VATICAN CITY—On April 5, the Vatican will unveil a statue of St. Gregory of Narek, in the presence of Pope Francis, His Holiness Karekin II, and Armenia’s President Serge Sarkisian.
Representing Catholicos Karekin II, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese, and the Very Reverend Fr. Shahe Ananyan, Ecumenical Relations director of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, traveled to the Vatican this week to discuss the upcoming ceremony that will honor the Armenian saint.
The 10th-century Armenian monk and mystical poet was approved by the Pope as a Doctor of the Church in Feb. 2015. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes only 36 doctors of the church, including Augustine of Hippo, John Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas, and Narek—who is remembered by Catholics every Feb. 27. The title of Doctor of the Universal Church is one of the church’s highest honors—reserved for people whose writings have greatly served the universal church.
Armenians have long revered Narek as the author of the collection known as the Book of Lamentations, among other spiritual treasures.
In Rome this week, Archbishop Barsamian and Father Ananyan met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, to discuss details of the April 5 ceremony. They also met with Cardinal Leonardo Saudri, Prefect of the Congregation for Oriental Orthodox Churches, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, to discuss various inter-church matters.
St. Gregory lived around 950 to 1005 and is regarded as one of the most significant figures of medieval Armenian religious thought. The Book of Lamentations, commonly referred to simply as the Narek, is a mystical poem in 95 sections, and is considered his most important work.