VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has inaugurated the statue of 10th century Armenian monk Gregory of Narek today at the Vatican Gardens at a ceremony attended by President Serzh Sarkisian, Catholcicos of All Armenians Karekin II and Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I.

St Gregory of Narek is recognized as a Saint in both the Catholic Church, being venerated in a particular way among Catholics of the Armenian Rite, and in the Armenian Apostolic Church.

His legacy lives on through this ecumenical effort which is centered on him. In an interview with Vatican News, Mikayel Minasyan, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the Holy See, described St Gregory of Narek as a symbol of brotherhood and a bridge between the two Churches and for all Christians, “above all those of the Middle East”.

Gregory of Narek was a 10th century Armenian monk, poet, and mystical writer and composer. His most well-known literary work is a book of prayers, known as the “Book of Lamentations”. It is considered a masterpiece of Armenian literature. St Gregory himself defined the work as an “encyclopedia of prayer for all nations”. He voiced hope that his book would provide guidance in prayer for people of all walks of life in order to reach God.

Pope Francis bestowed the title of “Doctor of the Universal Church” on St Gregory at an April 2015 Vatican mass dedicated to the centenary of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey. The pontiff described him as “an extraordinary interpreter of the human soul.” Only 36 Christian figures have received the Catholic title to date.

Today’s occasion is the high point of an ecumenical journey between the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church, Vatican News said.

For the first time in history, all three Armenian Church leaders are gathered together with the Roman Pontiff. It is something that Pope Francis prayed for in 2015.

“Through the redemptive power of Christ’s sacrifice, may the blood which has been shed bring about the miracle of the full unity of his disciples. In particular, may it strengthen the bonds of fraternal friendship which already unite the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church.”

The statue, designed by David Yerevantsi, was melted in the Czech Republic and a copy of it is currently in production and will be placed in the gardens of the Cathedral of Holy See of Etchmiadzin where an inauguration ceremony will be held at the end of 2018.

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