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IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

YEREVAN, Armenia (CNS) — Applying the common faith they professed publicly earlier in the day, Pope Francis and Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II urged common action on behalf of persecuted Christians, welcome for refugees and defense of the family.

The pope and the Oriental Orthodox patriarch signed their joint declaration at the end of Pope Francis’ June 24-26 visit to Armenia.

Earlier in the day, at an Armenian Divine Liturgy, both had spoken of their unity as believers in Christ and of their conviction that Christians are called by God to assist the poor, the persecuted and the needy.

While their joint declaration mentioned the progress made in the official Catholic-Oriental Orthodox theological dialogue and their hopes for its continuation, the heart of the text focused on common Christian action to relieve suffering.

“We are witnessing an immense tragedy unfolding before our eyes,” the two leaders said. “Countless innocent people” are “being killed, displaced or forced into a painful and uncertain exile by continuing conflicts on ethnic, economic, political and religious grounds in the Middle East and other parts of the world.”

“Religious and ethnic minorities have become the target of persecution and cruel treatment to the point that suffering for one’s religious belief has become a daily reality,” they said.

The Christians being martyred for their faith belong to different churches and their suffering “is an ‘ecumenism of blood,’ which transcends the historical divisions between Christians.”

The two leaders prayed that the terrorists waging war on Christians and other minorities would convert, and they also prayed that “those who are in a position to stop the violence” would hasten to do so.

“We implore the leaders of nations to listen to the plea of millions of human beings who long for peace and justice in the world, who demand respect for their God-given rights, who have urgent need of bread, not guns,” the declaration said.

The two denounced the use of a religion “to justify the spread of hatred, discrimination and violence.”

While focused on the headline-grabbing war in Syria, the two leaders did not ignore the tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in Azerbaijan where the majority of people are ethnic Armenians and had voted for independence. The joint declaration urged “a peaceful resolution” of the conflict.

“We ask the faithful of our churches to open their hearts and hands to the victims of war and terrorism, to refugees and their families,” they said. The Christian faith demands concrete acts of charity, Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin insisted.

Looking at the spread of secularization, the pope and patriarch noted how heavily cultural change is impacting the family. “The Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church share the same vision of the family, based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between man and woman,” they said.

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

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Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

7 hours 5 min

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VAGHARSHAPAT, Armenia (CNS) — Recognizing that the church of Christ is one and that Christian divisions are a “scandal” to the world, Pope Francis and Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Karekin II offered their faithful the example of praying and working together.

Approaching the end of his three-day trip to Armenia, Pope Francis attended the Divine Liturgy celebrated June 26 by the patriarch at Etchmiadzin, the seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church. To accommodate the crowd, the liturgy was held outdoors at a towering stone sanctuary used for major celebrations.

Under a gold-trimmed red canopy, the patriarch and pope processed to the sanctuary together before the pope bowed to the patriarch and moved to the side. He used a small booklet to follow the liturgy, which is celebrated in “grabar,” as ancient liturgical Armenian is called.

In his homily, Catholicos Karekin told his faithful and his guests, “During these days together with our spiritual brother, Pope Francis, with joint visits and prayers we reconfirmed that the holy church of Christ is one in the spreading of the Gospel of Christ in the world, in taking care of creation, standing against common problems, and in the vital mission of the salvation of man.”

All Christians, he said, share the mission of “the strengthening of solidarity among nations and peoples (and the) reinforcing of brotherhood and collaboration.”

The catholicos warned of modern attacks on the faith, including a selfish lack of concern for “those who long for daily bread and are in pain and suffering,” as well as other “economic, political, social, environmental” problems. Yet the Gospel and the churches that preach it, he said, know that God continues to promise his loving care and wants Christians to go out preaching salvation and helping the poor.

Invited to address the gathering — like Catholicos Karekin spoke at Pope Francis’ Mass in Gyumri the day before — Pope Francis said, “We have met, we have embraced as brothers, we have prayed together and shared the gifts, hopes and concerns of the church of Christ.”

“We believe and experience that the church is one,” the pope said.

Using words from St. Gregory of Narek, a 10th-century Armenian monk declared a “doctor of the church” by Pope Francis last year, he prayed that the Holy Spirit would dissolve the “scandal” of Christian division with the power of love.

Christian unity is not and cannot be about “the submission of one to the other or assimilation,” the pope said, but rather should be an acceptance of the different gifts God has given to different Christians at different times.

“Let us respond to the appeal of the saints, let us listen to the voices of the humble and poor, of the many victims of hatred who suffered and gave their lives for the faith,” Pope Francis. “Let us pay heed to the younger generation, who seek a future free of past divisions.”

The Armenian Apostolic Church is one of the six independent Oriental Orthodox churches that were divided from the rest of Christianity after the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The six, which include the Syrian Orthodox Church, are in full communion with each other, but not with the Eastern Orthodox churches such as the Russian Orthodox.

For centuries the Oriental Orthodox were regarded by the rest of Christianity as adhering to a heretical teaching on the nature of Christ, but recent scholarship has led theologians and church authorities on both sides to affirm that the Christological differences were not doctrinal; rather, both sides profess the same faith but use different formulas to express it.

Common declarations about Christ’s humanity and divinity were signed between 1971 and 1996 by the heads of each Oriental Orthodox Church and Pope Paul VI or Pope John Paul II.

Before vesting for the liturgy at Etchmiadzin, Armenian Bishop Bagrat Galstanyan of Tavush, an Orthodox diocese that shares borders with Georgia and Azerbaijain, stood scanning the crowd. Every few seconds, someone would identify him as a bishop and approach for a blessing, which he gave with a broad smile.

The crowd at the liturgy was predominantly young. “We are an ancient people, an ancient church, with a young faith,” the 45-year-old bishop explained.

The day’s liturgy is “a great celebration,” Bishop Galstanyan said. The Catholicos and pope are “brothers together declaring to the world that Christians must stay together, must be together, must be a voice for the world.”

Orthodox Father Zakaria Baghumyan, who was directing press operations for the catholicos during the visit, said the pope asking for a blessing from the patriarch is “just a sign of brotherly love. It’s a sign of respect for our church and our nation.”

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

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Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

10 hours 36 min

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

GYUMRI, Armenia (CNS) — Acts of love and kindness must be a Christian’s “calling card,” the characteristic that identifies them more than anything, Pope Francis told Catholics in northern Armenia.

Traveling June 25 to Gyumri, a city with a significant Catholic population and one still bearing the scars of an earthquake almost three decades ago, Pope Francis once again praised the steadfast faith of the Armenian people.

Thanking God for all that had been rebuilt since the 1988 earthquake, the pope also asked the region’s people to consider what they are called to build today and, more importantly, how they are called to build it.

Celebrating the only public Mass scheduled for his three-day visit to predominantly Orthodox Armenia, Pope Francis told thousands of people in Gyumri’s Vartanants Square that memory, faith and merciful love must be the foundations of their lives.

The joy that comes from encountering Christ, he said, “renews our life, makes us free and open to surprises, ready and available for the Lord and for others.”

The exercise of charity renews and rejuvenates the church, he said.

“Concrete love is the Christian’s calling card; any other way of presenting ourselves could be misleading and even unhelpful,” he said, because Christians are called to be known by their love.

Pope Francis urged the Armenian people to continue on the path of dialogue and respect, especially among members of the Armenian Catholic and Armenian Apostolic churches.

During his stay in Armenia, the pope was the houseguest of Catholicos Karekin II, the patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The catholicos was present for the pope’s celebration of Mass, a gesture the pope was scheduled to reciprocate the next day in Yerevan.

At the beginning of Gyumri Mass, Catholicos Karekin recalled how, during the Soviet period, many churches in Armenia were closed or destroyed. The Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Seven Holy Wounds in Gyumri became an ecumenical place of worship with different areas of the church hosting services for the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communities.

After Mass, Pope Francis invited the catholicos to join him in the popemobile. They toured the square, both giving the people their blessings.

The need to overcome divisions among Christians and to work for peace in the world was given even greater attention by Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin during an evening prayer service back in Yerevan.

In the capital’s Republic Square, where crowds had gathered while the sun was still hot, the pope and patriarch processed in together, walking side by side and blessing the people. They stopped to shake hands with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.

Pope Francis told the people that he and the catholicos, like all those committed to Christian unity, “look confidently toward the day when by God’s help we shall be united around the altar of Christ’s sacrifice in the fullness of eucharistic communion.”

“Let us pursue our journey with determination,” he said. “Indeed, let us race toward our full communion!”

In working and praying for Christian unity, the pope said, churches are not looking for “strategic advantages” or ways to promote their own interests. “Rather, it is what Jesus requires of us and what we ourselves must strive to attain with good will, constant effort and consistent witness” in order to fulfill “our mission of bringing the Gospel to the world.”

Following Christ’s example, the pope said, “we are called to find the courage needed to abandon rigid opinions and personal interests in the name of the love that bends low and bestows itself, in the name of the humble love that is the blessed oil of the Christian life, the precious spiritual balm that heals, strengthens and sanctifies.”

Together, he said, Christians must work and pray for peace, defending the persecuted — including Christians in the Middle East — but also promoting reconciliation.

Ending a day that began at Armenia’s genocide memorial, Pope Francis prayed that Armenia and Turkey would embark on a new process of reconciliation and that peace would finally come to Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in Azerbaijan. The ethnic Armenian majority of Nagorno-Karabakh voted in 1988 to unify with Armenia. Fighting ensured and continued until a cease-fire was reached in 1994, although the enclave’s status was never fully resolved. Sporadic fighting has occurred since, most recently in early April.

In his talk, Catholicos Karekin claimed Azerbaijan started the latest wave of violence with military exercises on the border.

But the patriarch cast his gaze wider, welcoming refugees from Syria and Iraq — nations that traditionally had strong Armenian Christian communities. “With hope in God, they wait for peaceful days to arrive in their native lands,” Catholicos Karekin said.

“May our merciful Lord cleanse the world from the tragedies of evil and grant peace and protection,” he prayed, adding hopes that the biblical prophecy would come true: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks, nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

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Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

1 day 3 hours

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

YEREVAN, Armenia (CNS) — In silence and in prayer while a mournful hymn was sung, Pope Francis formally paid tribute to the estimated 1.5 million Armenians killed by Ottoman Turks in 1915-18.

Visiting the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial, a monument to the martyrs, Pope Francis wrote in the guestbook, “May God preserve the memory of the Armenian people. Memories should not be watered down or forgotten; memory is a source of peace and of the future.”

The words were in addition to those the pope had planned to write June 25, praying that humanity would never again know the large-scale massacre of a people and that by remembering such tragedies of the past, people would learn to vanquish evil with good.

Accompanied by the Armenian Orthodox patriarch, Catholicos Karekin II, and by bishops and clergy from both the Catholic and Armenian Apostolic churches, Pope Francis blessed a wreath of yellow and white flowers placed before the towering stone shards that protect the eternal flame at Tsitsernakaberd.

He and the catholicos descended a few steps to the flame’s basin and laid roses at its edge before praying several minutes in silence.

There were no speeches at the memorial, only Scripture readings, prayers and hymns, including one that described the dead as “images of the Lamb of God” led to the slaughter “without opening their mouths to deny the Lord or the homeland.”

A choir of women in teal dresses with white veils sang the refrain: “Holy and true Lord, how long before you judge and require justice for our blood?”

A long, basalt memorial wall outside is engraved with the names of the cities of the victims. The opposite side of the wall is decorated with plagues honoring those who denounced the massacre and came to the rescue of the victims. The name of Pope Benedict XV is prominent.  The pope welcomed an estimated 400 Armenian orphans, who fled to Italy and were given refuge in Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence. A dozen descents of those orphans were present at the memorial for Pope Francis’ visit.

Before leaving the memorial, Pope Francis — like St. John Paul II did in 2001 — symbolically planted a pine tree, shoveling a little bit of dirt beneath the hardy sapling and dousing it generously with water.

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

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Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

1 day 4 hours

IMAGE: CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

YEREVAN, Armenia (CNS) — A solid, sorrow-tested Christian faith gives believers the strength to overcome even the most horrific adversity, forgive one’s enemies and live in peace, Pope Francis said.

Arriving in Armenia June 24, Pope Francis went straight to the twin concerns of his three-day visit: Promoting Christian unity and honoring the determined survival of Armenian Christianity despite a historic massacre and decades of Soviet domination.

The high profile of the pope’s ecumenical concern and the importance of faith in Armenian culture were highlighted by making the trip’s first official appointment a visit to the cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church at Etchmiadzin.

The arrival ceremony at the airport was defined as informal, but featured a review of the troops and a greeting by a young boy and a young girl, who offered Pope Francis the traditional gifts of bread and salt. His entrance into Holy Etchmiadzin, as it commonly is known, was heralded with the pealing of church bells. As the pope and patriarch processed down the aisle between crowds of flag-waving faithful, a deacon led them, swinging an incense burner.

For the first two events on the papal itinerary, the English translations of the speeches of the pope’s hosts — the Armenian Orthodox patriarch and the country’s president — repeatedly used the word “genocide” to describe the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1918.

The pope’s prepared text for his speech in Italian used the Armenian term “Metz Yeghern” or its Italian equivalent, “the Great Evil.” However, when speaking, the pope added the Italian “genocidio.”

Turkey objects to the term “genocide” and recalled its Vatican ambassador for about a year after Pope Francis in April 2015 quoted St. John Paul II in describing the massacre as the first genocide of the 20th century.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli told reporters June 25 that the pope’s statement was “very unfortunate” and said that in the pope’s words “it is unfortunately possible to see all the reflections and traces of Crusader mentality.”

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, was asked to comment June 26. Listening to what the pope said or reading his remarks, “there is nothing of a spirit of the Crusades,” the spokesman said.

In Armenia, as elsewhere, he said, Pope Francis speaks “in a spirit of dialogue, of building peace and building bridges and not walls.”

Pope Francis, visiting the Orthodox cathedral at Etchmiadzin and addressing government officials later at the presidential palace, did not focus on the tragedy, but on the faith of the country’s 3 million people, the need for reconciliation and peace in the region and the role of Christians in showing the world that faith is a power for the good of humanity.

For both nights of his trip, Pope Francis was to be the houseguest of Catholicos Karekin II, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

“This sign of love eloquently bespeaks, better than any words can do, the meaning of friendship and fraternal charity,” the pope said.

In a world “marked by divisions and conflicts, as well as by grave forms of material and spiritual poverty,” he said, people expect Christians to provide a witness and example of mutual esteem and close collaboration.

All examples of brotherly love and cooperation, despite real differences existing among Christians, the pope said, “radiate light in a dark night and a summons to experience even our differences in an attitude of charity and mutual understanding.”

Besides being an example of how dialogue is the only way to settle differences, he said, “it also prevents the exploitation and manipulation of faith, for it requires us to rediscover faith’s authentic roots,” defending and spreading truth with respect for the human dignity of all.

Catholicos Karekin echoed the pope’s emphasis on the importance of Christian cooperation “for keeping and cherishing Christian ethical values in the world (and) for strengthening love” which is the only path to true security and prosperity.

He told the pope, “after the destruction caused by the Armenian Genocide and the godless years of the Soviet era, our church is living a new spiritual awakening.” Nearly 90 percent of Armenia’s population belongs to the Armenian Apostolic Church; Catholics, mostly belonging to the Eastern-rite Armenian Catholic Church, make up almost 10 percent of the population.

At the presidential palace later, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan praised Pope Francis for having used the word “genocide” a year ago. “We don’t look for culprits. We don’t spread accusations,” he said, according to the English text given to reporters. “We simply want things to be called by their names.”

While the pope and president were meeting privately, Armenian public television broadcast images from the Armenian memorial prayer service Pope Francis presided over at the Vatican last year. They included the clip of him using the word “genocide.”

Pope Francis told the president and government officials, “Sadly that tragedy, that genocide was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims” that extended to “planning the annihilation of entire peoples.”

Unfortunately, he said, “the great international powers looked the other way.”

“Having seen the depths of evil unleashed by “hatred, prejudice and the untrammeled desire for dominion,” people must make renewed commitments to ensuring differences are resolved with dialogue, he said.

“In this regard, it is vitally important that all those who declare their faith in God join forces to isolate those who use religion to promote war, oppression and violent persecution, exploiting and manipulating the holy name of God,” Pope Francis said.

At a time when Christians are again experiencing discrimination and persecution, he said, it is essential that world leaders make their primary goal “the quest for peace, the defense and acceptance of victims of aggression and persecution, (and) the promotion of justice and sustainable development.”

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Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

2 days 4 hours

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO ARMENIA (CNS) — Commenting on the peace agreement reached in Colombia, Pope Francis hailed the end of “more than 50 years of war and guerilla warfare and so much bloodshed.”

Pope Francis told reporters flying with him to Armenia June 24 that he prayed Colombia would “never return to a state of war” again.

Although he usually does not answer questions on his flights from Rome to other countries, Pope Francis was asked by his spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, to comment on both the Colombia agreement and the results of a June 23 referendum in England on membership in the European Union.

The decision to leave the EU “was the will expressed by the people,” the pope said.

The English decision, he said, “requires great responsibility on the part of all of us to guarantee the good of the people of the United Kingdom and the good and coexistence of the whole European continent.”

After his brief response to the questions, Pope Francis returned to his normal routine on outbound flights, walking the length of the plane and personally greeting each of the almost 70 media representatives. He collected letters and books and signed a few autographs.

The Colombian government reached a cease-fire agreement June 23 with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, ending 52 years of hostilities. The government and the Marxist guerillas have been in talks since 2012, reaching agreement on what the parties describe as five pillars.

The final pillar, the demobilization of the guerillas, was the most difficult to settle. The other pillars cover political participation, rural development, the illicit economy, and victims of the violence and were settled in earlier negotiations.

In the United Kingdom, voters June 23 decided to exit the EU by 52 percent to 48 percent. The decision sent a shock wave through world financial markets and led Prime Minister David Cameron to announce his resignation.

The referendum turnout was 71.8 percent as more than 30 million people went to the polls. It was the highest turnout in a UK-wide vote since the 1992 general election.

Voters in Great Britain and Wales decided strongly to leave the EU while residents of Northern Ireland and Scotland supported staying in the European bloc.

Britain has two years to complete the withdrawal process under EU rules.

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Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

2 days 6 hours

Rev 10 FFF-2016

Each year since 2012 dioceses around the country have arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. The Fortnight for Freedom is from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day.

To help local Catholics become more involved, The Catholic Telegraph has teamed with the Family and Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to compile 14 scripture readings, prayers and calls to action that can be emailed to you each day during the Fortnight For Freedom.

Sign up for emails is closed, but the daily reflections will be posted here each day of the fortnight.

June 26, 2016

Luke 9:51 – 62   
This passage is troubling.  Even those who say they will follow Jesus are rebuked.   In following Jesus Christ we often encounter obstacles.  Those obstacles can be from the outside when others deem our desire not worthy or a waste of time.  Sometimes, obstacles come from within when we allow insecurities and priorities to keep us from putting Jesus first.  I do not think that Jesus does not want us to “bury the dead”.  It is after all a corporal work of mercy.  I think he wants of to speak of God’s glory first.  He wants us to work for God’s glory first.  He wants us to be other-centered.
Blessed Oscar Romero is a shining example of being other centered.   In his ministry in San Salvador he continuously lifted up laborers and called for them to be treated with dignity for who they are and for their work.  Read more about Romero at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom/upload/Oscar-Romero-Fortnight-2016.pdf .

Prayer
Take some time this week to reflect on when it is easiest to put Jesus first and when it is most challenging.  What steps can you take to respond to those challenging times?

Action
Pick a time when it is challenging to be other-centered or Christ-centered and take a step to put Christ or someone else first.  It is your morning routine that does not allow for you to talk with your spouse or other family member?  What about when you get home is the evening, do you go right to preparing dinner?   When you go to Church, do you talk to the same people and sit in the same pew?  Maybe you can reach out to greet someone new.

More on Fortnight for Freedom

Archdiocese of Cincinnati Preserve Religious Freedom homepage
USCCB homepage on the Fortnight for Freedom

Fireworks light up the sky over Washington on Independence Day, July 4, 2009. The annual U.S. holiday marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. (CNS photo/Hyungwon Kang, Reuters) (June 17, 2009)Fireworks light up the sky over Washington on Independence Day, July 4, 2009. The annual U.S. holiday marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. (CNS photo/Hyungwon Kang, Reuters) (June 17, 2009)
2 days 10 hours

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) — As Orlando, Florida, and the nation moves on from the shock of the June 12 nightclub attack, many are finding that there is no set path to find solace.

But in the midst of collective mourning over the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, the Catholic Church had something to say not only about the senseless attack on human life but also about finding peace in troubled times and showing solidarity with the suffering.

Many U.S. Catholic bishops condemned the shooting at the gay nightclub, which left 50 dead, including the shooter, and more than 50 others injured. Some were critical that the bishops as a group had not specifically noted that victims of the rampage were members of the gay and lesbian community.

Chicago Archbishop Blase J. Cupich took the lead in expressing sorrow that the gay community was singled out by the gunman. He said he and the Chicago Archdiocese stood with members of the gay community in the wake of “the heinous crimes” in Orlando “motivated by hate, driven perhaps by mental instability and certainly empowered by a culture of violence.”

Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, and several other bishops around the country similarly expressed sadness for the gay community’s loss and the pain they experienced because of prejudice and hatred.

That’s a start, some say, hoping those messages will begin to diffuse hateful rhetoric that can lead some people to violence.

“Church teaching does not say you should be evil toward people,” said Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, who said the heart of the church’s message is the need to love our brothers and sisters and welcome all.

“We must look at our own conscience” on this, she added.

McGuire said that as the country processes the Orlando attack, it should be “a moment for the church to rise and to be a source not only of comfort but of some advocacy and direction” for the church and the nation.

She urged church leaders to be even stronger in denouncing gun violence particularly as a pro-life issue and also said the church should show “in every way possible, its solidarity with members of the Islamic religion” based on a possible backlash against Muslims because of the shooter’s religion.

The Catholic Church certainly has grounds to speak on such issues based on the catechism and other church documents, said Matthew Tapie, director of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at St. Leo University in Florida.

He said the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that public authorities have the duty to regulate the sale of arms and Catholic social teaching emphasizes that measures are needed to control the production and sale of small arms and light weapons.

Tapie also mentioned a 1986 letter to the world’s Catholic bishops issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that addressed violence toward gays. The letter said it is “deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church’s pastors wherever it occurs.”

The Catholic Church also has spoken out on the issue of Islamophobia, although there is still work to be done at the local parish level on it, said Jordan Denari Duffner, a research fellow at Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative.

Duffner, a panelist at a June 20 discussion on “Faith, Hope and Courage in a Time of Fear,” sponsored by Georgetown’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, stressed that Catholics should recognize that they have a great opportunity right now during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and in the middle of the Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis to come together even if just in conversation.

Practical tips to continue the relationship, she said, would include praying for Muslims at Sunday Mass and Catholic groups hosting “iftar” meals for Muslims. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, and break their fast in the evening with prayer and a festive meal called “iftar.”

Sayyid M. Syeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North America’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances, said that Ramadan is a time for Muslims to reinforce their faith in the one God of the Abrahamic faiths.

“If we are making these sacrifices, if we are shaping our lives to please him, the ultimate one, then he is the one who comes to our rescue when there is something that hurts us” like the Orlando shooting, Syeed said. “When you talk to people of different faiths, we all have the same source of comfort: God.”

Duffner was not alone in tying the Year of Mercy to the Catholic response to the Orlando shooting. Mathew Schmalz, associate professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, said that realization should be first and foremost in the minds of Catholics right now.

The challenge, he said in a June 16 interview, is to ask what it means to show mercy to the victims, those impacted by the attack and even the perpetrator. “It’s a difficult question but something our faith requires us to ask.”

Schmalz also said the often-repeated phrase “Our thoughts and prayers are with you” is a valid one if it is taken seriously.

“A lot of people are saying we don’t need prayer, we need action,” but the two aren’t mutually exclusive, he said. As he sees it, prayer can be a way of making what people do become more meaningful because then it is in light of one’s relationship with God.

This view was echoed in a June16 webinar for Our Sunday Visitor called: “When Disaster Strikes: Helping Children Cope With Tragedies, Disasters and Acts of Terror.” A participant asked how people can support those dealing with the long-term impact of the nightclub attack.

Joseph White, a child psychologist and catechetical author based in Austin, Texas, said the first thing to do is pray, then volunteer or contribute with charities responding to the tragedy.

If you live in Orlando, show support for those impacted, let them know you think and care about them, he said.

And if you don’t live there: “Look for ways to be a peacemaker where you live. Combat the culture of death with a culture of peace.”

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Contributing to this story was Colleen Dulle. 

