On April 11, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, along with President Serzh Sargsyan of the Republic of Armenia; and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilica: attended ceremonies held in the San Gregorio Armeno Church in Naples, Italy.
Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni, pilgrims of Armenian Church Dioceses worldwide, state officials of the Republic of Armenia, science and culture figures, and businessmen had arrived in Naples for this occasion.
Archbishop of Naples Crescenzio Sepe, Mr. Stefano Caldoro, the governor of Campania;
Mr. Luigi de Magistris, Mayor of Naples; and the nuns of the monastery met the Catholicos of All Armenians, President Serzh Sargsyan and His Holiness Catholicos Aram I in the San Gregorio Armeno monastic complex.
Following the welcome, an ecumenical service was held in the historic chapel in honor of St. Gregory the Illuminator, during which the clergy of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic Churches offered a prayer for world peace, and the friendship and prosperity of the Armenian and Italian peoples.
During the ceremony, the relics of the Father of the Armenian faith which were being housed in the main Church, were taken to the Chapel of St. Gregory the Illuminator and placed at the Holy Altar. At the conclusion, Cardinal Sepe offered his welcoming remarks. He began his remarks with the following remarks in Armenian: “Welcome to Naples. This is also the home of the Armenians”. He expressed joy on the occasion of this historical event, and reflected on the unique mission of St. Gregory the Illuminator in the life of the Armenians, the important role of Christian faith in the life of the Armenians and the tragedy of the Armenian Genocide.
His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, conveyed the participants his welcome and blessings.
“Our souls are filled with feelings of joy! We have gathered in this welcoming land of Italy, to lift up our prayers in unison under these sacred arches and to glorify our Heavenly Father who imparted His graces upon Us in order to conduct the services of recommitting the relics of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, the Father of our faith, and the blessing of a Khatchkar erected on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
This significant initiative is the expression of the brotherly ties between the Armenian Church and the Catholic Church, the friendship of the Armenian and Italian people. According to ancient tradition, during the Middle Ages some of the relics of Saint Gregory the Illuminator traveled from Armenia, and were eventually brought to the city of Naples and later placed in this Church built in his honor. Henceforth, Saint Gregory the Illuminator was recognized as one of the patron saints of the city of Naples. Behold, for centuries the relics of our Father, the Illuminator, have been a blessing for the faithful of this church and for pilgrims, and a constant reminder of Saint Gregory and his great mission.
Our Lord Jesus Christ says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Saint Gregory the Illuminator, the pontiff as honored as the apostles, with divine assistance, fulfilled this command of Christ in the land of Armenia. With his sufferings and spiritual sacrifices he paved the victorious way in history for the enlightened Christian faith, and the proclamation of Christianity as the state religion in Armenia; the first one in the world. Empowered by the faith established by the Illuminator, our people upheld the Holy Gospel as Father and the Apostolic Holy Church as Mother. They remained faithful to the Lord’s command by continuing unwaveringly throughout history to do good in the face of evil, to endure difficulties with patience, transforming challenges into possibilities, creating good things in both the homeland and in foreign lands for the good of their own people and all mankind, building wealthy spiritual and cultural heritage, “worthy of remembrance”.
This service taking place in the Church of Saint Gregory the Armenian, in Naples, and the placement of the Khatchkar dedicated to the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, are memorable milestones in the history of the cooperation of our Churches and the friendship of our people. The event is also worthy of particular remembrance because of the presence at this sacred service of the President of the Republic of Armenia, the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, and the Armenian Catholic Patriarch, faithful sons and daughters of the Armenian people from Armenia and other countries, professionals, and leaders in the sciences and arts. This khatchkar will be a perpetual witness to the Armenian Genocide, as an exhortation for the universal condemnation of genocide and prevention of such crimes against humanity. Our people are grateful to friendly nations, sister churches, and all people of good will, who condemned the Armenian Genocide.”
His Holiness asked for Almighty God to support Cardinal Sepe, wishing him new achievements in his mission. His Holiness conveyed his blessings and best wishes to the officials of Campania and Naples, and also to the devout sisters who reside under the shadow of Naples’ the Church of Saint Gregory the Armenian, asking for the intercession of St. Gregory the Illuminator, the successor of the apostles, for all, and also for the two peoples and churches, and for their vowed clergy.
His Holiness also offered his blessings and great appreciation to His Excellency Mr. Mikayel Minasyan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia to the Holy See, for his God-pleasing initiative to renovate the Naples’ Chapel of Saint Gregory the Armenian, and for the placement of the Khatchkar dedicated to the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, wishing him long life and new successes in his diplomatic mission. The Catholicos of All Armenians bestowed Ambassador Mikayel Minasyan with the St. Nerses the Graceful Medal.
At the conclusion of the events, His Holiness prayed that God always bless the faithful and Christ-loving Armenian and Italian peoples, strengthen the relations and cooperation of the Italian and Armenian Republics, and grant a peaceful and bright future.
His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilica also delivered his message to the participants.
Following the ceremony, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilica visited the renovated chapel, then offered the dedication of the Khachkar, which was erected in the courtyard of the complex. The Catholicos of All Armenians and the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilica in the name of the triumphant faith of the Genocide victims, blessed the cross stone, which was a duplicate of a cross stone recently destroyed in Julfa, Nor Nakhichevan.