father and Holy Spirit, forever and ever.
Amen. (Prayer 59