Catholicos Karekin II, Pope Francis and Patriarch Sahak Mashalyan at the Vatican

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, have met in the Vatican during a conference of religious leaders from around the world. The Armenian delegation also included Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul Arch. Sahak Mashalyan.

The two-day International Meeting for Peace concluded on Thursday with an ecumenical prayer for peace at Rome’s Colosseum. Pope Francis, Karekin II and representatives of other Christian denominations also observed a minute of silence in memory of the victims of all wars.

“Let us unambiguously urge that arms be set aside and military spending reduced, in order to provide for humanitarian needs, and that instruments of death be turned into instruments of life,” Pope Francis said in his address at the event reported by the Vatican news service.

Catholicos Karekin II spoke at the conference organized by the St. Egidio Community, a lay Catholic association, earlier on Thursday.

Meeting with Pope Francis on Wednesday, Karekin II focused on the aftermath of last year’s Armenian-Azerbaijani war. A statement by his office said he touched upon “current challenges facing Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh” and stressed the need for the release of dozens of Armenian soldiers and civilians still held by Azerbaijan.

“The Armenian Pontiff also expressed his gratitude to His Holiness Pope Francis for the support to the Armenian people and Armenia during the war,” added the statement.

It said Pope Francis greeted after the conversation members of an Armenian delegation accompanying Karekin II. They included Arman Tatoyan, Armenia’s human rights ombudsman.

Tatoyan said afterwards that he handed the pontiff copies of his offices’ reports on the Azerbaijani atrocities committed during and after the six-week war.

The Armenian delegation also held a separate meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state. Karekin II’s office said they discussed “issues related to the security of the people of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), the encroachments on the sovereign territories of Armenia as well as the preservation of the Armenian spiritual and cultural heritage in the territories under the control of Azerbaijan.”

During his visit to Rome, on October 07, Catholicos Karekin II met with Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople; who was also invited to participate in the International Meeting for Peace conference.

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