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(Vatican Radio) The Director of the Vatican Press Office has strongly dismissed Turkish accusations that Pope Francis adopted a “Crusades” mentality when he used the word “genocide” to describe the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians a century ago.  Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ was answering questions by journalists reporting on the papal journey in Armenia. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :   The questions pertained to an angry statement late Saturday by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli following the Pope’s use of the word “genocide” when referring to the Ottoman-era slaughter of Armenians. Turkey in fact rejects the term genocide, saying the 1.5 million deaths cited by historians is an inflated figure and that people died on both sides as the Ottoman Empire collapsed amid World War I.  Nurettin Canikli called the Pope’s comments ``greatly unfortunate'' and said they bore the hallmarks of the ``mentality of the Crusades.'' But responding to Canikli's comments, Fr Lombardi said that nothing in Francis' texts or actions had suggested a Crusades-like mentality or spirit. “His is a spirit of dialogue”- Lombardi said – “of building peace, of building bridges and not walls.”  “The Pope – he added – is not doing Crusades”, “he has said no words against the Turkish people”.' And  Lombardi underlined the fact that Francis’ three-day visit to the Orthodox nation was one of peace and reconciliation with repeated calls for unity with Armenia’s Oriental Orthodox Church, a visit to the nation’s closed western border with Turkey and a joint declaration with the Apostolic Church leader.  (from Vatican Radio)... 7 hours 17 min
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis left the Armenian capital, Yerevan, on Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of his three day pastoral visit to the Caucasian nation. The Alitalia plane carrying the Pope and his entourage back to Rome took off following a farewell ceremony on the airport runway with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, alongside Catholicos Karekin II, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church and leaders of the small Catholic community there. The Pope was due to arrive back in Rome shortly before 9pm local time at the conclusion of this 14th international papal journey. During the visit, the Pope signed a common declaration with Patriarch Karekin giving thanks for progress towards Christian unity, while also appealing for peace in the world. He visited the nation’s genocide memorial museum, took part in an ecumenical prayer vigil for peace, travelled to the northern city of Gyumri and to the monastery of Khor Virap, close to the border with Turkey, where the country’s rulers became the first to adopt Christianity as a state religion in the year 301. (from Vatican Radio)... 7 hours 46 min
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis ended his three day Apostolic journey to Armenia, his 14th abroad with a visit to ‘Khor Virap’ monastery at the foot of  Mount Ararat. A significant site linked to the conversion of  this nation to Christianity. Veronica Scarisbrick reports: The red brick monastery of Khor Virap at the foot of Mount Ararat where tradition holds that Noah’s ark came to rest after the floods is one of Armenia’s most sacred sites. It’s here that the most memorable image of Pope Francis’s visit to Armenia played out. That of the Pope and the Patriarch standing out against the skyline in unison in the shadow of the snow-capped Mount, as together they release two white doves which flutter into the evening light before soaring up high. A striking gesture which holds within it a symbol of unity and peace. By contrast the name of the monastery provides a sinking feeling as it means 'deep dungeon'. And while dark and musty dungeons really exist here, some sinking deep into the ground, over six metres under one of the Chapels of the monastery complex, what really matters is that it was in one of these dungeons, often referred to as a well, that Saint Gregory the Illuminator, was held prisoner for thirteen lonng years before bringing about the conversion of the King in 301, so at the beginning of the fourth century. A conversion which led to Armenia becoming the first nation ever to adopt Christianity as a State religion. And a conversion which was no doubt on the Pope’s mind as together with the Patriarch he made his way up two narrow flights of stairs to the room known as the ‘Well of Saint Gregory’. They were there  to light a candle before making their way to the nearby Chapel to pray: the Patriarch in Armenian and the Pope in Italian. Before leaving this land which Pope Francis has described as ‘beloved’ he  expressed the idea that it was a grace to find himself on these heights where, beneath the gaze of Mount Ararat, the very silence seems to speak.  And where the 'khatchkar' – the stone crosses – recount a singular history bound up with rugged faith and immense suffering. A history, he went on to say, replete with magnificent testimonies to the Gospel, to which you the Armenian people are heirs. Words pronounced a day earlier when he had symbolically watered, once again together with the Patriarch, the seedlings of a vine in a model of Noah’s Ark. New life that grows out of memory.   (from Vatican Radio)... 8 hours 45 min
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II, leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church on Sunday signed a common declaration, giving thanks for the progress towards Christian unity, and appealing for peace in the Middle East and other regions torn apart by conflict, terrorism and religious persecution. At the conclusion of a three day pastoral visit to Armenia, the first country to embrace the Christian faith, the Pope joined the Patriarch in calling for a peaceful resolution in neighbouring Nagorno-Karabakh. The declaration also recalls “the extermination of a million and a half Armenian Christians, in what is generally referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century”. In the statement the two religious leaders pray for a change of heart in all who commit violence, as well as imploring leaders of nations to hear the cry of those people “who have urgent need of bread, not guns”. They acknowledge all that is already being done to support victims of violence, but they insist that much more is needed on the part of political leaders and the international community to ensure the right of all to live in peace and security, to uphold the rule of law, to protect religious and ethnic minorities, to combat human trafficking and smuggling. Please find below the full text of the Common Declaration of Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II at Holy Etchmiadzin, Republic of Armenia Today in Holy Etchmiadzin, spiritual center of All Armenians, we, Pope Francis and Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II raise our minds and hearts in thanksgiving to the Almighty for the continuing and growing closeness in faith and love between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church in their common witness to the Gospel message of salvation in a world torn by strife and yearning for comfort and hope. We praise the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for enabling us to come together in the biblical land of Ararat, which stands as a reminder that God will ever be our protection and salvation. We are spiritually gratified to remember that in 2001, on the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the proclamation of Christianity as the religion of Armenia, Saint John Paul II visited Armenia and was a witness to a new page in warm and fraternal relations between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church. We are grateful that we had the grace of being together, at a solemn liturgy in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome on 12 April 2015, where we  pledged our will to oppose every form of discrimination and violence, and commemorated the victims of what the Common Declaration of His Holiness John-Paul II and His Holiness Karekin II spoke of as “the extermination of a million and a half Armenian Christians, in what is generally referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century”  (27 September 2001). We praise the Lord that today, the Christian faith is again a vibrant reality in Armenia, and that the Armenian Church carries on her mission with a spirit of fraternal collaboration between the Churches, sustaining the faithful in building a world of solidarity, justice and peace. Sadly, though, we are witnessing an immense tragedy unfolding before our eyes, of countless innocent people being killed, displaced or forced into a painful and uncertain exile by continuing conflicts on ethnic, economic, political and religious grounds in the Middle East and other parts of the world. As a result, religious and ethnic minorities have become the target of persecution and cruel treatment, to the point that suffering for one’s religious belief has become a daily reality. The martyrs belong to all the Churches and their suffering is an “ecumenism of blood” which transcends the historical divisions between Christians, calling us all to promote the visible unity of Christ’s disciples. Together we pray, through the intercession of the holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, Thaddeus and Bartholomew, for a change of heart in all those who commit such crimes and those who are in a position to stop the violence. We implore the leaders of nations to listen to the plea of millions of human beings who long for peace and justice in the world, who demand respect for their God-given rights, who have urgent need of bread, not guns. Sadly, we are witnessing a presentation of religion and religious values in a fundamentalist way, which is used to justify the spread of hatred, discrimination and violence. The justification of such crimes on the basis of religious ideas is unacceptable, for “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace” (I Corinthians 14:33). Moreover, respect for religious difference is the necessary condition for the peaceful cohabitation of different ethnic and religious communities. Precisely because we are Christians, we are called to seek and implement paths towards reconciliation and peace. In this regard we also express our hope for a peaceful resolution of the issues surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh. Mindful of what Jesus taught his disciples when he said: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25: 35-36), we ask the faithful of our Churches to open their hearts and hands to the victims of war and terrorism, to refugees and their families. At issue is the very sense of our humanity, our solidarity, compassion and generosity, which can only be properly expressed in an immediate practical commitment of resources. We acknowledge all that is already being done, but we insist that much more is needed on the part of political leaders and the international community in order to ensure the right of all to live in peace and security, to uphold the rule of law, to protect religious and ethnic minorities, to combat human trafficking and smuggling. The secularization of large sectors of society, its alienation from the spiritual and divine, leads inevitably to a desacralized and materialistic vision of man and the human family. In this respect we are concerned about the crisis of the family in many countries. The Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church share the same vision of the family, based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between man and woman.  We gladly confirm that despite continuing divisions among Christians, we have come to realize more clearly that what unites us is much more than what divides us. This is the solid basis upon which the unity of Christ’s Church will be made manifest, in accordance with the Lord’s words, “that they all may be one” (John 17.21). Over the past decades the relationship between the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church has successfully entered a new phase, strengthened by our mutual prayers and joint efforts in overcoming contemporary challenges. Today we are convinced of the crucial importance of furthering this relationship, engaging in deeper and more decisive collaboration not only in the area of theology, but also in prayer and active cooperation on the level of the local communities, with a view to sharing full communion and concrete expressions of unity.  We urge our faithful to work in harmony for the promotion in society of the Christian values which effectively contribute to building a civilization of justice, peace and human solidarity. The path of reconciliation and brotherhood lies open before us. May the Holy Spirit, who guides us into all truth (cf. John 16:13), sustain every genuine effort to build bridges of love and communion between us. From Holy Etchmiadzin we call on all our faithful to join us in prayer, in the words of Saint Nerses the Gracious: “Glorified Lord, accept the supplications of Your servants, and graciously fulfil our petitions, through the intercession of the Holy Mother of God, John the Baptist, the first martyr Saint Stephen, Saint Gregory our Illuminator, the Holy Apostles, Prophets, Divines, Martyrs, Patriarchs, Hermits, Virgins and all Your saints in Heaven and on Earth. And unto You, O indivisible Holy Trinity, be glory and worship forever and ever. Amen”. Holy Etchmiadzin, 26 June 2016 His Holiness Francis                     His Holiness Karekin II (from Vatican Radio)... 10 hours 26 min
(Vatican Radio)  On the last day of his three day visit to Armenia, Pope Francis participated Sunday in the Divine Liturgy celebrated by his Oriental Orthodox host, Catholicos of all Armenians Karekin II. In a discourse at the conclusion of the celebration, Pope Francis spoke of his “already unforgettable” visit and prayed that the two Churches “follow God’s call to full communion and hasten to it.”  Listen to the report by Tracey McClure : Thanking Catholicos Karekin for his hospitality, Pope Francis said, “you have opened to me the doors of your home and we have experienced ‘how good and pleasant it is when brothers live in unity’.”  “We have met, we have embraced as brothers, we have prayed together and shared the gifts, hopes and concerns of the Church of Christ.  We have felt as one her beating heart, and we believe and experience that the Church is one,” Pope Francis said. Citing Saints Bartholomew and Thaddeus “who first proclaimed the Gospel in these lands” and “Saints Peter and Paul who gave their lives for the Lord in Rome,”  the pontiff said they “surely rejoice to see our affection and our tangible longing for full communion.” Francis prayed the Holy Spirit to “make all believers one heart and soul; may he come to re-establish us in unity” and, “may the cause of our scandal be dissolved” by God’s love, “above all the lack of unity among Christ’s disciples.” Calling for peace in the Armenian Church and “complete” communion, Pope Francis prayed for “an ardent desire for unity” among Christians.  But such unity, he stressed, must not mean “the submission of one to the other, or assimilation, but rather the acceptance of all the gifts that God has given to each.” Concluding, Pope Francis urged the faithful to “listen to the voices of the humble and poor, of the many victims of hatred who suffered and gave their lives for the faith” and to young people “who seek a future free of past divisions.” From this holy place, the Pope said, “may a radiant light shine forth once more… and to the light of faith which has illumined these lands from the time of Saint Gregory…may there be joined the light of the love that forgives and reconciles.”   Below, please find the English translation of Pope Francis’ discourse: Your Holiness, Dear Bishops, Dear Brothers and Sisters,               At the end of this greatly-desired visit, one already unforgettable for me, I join my gratitude to the Lord with the great hymn of praise and thanksgiving that rose from this altar.  Your Holiness, in these days you have opened to me the doors of your home, and we have experienced “how good and pleasant it is when brothers live in unity” ( Ps 133:1).  We have met, we have embraced as brothers, we have prayed together and shared the gifts, hopes and concerns of the Church of Christ.  We have felt as one her beating heart, and we believe and experience that the Church is one .  “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope… one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all” ( Eph 4:4-6).  With great joy we can make our own these words of the Apostle Paul!  Our meeting comes under the aegis of the holy Apostles whom we have encountered.  Saints Bartholomew and Thaddeus, who first proclaimed the Gospel in these lands, and Saints Peter and Paul who gave their lives for the Lord in Rome and now reign with Christ in heaven, surely rejoice to see our affection and our tangible longing for full communion.  For all this, I thank the Lord, for you and with you: Park astutsò! (Glory to God!).             During this Divine Liturgy, the solemn chant of the Trisagion rose to heaven, acclaiming God’s holiness.  May abundant blessings of the Most High fill the earth through the intercession of the Mother of God, the great saints and doctors, the martyrs, especially the many whom you canonized last year in this place.  May “the Only Begotten who descended here” bless our journey.  May the Holy Spirit make all believers one heart and soul; may he come to re-establish us in unity .  For this I once more invoke the Holy Spirit, making my own the splendid words that are part of your Liturgy.  Come, Holy Spirit, you “who intercede with ceaseless sighs to the merciful Father, you who watch over the saints and purify sinners”, bestow on us your fire of love and unity, and “may the cause of our scandal be dissolved by this love” (Gregory of Narek, Book of Lamentations , 33, 5), above all the lack of unity among Christ’s disciples.             May the Armenian Church walk in peace and may the communion between us be complete.  May an ardent desire for unity rise up in our hearts, a unity that must not be “the submission of one to the other, or assimilation, but rather the acceptance of all the gifts that God has given to each.  This will reveal to the entire world the great mystery of salvation accomplished by Christ the Lord through the Holy Spirit” ( Greeting at the Divine Liturgy , Patriarchal Church of Saint George, Istanbul, 30 November 2014).             Let us respond to the appeal of the saints, let us listen to the voices of the humble and poor, of the many victims of hatred who suffered and gave their lives for the faith.  Let us pay heed to the younger generation, who seek a future free of past divisions.  From this holy place may a radiant light shine forth once more, and to the light of faith, which has illumined these lands from the time of Saint Gregory, your Father in the Gospel, may there be joined the light of the love that forgives and reconciles.             Just as on Easter morning the Apostles, for all their hesitations and uncertainties, ran towards the place of the resurrection, drawn by the blessed dawn of new hope (cf. Jn 20:3-4), so too on this holy Sunday may we follow God’s call to full communion and hasten towards it.             Now, Your Holiness, in the name of God, I ask you to bless me, to bless me and the Catholic Church, and to bless this our path towards full unity.                                (from Vatican Radio)... 14 hours 31 min
(Vatican Radio)  At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy celebrated in Etchmiadzin, Armenia, the Catholicos of all Armenians Karekin II thanked Pope Francis for his “brotherly visit” to the country and prayed that the Lord “keep firm our Churches in love and collaboration” and “grant us new opportunities for witness of brotherhood.” Pope Francis has been the guest of the Oriental Orthodox Catholicos during his three day pastoral visit to Armenia and participated in Sunday’s celebration. In a reflection on the miracle of the multiplication of bread, the day’s reading of the Scripture, the Catholicos recalled that Christ performed the miracle in order to feed the hungry crowds.  “The essence of this miracle, which became one of the important missions of Christ’s Holy Church,” he said, “is the satisfaction of empty spirits” by the Gospel teachings and “the support of the needy through compassion.” The Lord urges us to be “co-workers with God,” he added, by rejuvenating the faith through good works, prayer and “worship with compassion” and “giving alms,” he said. “Today, faith in God is being tempted and human souls are being hardened during times of hardship and difficulties as well as during times of wealth and lavishness, when they are disengaged with the concerns of those who long for daily bread and are in pain and suffering,” added the Catholicos. And, he warned:  “Faith is put to the test by extremism and other kinds of ideologies; xenophobia, addictions, passions and self-centred profits. The processes of secularism are intensifying, spiritual and ethical values and views are distorted, and the family structure, established by God, is being shaken. The root of evil in modern life is in trying to build a world without God, to construe the laws and commandments of God which bring forward economic, political, social, environmental and other problems, that day by day deepen and threaten the natural way of life.” But, “goodness will prevail in the world and current challenges will be overcome” through Christ’s Eucharist and reflection on Christ’s teachings he observed.  Such Christian witness, he said, “will repeat the miracle of the multiplication of the bread through supporting and consoling the needy, the sick, and the sorrowful.” Ecumenical brotherhood and mission During Pope Francis’ visit, Catholicos Karekin took care to stress, “we reconfirmed that the Holy Church of Christ is one in the spreading of the gospel of Christ in the world, in taking care of creation, standing against common problems, and in the vital mission of the salvation of man who is the crown and glory of God’s creation. The inseparable mission of the Church of Christ is the strengthening of solidarity among nations and peoples, reinforcing of brotherhood and collaboration, and a witness to this is the participation in this Divine Liturgy today of the ethnic minorities in Armenia: the Assyrians, Belarus, Greeks, Georgians, Jews, Yezidis, Kurds, Germans, Poles, Russians and Ukrainians who in brotherly coexistence with our people bring their assistance towards the development of our country and the progress of social life.”   Below, please find the English translation of Catholicos Karekin II’s discourse: When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. John 13:34   In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Yours Holiness, beloved brother in Christ, Your Excellency, President of the Republic of Armenia, Beloved spiritual brothers and faithful people,   Over the course of the past few days we have been experiencing an abundance of spiritual joy and joint prayer while glorifying God in Holy Etchmiadzin. Today we have gathered for the celebration of Divine Liturgy, joined in prayer by the Pontiff of Rome, our beloved brother, Pope Francis. It is symbolic that today’s reading of the Scripture, during the celebration of Divine Liturgy, was the story of the multiplication of bread. The Evangelist tells us that when Christ secluded himself, knowing this, the multitude of people followed Him, and when the Lord saw the gathered crowd, He had compassion for them and healed the sick. In the evening the apostles asked the Lord to set the people free so that they could find food for themselves. Christ commanded them to feed the people. However, there was a shortage of food, and the Lord blessed it and the bread, which had miraculously multiplied, was enough for the apostles to feed the entire multitude.            The essence of this miracle, which became one of the important missions of Christ’s Holy Church, is the satisfaction of empty spirits by the Lord-given teachings and the support of the needy through compassion. The Lord urges His followers to rejuvenate faith by works, to conjoin prayer and worship with compassion, and to give alms; through which, by the appeasement of hardship and tribulations, we are co-workers with God, according to the words of the apostle (1 Corinthians 3:9). Through this vision, numerous prophesying Church fathers, graceful patriarchs, brave and good shepherds, countless witnesses of faith and devout believers have for centuries depicted the pages of the history of Christ’s Church with the devout preaching of the Word of God and the great works of giving alms and fostering; so that the people may be strengthened by faith, and through the works of faith they may secure the presence of God in the lives of humanity.             Today, faith in God is being tempted and human souls are being hardened during times of hardship and difficulties as well as during times of wealth and lavishness, when they are disengaged with the concerns of those who long for daily bread and are in pain and suffering. Faith is put to the test by extremism and other kinds of ideologies; xenophobia, addictions, passions and self-centred profits. The processes of secularism are intensifying, spiritual and ethical values and views are distorted, and the family structure, established by God, is being shaken. The root of evil in modern life is in trying to build a world without God, to construe the laws and commandments of God which bring forward economic, political, social, environmental and other problems, that day by day deepen and threaten the natural way of life.             Nevertheless, the world does not cease from being the center of God’s love and care. The Lord continues to say, “I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes in me shall never thirst” ( John 6:35 ). The one who has tasted the delightful teachings of the Lord stoops to raise the fallen, to increase hope and faith in the hearts of men, and to repeat the miracle of the multiplication of the bread through supporting and consoling the needy, the sick, and the sorrowful. Goodness will prevail in the world and current challenges will be overcome by these commands of God, and by utilizing spiritual and moral values. All good works express God’s care towards humanity and the world, according to the words of the Lord, “behold the kingdom of God is within you” ( Luke 17:21 ), and as an affirmation of this, the churches of the world bring their service.             Dear ones, during these days together with our spiritual brother, Pope Francis, with joint visits and prayers we reconfirmed that the Holy Church of Christ is one in the spreading of the gospel of Christ in the world, in taking care of creation, standing against common problems, and in the vital mission of the salvation of man who is the crown and glory of God’s creation. The inseparable mission of the Church of Christ is the strengthening of solidarity among nations and peoples, reinforcing of brotherhood and collaboration, and a witness to this is the participation in this Divine Liturgy today of the ethnic minorities in Armenia: the Assyrians, Belarus, Greeks, Georgians, Jews, Yezidis, Kurds, Germans, Poles, Russians and Ukrainians who in brotherly coexistence with our people bring their assistance towards the development of our country and the progress of social life.             On this graceful day we are appreciative for another opportunity to thank Pope Francis on the occasion of his brotherly visit. We and our people will always pray for you, beloved brother, and for your efforts made towards peace and prosperity of humanity and towards the advancement of the Church of Christ. May God give you strength, bless and keep firm our Churches in love and collaboration and may He grant us new opportunities for witness of brotherhood. In your daily prayers remember the Armenian people, the Armenian statehood and the Armenian Church and the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.             With a prayerful spirit we ask for the protection and support of the Holy Right Hand of Almighty God to shelter those suffering from wars and terrorism, as well as those who are in starvation, poverty and other kinds of afflictions. We also beseech the Lord to pour abundant graces of heaven upon our lives and the whole world.  Amen     (from Vatican Radio)... 14 hours 50 min
