ETCHMIADZIN, Armenia (CNS): After watching Pope John Paul II being hosted and honoured for two days by Armenia’s Orthodox Church, the country’s tiny Catholic minority got its turn on the final day of the papal visit.
About 5000 Armenian Catholics joined an equal number of Orthodox at an outdoor Mass on September 27 at Etchmiadzin, outside the Armenian capital of Yerevan.
The Catholics cheered their Pope loudly as he mounted the steps of the altar, and the Pope gave them a pep talk in his sermon, telling them they were not second-class citizens.
‘As Armenians, with the same rights and duties of all Armenians, you are helping to rebuild the nation,’ he said.
Catholics, too, are heirs to the country’s history and culture, he said.
These were welcome words to a small flock that traces its roots to the early centuries of Christianity, but which today relies largely on foreign-born clergy and outside aid to survive. Today there are about 150,000 Catholics in Armenia, out of a population of about 3.8 million.