VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis received His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, on Thursday at the Vatican. The Catholicos is in Rome on a three-day visit that concludes on May 9. In remarks prepared for the occasion, Pope Francis recalled Pope St. John Paul II’s 2001 visit to Armenia, and the many other visits the Catholicos has made to Rome and to the Popes in the Vatican, especially his 2008 visit to Pope Benedict XVI and his participation in the inauguration of Pope Francis’ own pontificate.

The Holy Father went on to recall Catholicos Karekin II’s participation in the Jubilee year commemoration of the Witnesses to the Faith of the 20th century.

“In truth,” said Pope Francis, “the number of disciples who shed their blood for Christ in the tragic events of the last century is certainly superior to that of the martyrs of the first centuries, and in this martyrology, the children of the Armenian nation have a place of honor.” Pope Francis went on to say, “The mystery of the Cross, Holiness, so dear to the memory of your people, represented in the splendid stone crosses that adorn every corner of your land, has been lived by countless of your children as a direct participation in the chalice of the Passion.” “Their testimony,” he continued, “at once high and tragic, must not be forgotten.”

Pope Francis went on to say that the suffering endured by Christians in recent decades has brought a unique and inestimable contribution also to the cause of Christian unity.

“As in the ancient Church, the blood of the martyrs became the seed of new Christians,” said Pope Francis, “so in our day the blood of many Christians has become the seed of unity.” The Pope continued, saying, “The ecumenism of suffering and the ecumenism of martyrdom, the ecumenism of blood is a powerful call to journey along the road of reconciliation among the Churches, with decision and with trusting abandonment to the action of the Spirit.” Pope Francis said, “We feel the duty to go down this road of fraternity, also because of the debt of gratitude we owe to the suffering of our brothers, which has become salvific because it has been united to the passion of Christ.”

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