(Vatican Radio)  In a symbolic gesture, Pope Francis and the Catholicos of all Armenians Karekin II watered a tree symbolizing Armenia’s many Christians living in the diaspora so that they may bear fruit, signifying new life.  The two Church leaders took up amphoras at the end of Saturday’s ecumenical prayer for peace in Yerevan and poured water over the earth which had been gathered by children residents of Armenia and elsewhere across the world and placed in a vessel resembling Noah’s Ark. Armenia is home to Mount Ararat where, according to legend, Noah landed his Ark after the Great Floods. Tens of thousands of Armenia’s Christians fled the country in the 1900s during Ottoman massacres.  On Saturday, Francis paid his respects at Armenia's imposing genocide memorial and greeted descendants of survivors of the 1915 slaughter. In the memorial’s guest book, the Pope wrote:  ``Here I pray with sorrow in my heart, so that a tragedy like this never again occurs, so that humanity will never forget and will know how to defeat evil with good…May God protect the memory of the Armenian people. Memory should never be watered-down or forgotten. Memory is the source of peace and the future.''   (from Vatican Radio)... 16 hours 25 min
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday urged young people in Armenia to be active peacemakers in a world suffering from persecutions and conflict. Speaking at an open air prayer service in Yerevan to leaders of all the Churches in Armenia, the Pope called on people of faith to abandon “rigid opinions and personal interests”, showing instead humility and generosity on the path towards full Christian unity. Philippa Hitchen reports:  During the prayer service for peace in Yerevan’s central Republic Square, the leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, to which most believers in the country belong, Catholicos Karekin II spoke bluntly about the suffering and conflicts that plague the Caucasus region today. He recalled the fighting that flared again last April in the contested Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh where, he said, “Armenian villages were bombarded”, killing both soldiers and civilians. The Patriarch also talked again about the Armenian genocide a century ago, noting how countries including Germany, an ally of Turkey during the First World War, have recently moved to recognize the atrocities as a key step towards peace and reconciliation in the region. Pope Francis, in his words to the Christian leaders, also spoke of that “immense and senseless slaughter”, saying it is not only right, but also a duty to keep the memory of that tragedy alive. But memory, he insisted, must be transformed by love and by the driving force of faith to sow seeds of peace for the future. Memory, infused with love, he said, becomes capable of setting out on new and unexpected paths, where designs of hatred become projects of reconciliation The Pope also spoke of the wars and conflicts in the Middle East today, fueled by the proliferation of weapons and by the arms trade. Adressing the young people present in the windswept square, he urged them to become peacemakers, “actively engaged in building a culture of encounter and reconciliation”. Citing a famous 12th century Armenian figure, Catholicos Nerses IV, remembered as a champion of efforts towards church unity, Pope Francis said Christians must find the courage to abandon rigid opinions and personal interests in order to “heal memories and bind up past wounds”. He urged Armenians to work with humility and generosity for a peaceful society, based on dignified employment for all, care for those most in need and the elimination of corruption. At the end of the prayer service, the Pope and the Patriarch watered seedlings of a vine planted by young Armenians in a model of Noah's Ark, believed to have come to rest after the great flood on the slopes of Mount Ararat, whose snow capped peaks dominate the eastern part of the country Please find below the English translation of Pope Francis’ address at the Ecumenical Prayer Vigil for Peace in Yerevan Venerable and Dear Brother, Supreme Patriarch-Catholicos of All Armenians, Mr President, Dear Brothers and Sisters,             God’s blessing and peace be with all of you!             I have greatly desired to visit this beloved land, your country, the first to embrace the Christian faith.  It is a grace for me to find myself here on these heights where, beneath the gaze of Mount Ararat, the very silence seems to speak.  Here the khatchkar – the stone crosses – recount a singular history bound up with rugged faith and immense suffering, a history replete with magnificent testimonies to the Gospel, to which you are heir.  I have come as a pilgrim from Rome to be with you and to express my heartfelt affection: the affection of your brother and the fraternal embrace of the whole Catholic Church, which esteems you and is close to you.             In recent years the visits and meetings between our Churches, always cordial and often memorable, have, thank God, increased.  Providence has willed that on this day commemorating the Holy Apostles of Christ we meet once again to confirm the apostolic communion between us.  I am most grateful to God for the “real and profound unity” between our Churches (cf. JOHN PAUL II, Ecumenical Celebration, Yerevan, 26 September 2001: Insegnamenti XXIV/2 [2001], 466), and I thank you for your often heroic fidelity to the Gospel, which is a priceless gift for all Christians.  Our presence here is not an exchange of ideas, but of gifts (cf. ID., Ut Unum Sint, 28): we are reaping what the Spirit has sown in us as a gift for each (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 246).  With great joy, we are walking together on a journey that has already taken us far, and we look confidently towards the day when by God’s help we shall be united around the altar of Christ’s sacrifice in the fullness of Eucharistic communion.  As we pursue that greatly desired goal, we are joined in a common pilgrimage; we walk with one another with “sincere trust in our fellow pilgrims, putting aside all suspicion and mistrust” (ibid., 244).             On this journey, we have been preceded by, and walk with, many witnesses, particularly all those martyrs who sealed our common faith in Christ by their blood.  They are our stars in heaven, shining upon us here below and pointing out the path towards full communion. Among the great Fathers, I would mention the saintly Catholicos Nerses Shnorhali.  He showed an extraordinary love for his people and their traditions, as well as a lively concern for other Churches.  Tireless in seeking unity, he sought to achieve Christ’s will that those who believe “may all be one” (Jn 17:21).  Unity does not have to do with strategic advantages sought out of mutual self-interest.  Rather, it is what Jesus requires of us and what we ourselves must strive to attain with good will, constant effort and consistent witness, in the fulfilment of our mission of bringing the Gospel to the world.             To realize this necessary unity, Saint Nerses tells us that in the Church more is required than the good will of a few: everyone’s prayer is needed.  It is beautiful that we have gathered here to pray for one another and with one another.  It is above all the gift of prayer that I come this evening to ask of you.  For my part, I assure you that, in offering the bread and cup at the altar, I will not fail to present to the Lord the Church of Armenia and your dear people.             Saint Nerses spoke of the need to grow in mutual love, since charity alone can heal memories and bind up past wounds.  Memory alone erases prejudices and makes us see that openness to our brothers and sisters can purify and elevate our own convictions.  For the sainted Catholicos, the journey towards unity necessarily involves imitating the love of Christ, who, “though he was rich” (2 Cor  8:9), “humbled himself” (Phil 2:8).  Following Christ’s example, we are called to find the courage needed to abandon rigid opinions and personal interests in the name of the love that bends low and bestows itself, in the name of the humble love that is the blessed oil of the Christian life, the precious spiritual balm that heals, strengthens and sanctifies.  “Let us make up for our shortcomings in harmony and charity”, wrote Saint Nerses (Lettere del Signore Nerses Shnorhali, Catholicos degli Armeni, Venice, 1873, 316), and even – he suggested – with a particular gentleness of love capable of softening the hardness of the heart of Christians, for they too are often concerned only with themselves and their own advantage.  Humble and generous love, not the calculation of benefits, attracts the mercy of the Father, the blessing of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  By praying and “loving one another deeply from the heart” (cf. 1 Pet 1:22), in humility and openness of spirit, we prepare ourselves to receive God’s gift of unity.  Let us pursue our journey with determination; indeed, let us race towards our full communion!             “Peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives it, do I give it to you” (Jn 14:27).  We have heard these words of the Gospel, which invite us to implore from God that peace that the world struggles to achieve.  How many obstacles are found today along the path of peace, and how tragic the consequences of wars!  I think of all those forced to leave everything behind, particularly in the Middle East, where so many of our brothers and sisters suffer violence and persecution on account of hatred and interminable conflicts.  Those conflicts are fueled by the proliferation of weapons and by the arms trade, by the temptation to resort to force and by lack of respect for the human person, especially for the weak, the poor and those who seek only a dignified life.             Nor can I fail to think of the terrible trials that your own people experienced.  A century has just passed from the “Great Evil” unleashed upon you.  This “immense and senseless slaughter” (Greeting, Mass for Faithful of the Armenian Rite, 12 April 2015), this tragic mystery of iniquity that your people experienced in the flesh, remains impressed in our memory and burns in our hearts.  Here I would again state that your sufferings are our own: “they are the sufferings of the members of Christ’s Mystical Body” (JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter on the 1700th Anniversary of the Baptism of the Armenian People, 4: Insegnamenti XXIV/1 [2001], 275).  Not to forget them is not only right, it is a duty.  May they be a perennial warning lest the world fall back into the maelstrom of similar horrors!             At the same time, I recall with admiration how the Christian faith, “even at the most tragic moments of Armenian history, was the driving force that marked the beginning of your suffering people’s rebirth” (ibid., 276).  That is your true strength, which enables you to be open to the mysterious and saving path of Easter.  Wounds still open, caused by fierce and senseless hatred, can in some way be configured to the wounds of the risen Christ, those wounds that were inflicted upon him and that he bears even now impressed on his flesh.  He showed those glorious wounds to the disciples on the evening of Easter (cf. Jn 20:20).  Those terrible, painful wounds suffered on the cross, transfigured by love, have become a wellspring of forgiveness and peace.  Even the greatest pain, transformed by the saving power of the cross, of which Armenians are heralds and witnesses, can become a seed of peace for the future.             Memory, infused with love, becomes capable of setting out on new and unexpected paths, where designs of hatred become projects of reconciliation, where hope arises for a better future for everyone, where “blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:9).  We would all benefit from efforts to lay the foundations of a future that will resist being caught up in the illusory power of vengeance, a future of constant efforts to create the conditions for peace: dignified employment for all, care for those in greatest need, and the unending battle to eliminate corruption.             Dear young people, this future belongs to you.  Cherish the great wisdom of your elders and strive to be peacemakers: not content with the status quo, but actively engaged in building the culture of encounter and reconciliation.  May God bless your future and “grant that the people of Armenia and Turkey take up again the path of reconciliation, and may peace also spring forth in Nagorno Karabakh (Message to the Armenians, 12 April 2015).             In this perspective, I would like lastly to mention another great witness and builder of Christ’s peace, Saint Gregory of Narek, whom I have proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.  He could also be defined as a “Doctor of Peace”.  Thus he wrote in the extraordinary Book that I like to consider the “spiritual constitution of the Armenian people”: “Remember [Lord,] those of the human race who are our enemies as well, and for their benefit accord them pardon and mercy… Do not destroy those who persecute me, but reform them; root out the vile ways of this world, and plant the good in me and them” (Book of Lamentations, 83, 1-2).  Narek, “profoundly conscious of sharing in every need” (ibid., 3, 2), sought also to identify with the weak and sinners of every time and place in order to intercede on behalf of all (cf. ibid., 31, 3; 32, 1; 47, 2).  He became “the intercessor of the whole world” (ibid., 28, 2).  This, his universal solidarity with humanity, is a great Christian message of peace, a heartfelt plea of mercy for all.  Armenians are present in so many countries of the world; from here, I wish fraternally to embrace everyone.  I encourage all of you, everywhere, to give voice to this desire for fellowship, to be “ambassadors of peace” (JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter for the 1700th anniversary of the Baptism of the Armenian People, 7: Insegnamenti XXIV/1 [2001], 278).  The whole world needs this message, it needs your presence, it needs your purest witness.  Kha’ra’rutiun amenetzun! (Peace to you!). (from Vatican Radio)... 1 day 6 hours
(Vatican Radio) During the afternoon of his second day in Armenia, Pope Francis’s schedule included a visit to the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral and to the Armenian Catholic Cathedral in the city of Gyumri, the second most populous city of the Nation. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni : After morning an open-air Mass in Gyumri’s central Square and lunch at a convent, the Pope travelled to the airport to board the plane taking him back to Yerevan for an event featuring an Ecumenical Encounter and a Prayer for Peace in the capital city’s Republic Square. On the way, a first stop took him to the Apostolic Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Mother of God. Here Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II were to be greeted by Armenian Apostolic Bishops and by a small group of disabled people and Syrian refugees.  After praying in silence before the Marian Icon of the Seven Wounds and venerating the Crucifix together with the Catholicos, the Pope was to impart his Apostolic Blessing. The Apostolic Armenian Cathedral is known also as the Seven Wounds of the Holy Mother of God. Located in Vartanants Square, it is the seat of the Diocese of Shirak . The church is topped with a large dome at the center surrounded with 2 minor domes. Unlike other Armenian churches, the altar at the Holy Mother of God is unique for its multi-iconic decoration. The church remained active during the Soviet years. After the 1988 Spitak earthquake, the building was restored after independence thanks to the contribution of Armenian benefactors who had emigrated to Argentina. The two minor domes that fell down during the earthquake were replaced with new ones and tthe fallen domes are currently placed in the church yard. The second Cathedral Pope Francis to receive the Pope’s visit on Friday afternoon is the Armenian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Martyrs. Here, the Pope and the Catholicos are greeted at the main entrance of the church by Archbishop Raphael Francois Minassian, the Ordinary of Eastern Europe for Armenian Catholics and by the Parish Priest . Awaiting them inside the small cathedral, a group of benefactors of the Armenian Catholic Church. The Cathedral is the seat of the Ordinariate for Armenia, Georgia, Russia, and Eastern Europe of the Armenian Catholic Church. Construction for the building began in December 2010 and was completed in 2015.  The cathedral was originally to be named "Holy Cross", but was changed to "Holy Martyrs" in effort to pay tribute to the victims of the Armenian Genocide. (from Vatican Radio)... 1 day 9 hours
(Vatican Radio)  Following celebration of Holy Mass in Varanans Square on Saturday morning, Pope Francis visited the convent and orphanage of Our Lady of Armenia - Boghossian Education Centre for lunch with around 60 hungry youngsters. The orphanage is run by the Congregation of the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, who also run the Diramyer Vocational School and a day-care center housed on the same campus. At the end of the visit, a photo opportunity with the orphans helped by the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, benefactors, and several former residents of the orphanage along with their children provides a highlight to the event. The History of Our Lady of Armenia Center With the independence of Armenia, the dream of the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception to serve in the homeland became a reality. Following the horrible earthquake of 1988, the Sisters had already come to Armenia to console the grief of our nation. Today, the Order has an orphanage, a Vocational School and a day-care Center for the Elderly in Gyumri, a day-care Center in Tashir, a summer camp in Tsaghkadzor and a Convent in Javakhq, Georgia. The Sisters teach catechism and do pastoral work in many of the Catholic villages of the regions of Shirak,  Tashir, and Southern Georgia. Initially, the Sisters worked in Spitak. In 1992, the Covent was formally established in the village of Arevig and the apostolate of the Sisters consisted in teaching catechism and doing pastoral work in the villages or Arevig, Panik and Lantchig. At the end of 1993, the Sisters moved to Gyumri while continuing their service to the three villages. It was during their religion classes that the Sisters witnessed the deplorable state of many orphaned children. They had lost their parents either during the earthquake or the battle of Nagorno-Karabakh. In an effort to provide a brief respite to these children, the Sisters organized a summer camp program in 1994. First, the Sisters used rented facilities in Hankavan and Byuragan until the Foundation Alliance Armenienne of Geneva, Switzerland, donated a complex in Tsaghkadzor. Some 850 children, ages 8 to 15 spend a 16-day vacation at the Diramayr Hayastani Jambar. The success of the camp program is at the genesis of the Our Lady of Armenia-Boghossian Educational Center. It was the wish of Robert Boghossian & Sons family, that an educational Centre be established to house the orphans all year long. Construction works began in 1996 and the beautiful complex was inaugurated on September 16, 1998. The whole complex is the gift of Fonds Robert Boghossian & Fils and the Sisters are deeply grateful to the generous benefactors who continue to partially fund the running expenses of the Center. Recruitment of the children is done in different ways. Priority is given to abandoned children, orphans of both parents, children whose fathers have abandoned them and the mother is not capable of providing for the needs of the child.  (from Vatican Radio)... 1 day 12 hours
(Vatican Radio)  At the conclusion of Mass in Gyumri, Armenia on Saturday, Pope Francis took a moment to greet “all those who with such generosity and practical charity are helping our brothers and sisters in need.”  In particular, the Pontiff recalled what is known as “the Pope’s Hospital” desired by Pope John Paul II himself and which opened 25 years ago in Ashotsk.  “It was born of the heart of Saint John Paul II,” Pope Francis observed, “and it continues to be an important presence close to those who are suffering.” Below, please find Pope Francis’ remarks upon conclusion of Holy Mass in Gyumri, Armenia: At the conclusion of this celebration, I wish to express my deep gratitude to Catholicos Karekin II and to Archbishop Minassian for their gracious words.  I also thank Patriarch Ghabroyan and the Bishops present, as well as the priests and the Authorities who have warmly welcomed us. I thank all of you here present, who have come to Gyumri from different regions and from nearby Georgia.  I especially greet all those who with such generosity and practical charity are helping our brothers and sisters in need.  I think in particular of the hospital in Ashotsk, opened twenty-five years ago and known as “the Pope’s Hospital”.  It was born of the heart of Saint John Paul II, and it continues to be an important presence close to those who are suffering.  I think too of the charitable works of the local Catholic community, and those of the Armenian Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and the Missionaries of Charity of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  May the Virgin Mary, our Mother, accompany you always and guide your steps in the way of fraternity and peace.   (from Vatican Radio)... 1 day 13 hours
