Monday, March 31, 2008

Armenian-Catholic Relations

Armenian Church (Soviet Era clip)

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State visited Armenia for three days this month. The trip was originally postponed after Presidential election strife left 130 people injured and at least eight people dead.

The trip focused on East-West Church relationships. The director of Aid to The Church in Need has described the visit as a potential “milestone” in improving relations between the Catholic Church and Orthodox Churches. One of the potentialities is improved and closer relationships between Rome and the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The Cardinal met with His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. The Cardinal presented his Holiness with a letter from Pope Benedict XVI. The Church has been an important and active participant in the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

The Armenian Church is an important church. In 301 AD Armenia became the first nation to become a Christian Nation. The Church, along with other Oriental Orthodox Churches split from communion with Rome and the other Eastern Orthodox Churches during the Council of Chalcedon in the 4th century. The split was related to differences in language about the divinity and nature of Christ.

I find all of this fascinating. First the history is breath-taking. Second, the geography is phenomenal. Here is a mountain country with the music and culture of southwestern Asia. Here is a nation surrounded by Islamic Countries: Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iran. This is an ancient church worthy of support.

I am currently taking a course in Systematic Theology. We are studying the First Seven Ecumenical Councils. The very issues that are being addressed by the Vatican Secretary of State and his Holiness are the issues stemming from Chalcedon. The Coptic Church of Egypt and Rome have shown the world that dialogue is possible. We ARE one body, it is good that we are beginning to act like it. The next step will be a visit by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians to the Vatican.

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