Catholicos Aram I advocates for Artsakh in meeting with Pope Francis I

His Holiness Catholicos Aram I and Pope Francis I discussed the return of the forcibly displaced Armenian population to Artsakh and the release of Armenian political prisoners from Azerbaijani captivity in a meeting at the Vatican on Wednesday, June 12.

During the meeting, Catholicos Aram I expressed his deep gratitude for the solidarity Pope Francis has shown regarding the Artsakh issue and urged him to show the same support regarding the return of Artsakh Armenians to their homeland under international protection and the swift release of Armenian prisoners in Azerbaijan. His Holiness also discussed these concerns with the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Gallagher and the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches Cardinal Claudio Gugerotti.

His Holiness Catholicos Aram I and Pope Francis I

It is worth noting that a few weeks ago, in a letter to the spiritual head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, Catholicos Aram I requested that the Patriarch — given their long-standing personal friendship — intervene with the president of Russia. He asked Patriarch Kirill to work towards the release of Armenian political prisoners in Azerbaijan and to ensure the preservation of Armenia’s spiritual and cultural heritage.

During their meeting, the Catholicos and Pope also spoke about the imperative of convening a Third Vatican Council with the active presence of non-Catholic churches, promoting inter-church relations even further, strengthening Christian-Islamic coexistence in Lebanon and electing a new president.

Additionally, HH Catholicos Aram I was invited to Rome to give a lecture about religion and geopolitics and how they shape each other in the Middle East. In the talk delivered at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome on Tuesday, June 11, entitled “Religion in the Geopolitics of the Middle East,” the Catholicos said that religion has transformed and has been transformed by geopolitical events throughout history in the region.   

The Catholicos highlighted the pivotal role played by monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — in shaping political, cultural and social landscapes across Europe and the Middle East. He analyzed religion’s impact on Middle Eastern geopolitics and how it has defined the intersections of faith and reason, local politics and trust-building.

His Holiness Catholicos Aram I and Pope Francis I

Catholicos Aram I wrapped up his presentation by stressing the vital role of religion in promoting peaceful coexistence, resolving conflicts and enhancing mutual trust within Middle Eastern societies. Proposing a meeting of religious leaders in Jerusalem, he called for a united effort to advocate for peace and reconciliation among the three major religions, drawing upon historical precedent and principles of justice. 

The lecture was organized jointly by the Pontifical Oriental Institute, the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Lebanese Embassy to the Vatican. On behalf of the organizers, remarks were delivered by Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, Rev. Mark A. Lewis, SJ, Rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, and Farid El Khazan, ambassador of Lebanon to the Vatican. His Beatitude Armenian Catholic Patriarch Raphael Bedros XXI, His Eminence Archbishop Mesrob, Prelate of UAE and Qatar, as well as Vatican officials and other dignitaries were present.

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