(Vatican Radio)   Speaking at Holy Mass Saturday in Gyumri, Armenia, Pope Francis recalled the “terrible devastation” wrought by the massive 1988 earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people and gave thanks “for all that has been rebuilt.” In his Homily, the Pope offered three “stable foundations upon which we can tirelessly build and rebuild the Christian life.” The first foundation, he said, is “memory:” to “recall what the Lord has done in and for us” and that “He has chosen us, loved us, called us and forgiven us.”  “The memory of a people” like those in Armenia, also needs to be preserved the Pope added.  “Even in the face of tremendous adversity,” he stressed, God has “remembered your faithfulness to the Gospel… and all those who testified, even at the price of their blood, that God’s love is more precious than life itself.” Faith, the Holy Father said, is the second foundation on which to build Christian life. But, he warned, “there is always a danger that can dim the light of faith and that is the temptation to reduce it to something from the past, something important but belonging to another age…to be kept in a museum.” The third foundation, the Pope added, “is merciful love:”  “We are called above all to build and rebuild paths of communion, tirelessly creating bridges of unity and working to overcome our divisions.” Below, please find the full English translation of Pope Francis’ Homily at Holy Mass in Gyumri, Armenia: “They shall build up the ancient ruins… they shall repair the ruined cities” ( Is 61:4).  In this place, dear brothers and sisters, we can say that the words of the Prophet Isaiah have come to pass.  After the terrible devastation of the earthquake, we gather today to give thanks to God for all that has been rebuilt. Yet we might also wonder: what is the Lord asking us to build today in our lives, and even more importantly, upon what is he calling us to build our lives?  In seeking an answer to this question, I would like to suggest three stable foundations upon which we can tirelessly build and rebuild the Christian life. The first foundation is memory .  One grace we can implore is that of being able to remember: to recall what the Lord has done in and for us, and to remind ourselves that, as today’s Gospel says, he has not forgotten us but “remembered” us ( Lk 1:72).  God has chosen us, loved us, called us and forgiven us.  Great things have happened in our personal love story with him, and these must be treasured in our minds and hearts.  Yet there is another memory we need to preserve: it is the memory of a people.  Peoples, like individuals, have a memory.  Your own people’s memory is ancient and precious.  Your voices echo those of past sages and saints; your words evoke those who created your alphabet in order to proclaim God’s word; your songs blend the afflictions and the joys of your history.  As you ponder these things, you can clearly recognize God’s presence.  He has not abandoned you.  Even in the face of tremendous adversity, we can say in the words of today’s Gospel that the Lord has visited your people (cf. Lk 1:68).  He has remembered your faithfulness to the Gospel, the first-fruits of your faith, and all those who testified, even at the price of their blood, that God’s love is more precious than life itself (cf. Ps 63:4).  It is good to recall with gratitude how the Christian faith became your people’s life breath and the heart of their historical memory. Faith is also hope for your future and a light for life’s journey.  Faith is the second foundation I would like to mention.  There is always a danger that can dim the light of faith, and that is the temptation to reduce it to something from the past, something important but belonging to another age, as if the faith were a beautiful illuminated book to be kept in a museum.  Once it is locked up in the archives of history, faith loses its power to transform, its living beauty, its positive openness to all.  Faith, however, is born and reborn from a life-giving encounter with Jesus, from experiencing how his mercy illumines every situation in our lives.  We would do well to renew this living encounter with the Lord each day.  We would do well to read the word of God and in silent prayer to open our hearts to his love.  We would do well to let our encounter with the Lord’s tenderness enkindle joy in our hearts: a joy greater than sadness, a joy that even withstands pain and in turn becomes peace.  All of this renews our life, makes us free and open to surprises, ready and available for the Lord and for others.  It can happen too that Jesus calls us to follow him more closely, to give our lives to him and to our brothers and sisters.  When he calls – and I say this especially to you young people – do not be afraid; tell him “Yes!”  He knows us, he really loves us, and he wants to free our hearts from the burden of fear and pride.  By making room for him, we become capable of radiating his love.  Thus you will be able to carry on your great history of evangelization.  This is something the Church and the world need in these troubled times, which are also a time of mercy.  The third foundation, after memory and faith, is merciful love : on this rock, the rock of the love we receive from God and offer to our neighbour, the life of a disciple of Jesus is based.  In the exercise of charity, the Church’s face is rejuvenated and made beautiful.  Concrete love is the Christian’s visiting card; any other way of presenting ourselves could be misleading and even unhelpful, for it is by our love for one another that everyone will know that we are his disciples (cf. Jn 13:35).  We are called above all to build and rebuild paths of communion, tirelessly creating bridges of unity and working to overcome our divisions.  May believers always set an example, cooperating with one another in mutual respect and a spirit of dialogue, knowing that “the only rivalry possible among the Lord’s disciples is to see who can offer the greater love!” (JOHN PAUL II, Homily , 27 September 2001: Insegnamenti XXIV/2 [2001], 478). In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah reminds us that the Spirit of the Lord is always with those who carry glad tidings to the poor, who bind up the brokenhearted and console the afflicted (cf. 61:1-2).  God dwells in the hearts of those who love him.  God dwells wherever there is love, shown especially by courageous and compassionate care for the weak and the poor.  How much we need this!  We need Christians who do not allow themselves to be overcome by weariness or discouraged by adversity, but instead are available, open and ready to serve.  We need men and women of good will, who help their brothers and sisters in need, with actions and not merely words.  We need societies of greater justice, where each individual can lead a dignified life and, above all, be fairly remunerated for his or her work. All the same, we might ask ourselves: how can we become merciful, with all the faults and failings that we see within ourselves and all about us?  I would like to appeal to one concrete example, a great herald of divine mercy, one to whom I wished to draw greater attention by making him a Doctor of the Universal Church: Saint Gregory of Narek, word and voice of Armenia.  It is hard to find his equal in the ability to plumb the depths of misery lodged in the human heart.  Yet he always balanced human weakness with God’s mercy, lifting up a heartfelt and tearful prayer of trust in the Lord who is “giver of gifts, root of goodness… voice of consolation, news of comfort, joyful impulse… unparalleled compassion, inexhaustible mercy… the kiss of salvation” ( Book of Lamentations , 3, 1).  He was certain that “the light of God’s mercy is never clouded by the shadow of indignation” (ibid., 16, 1).  Gregory of Narek is a master of life, for he teaches us that the most important thing is to recognize that we are in need of mercy .  Despite our own failings and the injuries done to us, we must not become self-centred but open our hearts in sincerity and trust to the Lord, to “the God who is ever near, loving and good” [ibid., 17, 2), “filled with love for mankind … a fire consuming the chaff of sin (ibid . , 16, 2). In the words of Saint Gregory, I would like now to invoke God’s mercy and his gift of unfailing love: Holy Spirit, “powerful protector, intercessor and peace-maker, we lift up our prayers to you…  Grant us the grace to support one another in charity and good works…  Spirit of sweetness, compassion, loving kindness and mercy…  You who are mercy itself… Have mercy on us, Lord our God, in accordance with your great mercy” ( Hymn of Pentecost ).   (from Vatican Radio)... 1 day 14 hours
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis is celebrating the Holy Mass at this hour in the Armenian city of Gyumri on the second day of his apostolic visit to the former Soviet nation. At the start of the Liturgy, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of all Armenians welcomed the pontiff by thanking the Catholic Church which “gave a helping hand of brotherly love to the victims” of the devastating 1988 Armenian earthquake which killed 25,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless. The Catholicos noted with satisfaction that “Gyumri is one of those historical towns of Armenia where centuries-old Armenican Christian values have flourished” and that they “are bearers of a beautiful tradition of Christian brotherly coexistence.”  In particular, His Holiness cited the city’s church of the Holy Mother of God which opened its doors to Christians of all denominations during “the Soviet years of atheism when churches were being destroyed or shut in Armenia and only through the zealous resistance of our people, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and a few other churches were still open.”   The Catholicos also noted the "seal of anguish" that distinguishes Gyumri which "felt the heavy blows of the Ottoman Empire's devastating and invasive politics" when "our people were subjected to genocide" at the beginning of the twentieth century."   Below, please find the English translation of His Holiness Karekin II’s discourse:  (Gyumri, June 25, 2016) I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. John 13:34 Your Holiness,   Beloved spiritual brothers and faithful children, Today, as our Church is commemorating the Feast of the Holy Apostles of the Lord, this message directed by our Lord to His disciples, is so ever sweetly and powerfully resounding in our souls. With this God-given warm feeling of love in the name of all the faithful of the region we welcome you to the city of Gyumri, beloved brother in Christ. It brings us great joy to be joining you in prayer, a great friend of the Armenian Church and the Armenian people, in a Mass celebrated by you. Gyumri is one of those historical towns of Armenia where centuries-old Armenian Christian values have flourished, where the history and culture of our people and the spirit of generosity have harmoniously been shaped. The people of Gyumri are distinguished for their particularly profound faith and love towards the Church. They are also bearers of a beautiful tradition of Christian brotherly coexistence, which is witnessed by the prayerful presence of the faithful of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic Churches, as well as of other Christian denominations. During the Soviet years of atheism churches were being destroyed or shut in Armenia, and only through the zealous resistance of our people, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and a few other churches were still open. During that time, Gyumri’s church of the Holy Mother of God (Yotverk) opened its maternal bosom and became a haven and a place of prayer for all the Christians of the Northern districts of Armenia and of the ethnically Armenian towns and villages of Georgia, regardless of their national identity or what denomination they belonged to, may they be Armenian Apostolic, Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. The Northern apse of Yotverk church was turned into a place of prayer for the Catholic faithful where the crucifixion statue in the Catholic tradition, brought from the Catholic Church of Arevik village, was erected and is maintained to this day. While the Southern apse was provided to the Russian Orthodox where in a most honorable place, the Russian icon of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker was placed. Thus, Gyumri and the church of the Holy Mother of God (Yotverk) became a tangible provider and preacher for ecumenism, years before the modern definition of ecumenism was established.             Beloved brother in Christ, the city which we are visiting today, on its warm and hospitable heart, also carries the seal of anguish. At the dawn of the twentieth century, when our people were subjected to genocide, Gyumri as well felt the heavy blows of the Ottoman Empire’s devastating and invasive politics. Today as well Gyumri faces closed borders as a witness to the genocide committed one hundred years ago and to the continuous denialist policies. The pious people in Gyumri stood against the disaster of the earthquake through faith and brave heart. On this occasion we extend our words of appreciation to the Catholic Church, who also in those difficult days gave a helping hand of brotherly love to the victims of the earthquake, according to the words of the apostle, “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:23-24). Today as well our Children in Gyumri continue to overcome the difficulties and make dedicated efforts to transform Gyumri into a prosperous and thriving city. The testimonies to this are the Catholic Church, built in the recent years, and the two restored historic churches, gracefully overlooking this square as symbols of the revival of Gyumri.             Giving thanks to the Lord for this blessed day of unity of prayer in Gyumri, together with our beloved brother Pope Francis, we bring to you, dear faithful, our plea and wish so that through the firm steps of faith, brotherly love, and hope, you may witness in this world to the following commandment of Christ, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)             With this wish we also greet and extend our appreciation and blessings to government officials of Gyumri and the region, and to our faithful people of Shirak. We bring our appreciation and blessings to the Primate of the Diocese of Shirak, His Grace Bishop Michael Ajapahyan, and his co-serving clergy, as well as to the clergy of the Catholic community under the leadership of His Eminence, Archbishop Rafael Minassian. We wish them, with the support of the Lord, to successfully continue the pastoral care of their flock and the partnership in brotherly love. We extend our prayer to Almighty God with the intercession of the Holy Apostles and all the witnesses of the Lord, for peace in the world, a prosperous and secure life for humanity and for the vibrancy of the holy Church of Christ.             Your Holiness, our dear brother in Christ, your visit to Gyumri is a spiritual renewal for the faithful of the region of Shirak, and it shall always be remembered with warmth and love.  Again with a joyous heart we reaffirm that your visit is a new testimony to the fraternal relationship between our churches. May God keep steadfast the brotherhood and make fruitful the cooperation between our churches. Forever and ever. Amen.  (from Vatican Radio)... 1 day 14 hours
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis participated in a prayer service at the Tzitzernakaberd Memorial to the Metz Yeghern, or 'Great Evil', in Armenia on Saturday morning, offering an intercessory prayer and extensive silent prayer for the dead. The ecumenical prayer service, held in memory of those fallen in the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire in 1915, consisted in the Our Father prayer, the reading of two Biblical passages (Heb 10,32-36 & John 14,1-13), and an intercessory prayer by Pope Francis. Also present at the prayer service was a small group of descendants of the Armenian refugees whom Pope Pius XI hosted at the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo after the Metz Yeghern. At the conclusion of the service, the Holy Father stopped briefly to bless and water a tree in remembrance of his visit to the Tzitzernakaberd Memorial. Below, please find a Vatican Radio English translation of the Pope's intercessory prayer: Christ, who crowns your saints, who fulfills the will of your faithful  and looks with love and tenderness upon your creatures, hear us from your holy heavens, by the intercession of the holy Generatrix of God and by the prayer of your saints and those whom we remember today. Hear us, O Lord, and have mercy. Forgive us, expiate and remit our sins. Make us worthy to glorify you with thankful hearts, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen. (from Vatican Radio)... 1 day 17 hours
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday met with Armenia’s political, diplomatic and civil society representatives , recalling both the genocide suffered by the nation a century ago and the suffering of Christians around the world today. The Pope’s poignant words came at the presidential palace in Yerevan on the first day of his pastoral visit to the country. Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:   As he greeted the Armenian president, Serzh Sargsyan, and the nation’s political leaders, Pope Francis spoke of the rich history and natural beauty of Armenia, believed by some to be the location of the biblical garden of Eden. He talked of the depth of faith in this first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion, but he also spoke of the drama and tragedy that Armenians have endured throughout the past centuries. In particular he recalled last year’s centenary of the massacre, known as Metz Yeghern or Great Evil when over a million and a half Armenians were killed by Ottoman military forces. He called it a tragedy, made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims, and, as he did a year ago, he departed from his prepared text to add the words “that genocide”, a word which Turkish authorities continue to deny. Today, the Pope continued, Christians – perhaps even more than at the time of the first martyrs - experience discrimination and persecution for the mere fact of professing their faith. It is essential, he insisted, that political leaders work to end such suffering and conflict, protecting especially the victims of aggression, while promoting justice and sustainable development. The Pope concluded by urging Armenians to do all they can to promote unity and overcome tensions with their neighbours, favouring full religious freedom, respect for minorities and the full participation of all in the life of society. (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 6 hours
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis spoke to Armenian civil authorities , including President Serž Sargsyan and the diplomatic corps, on Friday in the capital Yerevan on his 14th Apostolic Journey abroad. In remarks prepared for the occasion and delivered in Italian, the Holy Father recalled the Armenian president's visit to the Vatican last year for the centenary of the Metz Yeghern  (or 'Great Evil'). He said, "Sadly, that tragedy, that genocide, was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century, made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims that darkened the minds of the tormentors even to the point of planning the annihilation of entire peoples." He also paid homage to the Armenian people "who, illuminated by the light of the Gospel, even at the most tragic moments of their history, have always found in the cross and resurrection of Christ the strength to rise again and take up their journey anew with dignity". Below, please find the official English translation of the Pope's address: Address of His Holiness Pope Francis t o Civil Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps Yerevan, 24 June 2016 Mr President, Honourable Authorities, Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Dear Brothers and Sisters, It gives me great joy to be here, to set foot on the soil of this beloved land of Armenia, to visit a people of ancient and rich traditions, a people that has given courageous testimony to its faith and suffered greatly, yet has shown itself capable of constantly being reborn. “Our turquoise sky, our clear waters, the flood of light, the summer sun and the proud winter borealis… our age-old stones … our ancient etched books which have become a prayer” ( ELISE CIARENZ, Ode to Armenia ).  These are among the powerful images that one of your illustrious poets offers us to illustrate the rich history and natural beauty of Armenia.  They sum up the rich legacy and the glorious yet dramatic experience of a people and their deep-seated love of their country. I am most grateful to you, Mr President, for your kind words of welcome in the name of the government and people of Armenia, and for your gracious invitation that has made it possible to reciprocate the visit you made to the Vatican last year.  There you attended the solemn celebration in Saint Peter’s Basilica, together with Their Holinesses Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch-Catholicos of All Armenians, and Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, and His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, recently deceased.  The occasion was the commemoration of the centenary of the Metz Yeghérn, the “Great Evil” that struck your people and caused the death of a vast multitude of persons.  Sadly, that tragedy, that genocide, was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century, made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims that darkened the minds of the tormentors even to the point of planning the annihilation of entire peoples. I pay homage to the Armenian people who, illuminated by the light of the Gospel, even at the most tragic moments of their history, have always found in the cross and resurrection of Christ the strength to rise again and take up their journey anew with dignity.  This shows the depth of their Christian faith and its boundless treasures of consolation and hope.  Having seen the pernicious effects to which hatred, prejudice and the untrammelled desire for dominion led in the last century, I express my lively hope that humanity will learn from those tragic experiences the need to act with responsibility and wisdom to avoid the danger of a return to such horrors.  May all join in striving to ensure that whenever conflicts emerge between nations, dialogue, the enduring and authentic quest of peace, cooperation between states and the constant commitment of international organizations will always prevail, with the aim of creating a climate of trust favourable for the achievement of lasting agreements. The Catholic Church wishes to cooperate actively with all those who have at heart the future of civilization and respect for the rights of the human person, so that spiritual values will prevail in our world and those who befoul their meaning and beauty will be exposed as such.  In this regard, it is vitally important that all those who declare their faith in God join forces to isolate those who use religion to promote war, oppression and violent persecution, exploiting and manipulating the holy name of God. Today Christians in particular, perhaps even more than at the time of the first martyrs, in some places experience discrimination and persecution for the mere fact of professing their faith.  At the same time, all too many conflicts in various parts of the world remain unresolved, causing grief, destruction and forced migrations of entire peoples.  It is essential that those responsible for the future of the nations undertake courageously and without delay initiatives aimed at ending these sufferings, making their primary goal the quest for peace, the defence and acceptance of victims of aggression and persecution, the promotion of justice and sustainable development.  The Armenian people have experienced these situations firsthand; they have known suffering and pain; they have known persecution; they preserved not only the memory of past hurts, but also the spirit that has enabled them always to start over again.  I encourage you not to fail to make your own precious contribution to the international community. This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Armenia’s independence.  It is a joyful occasion, but also an opportunity, in cherishing the goals already achieved, to propose new ones for the future.  The celebration of this happy anniversary will be all the more significant if it becomes for all Armenians, both at home and in the diaspora, a special moment for gathering and coordinating energies for the sake of promoting the country’s civil and social development of the country, one that is equitable and inclusive.  This will involve constant concern for ensuring respect for the moral imperatives of equal justice for all and solidarity with the less fortunate (cf. JOHN PAUL II, Farewell Address from Armenia, 27 September 2001: Insegnamenti XXIX/2 [2001], 489).  The history of your country runs parallel to its Christian identity preserved over the centuries.  That identity, far from impeding a healthy secularity of the state, instead requires and nourishes it, favouring the full participation of all in the life of society, freedom of religion and respect for minorities.  A spirit of unity between all Armenians and a growing commitment to find helpful means of overcoming tension with neighbouring countries, will facilitate the realization of these important goals, and inaugurate for Armenia an age of true rebirth. The Catholic Church is present in this country with limited human resources, yet readily offers her contribution to the development of society, particularly through her work with the poor and vulnerable in the areas of healthcare and education, but also in the specific area of charitable assistance.  This is seen in the work carried out in the past twenty-five years by the Redemptoris Mater Hospital in Ashotzk, the educational institute in Yerevan, the initiatives of Caritas Armenia and the works managed by the various religious congregations. May God bless and protect Armenia, a land illumined by the faith, the courage of the martyrs and that hope which proves stronger than any suffering. (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 7 hours
