Pope Francis has prayed that the Divine Mercy might hasten reconciliation over the deaths of more than a million Armenians a century ago in what is commonly referred to as the Armenian genocide.
The Pope made the comment during a meeting with Armenian bishops and faithful ahead of a Mass on Sunday that will mark the 100th anniversary of the massacre.
In his prepared remarks he prayed that the Divine Mercy “might help us all, in love for truth and justice, to heal every wound and to hasten concrete gestures of reconciliation and peace among the nations that have not yet reached a consensus on the reading of such sorrowful events”.
According to Vatican Radio, the Pope noted the long history of Christianity in Armenia, which goes back to 301, when Armenia became the first Christian nation. Pope Francis called on the bishops to “always cultivate a feeling of gratitude to the Lord”.
He also paid tribute to those who worked to relieve the suffering of the Armenian people during the “Great Crime”, notably Pope Benedict XV, who tried to intervene with the Ottoman rulers to stop the massacre.
An estimated 1.5 million Armenians – more than half the Armenian population at the time – died in a forced evacuation from their traditional territory in the Ottoman-Turkish Empire from 1915 to 1918. Turkey rejects the accusation of genocide, saying the deaths were due largely to disease and famine.
On Sunday Francis is to proclaim a 10th-century Armenian monk as a Doctor of the church when he celebrates a liturgy with leaders and faithful of the Armenian Catholic Church.
The Vatican announced in February the Pope’s decision to confer the title “Doctor of the Church” on St Gregory of Narek. The title indicates that the saint’s writings are considered to offer key theological insights for the faith.
St Gregory of Narek is considered one of the leading figures of Armenian theology and thought, and many of his prayers are included in the Armenian Divine Liturgy.
He was born in 950 in the Armenian town of Andzevatsik, located in present-day Turkey. He entered a monastery at a young age and was ordained a priest at 25. He lived at the monastery at Narek his whole priestly life and taught at the monastic school.
His best-known writings include a commentary on the Song of Songs and his “Book of Lamentations”, now commonly known as “Narek.”
“Narek” is considered his masterpiece. It includes 95 prayers and has been translated into more than 30 languages.
St Gregory died in Narek around 1005. His feast day in the Armenian churches is Oct. 13; he is remembered in the Roman Catholic Church on February 27.
Designating him a Doctor of the church, Pope Francis will bring to 36 the number of saintly theologians to hold the title.
The Pope will concelebrate the liturgy with Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni.