Whether atheist, Catholic or Armenian Apostolic, Armenians on June 24 heartily welcomed Pope Francis’s arrival as a sign that a time of healing for their small, conflict-scarred country is at hand.
“We are blessed. My heart is full. I cannot imagine how fortunate I am that my ears will listen to the words of that God-beloved person,” one middle-aged woman, invited to the pontiff’s outdoor June 25 mass in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, breathlessly told a friend at a suburban Yerevan bus stop.
The pope’s visit marks the first papal trip to Armenia since 2001, when Pope John Paul II came to mark the 1,700th anniversary of Armenia’s adoption of Christianity as a state religion. (The country no longer has an official state religion.)
Describing himself in a video message as “a pilgrim,” Pope Francis told his hosts that he wanted “to draw up on the ancient wisdom of your people and to drink from the wellspring of your faith, steadfast as your famous crosses sculpted in stone;” a reference to the khachkars, or carved memorial crosses.
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Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter based in Armenia and editor of MediaLab.am.