Pope Francis prayed in the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Holy Etchmiadzin on Friday at the start of his 14th Apostolic Journey abroad.  He prayed together with His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch-Catholicos of All Armenia and a select group of around 100 other dignitaries. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :  One of the main focuses of Pope Francis’ journey will be on consolidating relations with the Armenian Apostolic Church. That’s perhaps why the very first thing Pope Francis did upon his arrival in Yerevan was to pay a visit to the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Holy Etchmiadzin and pray there together with the Catholicos, Karekin II. Originally known as the Holy Mother of God Church, the 4th-century church is the oldest state-built church in the world.  To the ringing of bells, the Pope and the Catholicos bowed to kiss the cross and the Book of the Gospels before embracing in a sign of peace. They then prayed Psalm 122 together at the high altar. And in remarks prepared for the occasion, Pope Francis thanked God for "the light of faith kindled in your land, the faith that has given Armenia its particular identity and made it a herald of Christ among the nations". He recalled that faith prompted Armenia to become the first nation to accept Christianity as its religion in the year 301, as persecutions under the Emperor Diocletian still raged throughout the Roman Empire. "For Armenia, he said, faith in Christ has not been like a garment to be donned or doffed as circumstances or convenience dictate, but an essential part of its identity, a gift of immense significance, to be accepted with joy, preserved with great effort and strength, even at the cost of life itself." The Pope also gave thanks for the journey that the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church have undertaken through sincere and fraternal dialogue “for the sake of coming to share fully in the Eucharistic banquet". But, he also noted the conflicts and division which mark our world and which require a solid, shared Christian witness. "Tragically, he said, our world is marked by divisions and conflicts, as well as by grave forms of material and spiritual poverty, including the exploitation of persons, not least children and the elderly.” And he encouraged all Christians, in the spirit of ecumenism, to prevent the exploitation and manipulation of faith and to communicate, defend and spread truth with respect for the dignity of every human being and in ways that reveal the presence of the love and salvation we wish to spread". Below, please find the official translation of Pope Francis' speech: Address of His Holiness Pope Francis Visit to the Armenian Apostolic Cathedral Etchmiadzin, 24 June 2016 Venerable Brother, Supreme Patriarch-Catholicos of All Armenians, Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, It is very moving for me to have crossed the threshold of this holy place, a witness to the history of your people and the centre from which its spirituality radiates.  I consider it a precious gift of God to be able to approach the holy altar from which the light of Christ shone forth in Armenia.  I greet the Catholicos of All the Armenians, His Holiness Karekin II, with heartfelt thanks for his gracious invitation to visit Holy Etchmiadzin, and all the Archbishops and Bishops of the Armenian Apostolic Church.  I thank you for your cordial and joyful welcome.  Thank you, Your Holiness, for having welcomed me into your home.  This sign of love eloquently bespeaks, better than any words can do, the meaning of friendship and fraternal charity. On this solemn occasion, I give thanks to the Lord for the light of faith kindled in your land, the faith that has given Armenia its particular identity and made it a herald of Christ among the nations.  Christ is your glory and your light.  He is the sun who has illuminated and enlivened you, accompanied and sustained you, especially in times of trial.  I bow before the mercy of the Lord, who willed that Armenia should become, in the year 301, the first nation to accept Christianity as its religion, at a time when persecutions still raged throughout the Roman Empire. For Armenia, faith in Christ has not been like a garment to be donned or doffed as circumstances or convenience dictate, but an essential part of its identity, a gift of immense significance, to be accepted with joy, preserved with great effort and strength, even at the cost of life itself.  As Saint John Paul II wrote: “With the ‘baptism’ of the Armenian community… the people acquired a new identity that was to become a constitutive and inseparable part of Armenian life.  It would no longer be possible to think that faith did not figure as an essential element among the components of this identity” ( Apostolic Letter for the 1700th Anniversary of the Baptism of the Armenian People [2 February 2001], 2 ).  May the Lord bless you for this luminous testimony of faith.  It is a shining example of the great efficacy and fruitfulness of the baptism received over seventeen hundred years ago, together with the eloquent and holy sign of martyrdom, which has constantly accompanied the history of your people. I also thank the Lord for the journey that the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church have undertaken through sincere and fraternal dialogue for the sake of coming to share fully in the Eucharistic banquet.  May the Holy Spirit help us to attain the unity for which our Lord prayed, so that his disciples may be one and the world may believe.  I gladly recall the decisive impulse given to developing closer relations and strengthening dialogue between our two Churches in recent years by Their Holinesses Vasken I and Karekin I, and by Saint John Paul II and by Benedict XVI.  As significant stages of this ecumenical engagement, I would mention: the commemoration of the Witnesses to the Faith in the twentieth century during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000; the consignment to Your Holiness of the relic of the Father of Christian Armenia, Saint Gregory the Illuminator, for the new Cathedral of Yerevan; the Joint Declaration of His Holiness John Paul II and Your Holiness, signed here in Holy Etchmiadzin; and the visits which Your Holiness has made to the Vatican for important events and commemorations. Tragically, our world is marked by divisions and conflicts, as well as by grave forms of material and spiritual poverty, including the exploitation of persons, not least children and the elderly.  It expects from Christians a witness of mutual esteem and fraternal cooperation capable of revealing to every conscience the power and truth of Christ’s resurrection.  The patient and enduring commitment to full unity, the growth of joint initiatives and cooperation between all the Lord’s disciples in service to the common good: all these are like a radiant light in a dark night and a summons to experience even our differences in an attitude of charity and mutual understanding.  The spirit of ecumenism takes on an exemplary value also outside of the visible confines of the ecclesial community; it represents for everyone a forceful appeal to settle divergences with dialogue and appreciation for all that unites us.  It also prevents the exploitation and manipulation of faith, for it requires us to rediscover faith’s authentic roots, and to communicate, defend and spread truth with respect for the dignity of every human being and in ways that reveal the presence of the love and salvation we wish to spread.  In this way, we offer to the world – which so urgently needs it – a convincing witness that Christ is alive and at work, capable of opening new paths of reconciliation among the nations, civilizations and religions.  We offer a credible witness that God is love and mercy. Dear brothers and sisters, when our actions are prompted by the power of Christ’s love, understanding and reciprocal esteem grow, a fruitful ecumenical journey becomes possible, and all people of goodwill, and society as a whole, are shown a concrete way to harmonize the conflicts that rend civil life and create divisions that prove hard to heal.  May Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Saint Gregory the Illuminator, “pillar of light for the Holy Church of the Armenians”, and Saint Gregory of Narek, Doctor of the Church, bless all of you and the entire Armenian nation.  May he preserve you always in the faith you received from your ancestors, and to which you have borne glorious witness throughout the ages. (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 10 hours
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis commented on Britain's decision to leave the European Union saying it must be followed by "guarantees" for the good of both Britain and countries on the continent. Speaking to journalists aboard the Papal plane during his journey to the Armenian capital, Yerevan, the Pope said the referendum result must be respected because it was wanted by the people. "It was the will expressed by the people and this requires a great responsibility on the part of all of us to guarantee the good of the people of the United Kingdom, as well as the good and co-existence of the European continent" he said. Pope Francis also expressed his satisfaction for the signing of a ceasefire in Columbia between the government and the FARC rebels. "I am happy for this news that I received yesterday. Over fifty years of war, of guerrilla warfare, so much spilt blood”. It was good news” he said. And he expressed his hope that the nations that have worked to mediate the accord manage to set it in stone so that it can never be reversed. “My best wishes go to Colombia that is now taking this step” Pope Francis concluded. (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 11 hours
(Vatican Radio) P ope Francis arrived in Armenia’s capital Yerevan at 12.55 pm Rome time on Friday 24th June to begin his 14th apostolic journey abroad. Armenia is a landlocked mountainous nation which borders with to the west Turkey, to the East Azerbaijan, to the north Georgia and to the South Iran. He was warmly welcomed by the President of the nation’s Republic Serzh Sargsyn and the Catholicos of All Armenia Karekin II. Also present were the Armenian Catholic Patriarch of Armenia Grégoire Pierre XX and other religious and civil authorities. This visit, to the first country ever to adopt Christianity as a state religion sports a logo which highlighted this historic factor along with the dates of the journey which are the 24th to the 26th of June. Listen to Veronica Scarisbrick's report:  It’s a circular logo divided in half by two colours: yellow for the Vatican and purple for the Armenian city of Etchmiadzin, seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church where Pope Francis is staying as a guest of the Catholicos Karekin II. Within the design one can spy the outlines of two significant places in Armenia: snow capped Mount Ararat with its biblical connotations and the Monastery of  Kor Virap located on its flanks, which Pope Francis will also visit on Sunday . A significant monastery where Gregory the Illuminator credited for the conversion of this nation to Christianity in 301, so at the beginning of the fourth century, was once held prisoner at the bottom of a well. Pope Francis follows in the footsteps of John Paul II who visited Armenia in 2001. But this papal visit will take place in a very different context. Pope Francis has made sure that this meeting between churches has a popular element to it. As always during his journeys he has come to be with the people of the nation unusually for Armenia in the public Square. The first such moment is marked by Holy Mass on Saturday in the north east of the country in the second largest city of the nation Gyumri, hard hit by an earthquake back in 1988. A mass which an estimated 400 000 people are expected to attend. The second is an ecumenical encounter later in the day to pray for peace in  Yerevan’s main Square. A square which has hosted many artistic events and even concerts by well- known singer of  Armenian origin Charles Aznavour.  Pope Francis is popular in Armenia, a nation where Christian identity blends into Armenian identity. Many of the people especially women wear huge pectoral crosses and taxi drivers make the sign of the cross several times whenever they pass in front of churches. In fact Armenians know of his proclamation on the 12th of April 2015 of a 10th century Armenian monk St Gregory of Narek as Doctor of the Church. And above all of his words in this same message to mark  the 100th anniversary of  the 1915 'Metz Yeghern' or the great evil as Armenians call the massacres in this nation  at the hand of the Ottoman Empire. A dark chapter in the history of Armenia Pope Francis is set to mark first thing  Saturday  morning when he pays tribute to the memory of the fallen at the ‘Tzitzernakaberd’ Memorial complex where he’ll be meeting with ten descendants of the Armenian refugees housed in the summer residence of Castelgandolfo by his twentieth century predecessor Pius XI.     (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 11 hours
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent the following telegram to the President of the Republic of Bulgaria , Rosen Plevneliev : As I fly over Bulgaria on my way to Armenia, i extend cordial greetings to Your Excellency and your fellow citizens.  Invoking upon all of you Almighty God’s blessings of peace and prosperity. Franciscus PP.       (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 11 hours
(Vatican Radio)  His Holiness Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem who reached the age of 75 for retirement last October.  The Pope has elevated to Archbishop Franciscan Father  Pierbattista Pizzaballa, former Custos of the Holy Land for twelve years, and appointed him as Apostolic Administrator  sede vacante  of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.  He will hold the position until the appointment of a new Patriarch. In a statement posted on its online site , the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said “The Bishops, clergy and faithful of the Latin Patriarchate sincerely thank His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal who has just completed his mission, and welcome the Apostolic Administrator with best wishes in his new mission.  The entire Diocese joins in prayer for the intentions of the Patriarch Emeritus and the new Apostolic Administrator.” The Episcopal Ordination of Father Pizzaballa will take place in September. Bishop Shomali welcomes appointment of new Administrator Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of the Latin Patriarchate has welcomed the appointment of Archbishop-elect Pizzaballa  saying that he knows the situation in the Holy Land very well and that reaction has been very positive.   Wishing him success in his new mission, Bishop Shomali says he expects Fr. Pizzaballa will be able to contribute to interrfaith dialogue and in the administration of the Patriarchate.   Bishop Shomali observes that it is not the first time that a Franciscan Custos has been at the helm of the Latin Church in the Holy Land. He notes that Mgr. Piavi of the early XXth century and Mgr. Gori (1950s) were two Franciscans to sit as Patriarchs.  “So, it’s an experience that repeats itself for the good of the diocese,”  he adds.  Gratitude for Patriarch Twal’s years of service Bishop Shomali extends  “truly sincere thanks” to Patriarch Twal for the nine years he has dedicated to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.  “We are grateful to him; we wish him good health and that he continues to serve the mission in other ways.”  Regarding his hopes for a future of peace in the Holy Land, Bishop Shomali says politicians need to have “a lot of good will” and “we will help through our prayers.” Patriarch Twal, born in Jordan, succeeded Palestine native Michel Sabbah as the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem on 21 June 2008.  He was enthroned at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem the following day. On 29 June 2008, Patriarch Twal received the pallium at the hands of Pope Benedict XVI at a Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Former Franciscan Custos becomes Apostolic Administrator of Latin Patriarchate From northern Italy, Pierbattista Pizzaballa was ordained priest on 15 September 1990. He was transferred to the Holy Land, in Jerusalem, in October 1990. In July 1999 he formally entered in service to the Custody of the Holy Land.  In 1995 he was responsible for the publication of the Roman Missal in Hebrew, and translated various liturgical texts in Hebrew for the Catholic Communities in Israel. He lectured Hebrew at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. He covered the role of Vicar General of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem for the pastoral care of Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Israel. Since 2008 he is a Consultor in the Commission for relations with Judaism of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Unity among Christians. He was elected Custos of the Holy Land in 2004 and was repeatedly confirmed in that position until he stepped down last April.  (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 11 hours
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent the following telegram to the President of the Republic of Serbia , Tomislav Nikolić : Entering Serbian air space on my pastoral journey to Armenia, I send cordial greetings to Your Excellency and your fellow citizens, and I invoke divine blessings upon the nation. Franciscus PP. (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 11 hours
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent the following telegram to Filip Vujanović , the President of  Montenegro : As I fly over Montenegro on my apostolic journey to Armenia, I extend cordial greetings to Your Excellency. I pray that Almighty God may bestow upon you and your fellow citizens peace and prosperity. Franciscus PP. (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 12 hours
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent the following telegram to the President of Bosnia and Herzegovina , Bakir Izetbegović : I extend cordial greetings to Your Excellency and your fellow citizens, as I fly over Bosnia and Herzegovina en route to Armenia for a pastoral visit. I pray that Almighty God may grant you all His blessings. Franciscus PP. (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 12 hours
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent the following telegram to the President of the Republic of Croatia , Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović : As I fly over Croatia on my way to Armenia for a pastoral visit, I send cordial greetings to Your Excellency and your fellow citizens, together with my prayers that Almighty God will bless all of you with peace and well-being. Franciscus PP.   (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 12 hours
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis arrives in the Armenian capital Yerevan on Friday afternoon for his 14th foreign pastoral visit. He’ll be spending three days in the country, travelling to the nearby town of Etchmiadzin, seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church, as well as to the northern city of Gyumri and to the famous Khor Virap monastery on the border with Turkey. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as the state religion at the beginning of the fourth century and the great majority of people in the country today belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church which is part of the Oriental Orthodox family. Relations with other Christian communities, including the small Armenian Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches, are very good and Pope Francis will be focusing on the importance of ecumenical dialogue and action at a prayer service on Saturday in Yerevan’s Republic Square. To find out more, Philippa Hitchen spoke to Fr John Barker who heads the tiny Anglican community in Armenia and represents the Archbishop of Canterbury for relations with the Armenian Apostolic Church…. Listen:  Fr John says there is an impressive level of warmth, agreement and mutual understanding in Armenia between all the different Churches. He says the people have a dual hope for this papal visit: firstly that the memory of the genocide, a century ago, will be brought back into the public eye. But “just as importantly” he says, there is a hope that “it will show again that we have the potential to speak as one Christian voice, irrespective of whether we come from an Apostolic, a Catholic or an Anglican background. The Armenian Church today, he continues, have a “very significant voice” in public life, since around 95% of people are members of the Church and around half of those practice their faith on a regular basis.  (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 12 hours
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has departed from Italy for a three-day Apostolic Voyage to Armenia . As the Pope began his journey, he sent the following telegram to Sergio Mattarella , the President of Italy: In the moment in which I undertake my Apostolic Voyage to Armenia in order to draw from the ancient wisdom of that people, to confirm them in the faith, to support every effort along the path of peace and reconciliation, I address to you, Mr President, and to the whole Italian nation my cordial greetings, which I accompany with an encouragement to the entire country to remain on the front line of solidarity, looking to the future with confidence and hope.  (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 13 hours
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis is on his way to Armenia, the “first Christian nation,” for a three day pastoral visit.  The journey to the former Soviet Caucasus region will be the Pope’s 14 th  foreign trip as pontiff.  He will return to the area again in September for visits to Georgia and Azerbaijan. The focus of the visit will be to consolidate ecumenical relations with the Armenian Apostolic Church, to encourage the small, local minority Catholic Church, and to show the Pope’s closeness to Armenian Christians who historically, suffered periods of persecution and massacres. Francis departed Rome’s Fiumicino airport shortly before 9.30 am; he is due to arrive in four hours’ time at 'Zvartnots' international airport in Yerevan, at around 15:00 local time (12:00 GMT). Following the airport welcoming ceremony with local dignitaries, the Pope will pray at the apostolic Cathedral in Etchmiadzin. For the duration of his visit, Pope Francis will reside at the Apostolic Palace, seat of the Supreme Patriarch (Catholicos) of All Armenians, Karekin II. Pope Francis will pay a courtesy visit Friday to the President of the Republic Serzh Sargsyan in the Presidential Palace in Yerevan, where he will meet with national and civil authorities and members of the diplomatic corps. Later, the Pope will meet privately with the Catholicos Karekin II in the Apostolic Palace of Etchmiadzin. As is his tradition, on the eve of his trip, Pope Francis went in private to the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore Thursday evening, where he remained in prayer before the image of Our Lady, Salus Populi Romani, asking her to bless his visit to Armenia. As in prior visits to the Marian shrine, the Pope laid flowers on the altar in homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary. (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 14 hours
(Vatican Radio) As has become customary, Pope Francis on Thursday paid a private visit to the Basilica of St Mary Major on the eve of his Apostolic Voyage to Armenia . The Holy Father prayed before the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as “ Salus Populi Romani ,” (Protectress of the Roman People), asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to bless his journey, according to a press release from Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., the Director of the Holy See Press Office. Pope Francis left a bouquet of flowers, in the colours of the Armenian flag, at the altar after his prayer. Pope Francis departs Rome for Armenia on Friday for a three day visit.  (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 15 hours

