Thousands of Armenians welcomed His Holiness Aram I on his unexpected visit to the Saint Forty Martyrs Church in Aleppo on 2 April 2009.

According to eyewitnesses, both clergy and lay, the saints represented through paintings in the church have been in motion. This new and strange phenomenon has been drawing thousands of Armenians, as well as people from other denominations and religions, to the church from all over Syria. They are coming to the church to put their supplications before the saints.

The Prelate of Aleppo, Archbishop Shahan thanked His Holiness Aram I, stating that his presence at this special moment will deepen the faith of all the pilgrims.

In his message, Catholicos Aram I described the saints of the Church as stars shining with the light they have received from Jesus — the Light of the World. Resourced by the Bible, the saints have spread the light of Jesus through their words, lives and God-pleasing deeds. Saints have always protected the church and the faithful from evil. They are mediators; they intercede with Jesus for the forgiveness of the sins of humanity, in the same way that Jesus reconciled humanity with God. In the Armenian Church, saints have accompanied the people in their history of martyrdom. Saints are golden bridges taking humanity to God. Saints are not rituals, feasts and historical memories only. They are integral to life in the church and are interwoven with all aspects and manifestations of the church. Armenians name their churches after their saints; they baptize their children by naming them after their saints. They praise them through hymns and psalms and intercede with them through holy pictures. Pictures of saints are visual means of communicating with them. Armenians do not venerate pictures; they pray with a deep understanding of the meaning and representation of the person behind the picture.

After drawing a distinction between the image and its representation, His Holiness Aram I referred to the relationship between faith and reason in the church. Sometimes certain things happen in the church that cannot be explained through reason alone. We can recognize these happenings, and enter into communion with them only through faith. Christianity is the perfect harmony between faith and reason”.