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Yerevan, Armenia, Jun 26, 2016 / 06:31 am (EWTN News/CNA).- In a joint declaration signed Sunday, Pope Francis and Catholicos Karekin II expressed their shared belief that, when the family is no longer seen as sacred, it falls into crisis. 13 hours 10 min
Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2016 / 06:19 am (EWTN News/CNA).- Catholics in America today need to find ways to engage the culture with truth, and avoid "beige Catholicism" that seeks to be dominated by the culture, Bishop Robert Barron said Thursday. 13 hours 22 min
Yerevan, Armenia, Jun 26, 2016 / 04:32 am (EWTN News/CNA).- Pope Francis reiterated his desire for full communion with the Armenian Apostolic Church during its divine liturgy on Sunday, the final major event of his three-day visit to the Caucasus nation. 15 hours 9 min
Aboard the papal plane, Jun 26, 2016 / 04:24 pm (EWTN News/CNA).- In a wide-ranging inflight press conference on his way back from Armenia on Sunday, Pope Francis responded to a question on recent comments made by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who said the Church must apologize to homosexual persons for having "marginalized" them. 15 hours 17 min
Yerevan, Jun 25, 2016 / 12:35 pm (EWTN News/CNA).- Working toward full communion is a project of love, humility and peace, Pope Francis told Armenian Orthodox leaders gathered at an ecumenical meeting on Saturday. 1 day 7 hours
Rome, Italy, Jun 25, 2016 / 07:02 am (EWTN News/CNA).- What is Benedict XVI's own view of his historical resignation? What has the fall-out been from his secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein's controversial remark on an "expanded petrine office"? What about the "Prophesy of Malachy," which allegedly sees Francis as the last pontiff? 1 day 12 hours
Gyumri, Armenia, Jun 25, 2016 / 04:40 am (EWTN News/CNA).- During the first major Mass of his three-day visit to Armenia, Pope Francis said faith is not a thing of the past, like an artifact in a museum. Rather, it is kept alive through continuous encounters with Christ. 1 day 15 hours
Valencia, Spain, Jun 25, 2016 / 03:49 pm (EWTN News/CNA).- A judge in Spain has thrown out a "hate crime" case concerning Cardinal Antonio Cañizares of Valencia, Spain, ruling that the cardinal's homily warning of a "gay empire" is protected by freedom of speech. 1 day 15 hours
Yerevan, Armenia, Jun 24, 2016 / 12:43 pm (EWTN News/CNA).- The catastrophe of the Armenian genocide is a lesson for all humanity, the Pope said on the first day of his visit to Armenia. 2 days 6 hours
Yerevan, Jun 24, 2016 / 08:24 am (EWTN News/CNA).- Praying at the main cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church at the start of his three-day visit to the Caucasus nation, Pope Francis praised the "spirit of ecumenism," and its role in promoting human dignity against "grave forms of material and spiritual poverty." 2 days 11 hours
Yerevan, Jun 24, 2016 / 06:12 am (EWTN News/CNA).- Pope Francis has said the result of the U.K.'s referendum to leave the European Union reflects the "will of the people" and that there is now a "great responsibility" to ensure the well being of people in the U.K. and peaceful coexistence on continental Europe. 2 days 13 hours
Vatican City, Jun 24, 2016 / 05:18 am (EWTN News/CNA).- After Britain's passing of the historic referendum to withdraw from the European Union, the UK's leading prelate stressed the need to continue working with the international community, and to ensure that the vulnerable in society remain protected. 2 days 14 hours

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Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich has said that the Church should "say sorry" for mistreatment of homosexuals.

2 days 8 hours

Peter Saunders, the outspoken English layman who was removed in February from a papal commission on sexual abuse, has insisted that he remains a member of the commission, and refuses to resign.

2 days 8 hours

A Syrian Catholic prelate has applauded Pope Francis for insisting that the suffering of Christians in the Middle East should be described as martyrdom rather than genocide.

2 days 9 hours

A new French ambassador to the Holy See, Philippe Zeller, has presented his diplomatic credentials to Pope Francis, ending a long impasse over the appointment of a French envoy.

2 days 9 hours

Authorities in Nigeria have reported discovering the body of a Catholic priest who was kidnapped in April.

2 days 9 hours

The Catholic bishops of Colombia have welcomed the government's peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) as "a historic event."

2 days 9 hours

Pope Francis touched on the subjects of the Brexit referendum and the Colombian peace agreement during a conversation with reporters who accompanied him on his June 24 flight to Armenia.

2 days 9 hours

A Vatican-appointed apostolic administrator in Guam has shaken up the administrative leadership of the Archdiocese of Agana.

2 days 9 hours

Arriving in Armenia on June 24 to begin a weekend visit, Pope Francis broke from his prepared text to use the term "genocide" in a reference to the massacres of 1915.

2 days 9 hours

Responding to the "Brexit" decision, the British Catholic bishops have issued a statement saying that the referendum decision "must be respected whatever our personal views."

2 days 9 hours

The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People has released its annual message for World Tourism Day, which falls on September 27.

2 days 17 hours

On the eve of his apostolic journey to Armenia, Pope Francis visited the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and prayed before the image of the Salus Populi Romani, leaving a bouquet of flowers in the colors of the Armenian flag.

2 days 17 hours

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Patriarch Fouad Twal, 75, as Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and has named Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa as apostolic administrator, rasing him to the dignity of an archbishop.

2 days 18 hours

In his homily at a Fortnight for Freedom opening Mass, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami lamented the persecution of Christians and took issue with remarks made by Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg following the June 12 Orlando nightclub shooting.

2 days 18 hours

On June 21, participants in the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, gathered at the Orthodox Academy of Crete, discussed “The Orthodox Diaspora,” one of six draft documents on the council’s agenda.

2 days 18 hours

The permanent council of the Bishops’ Conference of France has issued a statement on the spring 2017 presidential election.

2 days 19 hours

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Sr. Mary Imelda, LSP, demonstrates how she will cook up her secret speghetti sauce for the annual Little Sisters of the Poor Spaghetti Dinner this month.

Sr. Mary Imelda, LSP, demonstrates how she will cook up her secret spaghetti sauce for the annual Little Sisters of the Poor Spaghetti Dinner. Photo courtesy the Little Sisters of the Poor, Cincinnati.

June 24, IHM Homeschool Conference Dayton at St. Peter Church (Dayton, OH). Day two of the conference featuring regional and national speakers, vendor room, workshops. No fee; all welcome for all talks (attendees do not have to be homeschoolers). Friday noon – 6 pm, Saturday 9:30 am – 3:30 pm.  All attendees receive a copy of Planting the Seeds of Faith! Book by previous conference speakers including Joseph Pearce, Msgr. Charles Pope, and others. For information go to IHMConference.org.

June 24-25, University of Dayton Center for Catholic Education Colloquium: “Lead, Contemplate, Innovate.” Today: Catholic Education Summit; Guest speakers: Reverend Michael Fish, Paul Tratnyek, Gail Donahue, Katie Poeppelmeier, Sister Angela Ann Zukowski; Explore the themes of Contemplation and Technology in Schools and how to integrate the two in a way that remains true to the Catholic mission. Saurday: Christian Meditation with Children Guest speaker: Paul Tratnyek. For information and to register, go to the Colloqium website.

June 25, Vote for Life Training Seminar at Ruah Woods (Bridgetown/Cincinnati), 7:30 am – 5 pm. Cincinnati will be one of several sites hosting a seminar led by Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life and Dr. Deal Hudson with other members of the Priests for Life Pastoral team. Topics include how to educate and mobilize voters in person and online, distribute voter guides, drive people to polling places, more. Fee: $20. For information or to register click here or email  Victoria@PriestsForLife.org.

June 25, Andrew Dinner Follow-up Retreat at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West (Mt. Washington/Cincinnati, 1 – 5 pm. Young men who have attended a recent Andrew Dinner, and their parents, are invited. Mass, Adoration, and a joint conference on discernment; separate session for parents while their sons spend social time with the seminarians. No fee. To register, call the Vocation Office at 513.421.3131 x 2890.

June 25, Annual Little Sisters of the Poor Spaghetti Dinner at the St. Paul Home (Clifton), 4- 7 pm (carryout begins at 2 pm). Enjoy Sr. Mary Imelda’s famous spaghetti sauce and help support the Little Sisters. Friday: “Sauce to Go” sale 1 – 7 pm. Call for carryout or reservations. For information see LittleSistersOfThePoorCincinnati.org. See our story here.

June 26 – July 1, Rooted in the Vine Retreat for High School Youth at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul – Cincinnati Headquarters. Focused on social justice issues; a collaboration of the SVdP-Cincinnati and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Catholic Social Action Office and Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. Six–day retreat experience full of fun and eye-opening opportunities that will challenge youth to see from others’ perspectives and grow in love of God and neighbor.

June 26, Judy Landreiu Klein Talk on Death and the Afterlife at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Center (Norwood, OH). Talk one of the Our Lady of Light “Year of the Family” Speaker Series. A speaker, author, Ave Maria Radio host, and theologian, Judy will speak about her late husband’s near-death experience and conversion following a heart attack (recounted in the book Miracle Man). $20 for the talk or $35 in a package with the March 20th talk. For information or reservations call 513-351-MARY or see ourladyoflight.org.

Looking for more Catholic events? To see our continually updated long-term calendar, see our Calendar of Events page.

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Chatffield College's Over-the-Rhine campus. PHoto courtesy the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce.

Chatfield College’s Over-the-Rhine campus. Photo courtesy the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce.

Chatfield College will offer free four-week summer enrichment classes at its Over-the-Rhine/Cincinnati campus next month — at no cost, thanks to sponsors BB&T.

Focusing on health and self-improvement, the five classes are:

  • Art Potpourri – Learn to use collage, drawing and other artistic adventures to express creativity.
  • Yoga – Learn and experience the benefits of Yoga through breathing practices, postures, and meditation.
  • Zumba – Enjoy fitness through dance using a variety of rhythms and dance types.
  • Basic First Aid – Learn what to do in case of emergency, including the Heimlich Maneuver and basic CPR, as well as what not to do when someone is injured.
  • Managing Personal Finances – Learn to develop and work within a budget, balance a checkbook, record-keeping techniques, and how to avoid wasting money with late fees and interest.

All classes will meet on four consecutive Saturdays (July 16, 23, 30, and Aug. 6) at the school’s new OTR campus on Central Parkway.

“We are delighted to offer these free classes to anyone in Over-the-Rhine, neighboring communities, or anyone else who wants to make a trip to OTR on Saturdays this summer,” says Patricia Homan, OSU, Vice-President of Mission & Identity and Site Director for Chatfield’s Over-the-Rhine Campus.. “We are very thankful for the generosity of BB&T. These classes are both fun and practical, for people of any age or educational level. All are welcome to participate.”

BB&T, a financial services company, supports charitable and educational organizations through volunteer efforts, financial support, and leadership.

“BB&T is thrilled to partner with Chatfield College to offer free enrichment courses to the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and surrounding communities,” said Andrew T. Hawking, Regional President.  “BB&T strives to make a difference in the daily lives of individuals within our communities and also strengthen the overall economic vitality in our neighborhoods.”

Enrollment is limited. For information or to register, call 513-921-9856, ext. 227 or visit http://www.chatfield.edu/otrenrichmentcourses.

A private, Catholic, liberal arts college founded by the Ursuline Sisters of Brown County (OH), Chatfield Colleges offers two-year Associate of Arts degrees campuses in rural St. Martin (OH) and in OTR.

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