After praying at the national memorial to the victims of Armenian genocide, in Yerevan, on Saturday morning, June 26, Pope Francis wrote the following poignant words in the Golden Book:
Here, I pray, with sorrow in my heart, that never again may there be tragedies like this one, and that humanity does not forget and knows how to win over evil with good.
May God grant to the beloved Armenian people and to the whole world peace and consolation. May God protect the memory of the Armenian people. The memory should not be watered down or forgotten, the memory is the source of peace and of the future. Francis. 25.6.2016.
The pope was accompanied to the memorial on the hill of Tsitsernaberd (literally ‘the swallows fortress’) by the Supreme Patriarch of All Armenians, Karekin II, and by the country’s President Serzh Sargsyan.
Ever since its inauguration in 1967, heads of states and other distinguished personalities—including Saint John Paul II in 2001—have come here to pay their respects here to an estimate 1.5 million victims of the Armenian genocide that took place under the Ottoman Empire in 1915, while as, Francis said yesterday, “the great international powers looked the other way.”
Francis came here to pray and reflect on this great tragedy. With the snow capped Mount Ararat (which is in Turkey) clearly visible on the horizon, he stood with Karekin II and prayed in front of the eternal flame dedicated to the memory that ever burns in the center of a circle surrounded by twelve dark slabs representing the 12 lost provinces in present-day Turkey. The entire complex includes the Wall of Memory, a Mausoleum and a 44-meter stele symbolizing the national rebirth of Armenia.
The prayer service, at which a choir sang and sad music was played, included the recitation of the Our Father in their respective languages by the pope, the patriarch and other bishops from the Armenian Apostolic Church, and from the Vatican. Next, the two Christian leaders blessed the incense that was used at the ceremony, and then the song of memory, known as the “Hrashpar,” was sung by a choir. This was followed by two readings from scripture.
Pope Francis then read a prayer in Italian, in which he asked God to hear his prayer through the intercession of all the saints, “and of those who we remember today.” In the second part, he pleaded, “Hear us O Lord, and have pity, pardon us, expiate and remit our sins. Make us worthy to glorify you, with sentiments of thanks, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit now and forever, through the centuries. Amen.”
Then, accompanied by the patriarch and the president, he went to the terrace of the museum where he blessed a tree in memory of his visit, met about ten descendants of the victims persecuted in the genocide. Then, before departing, he signed the Golden Book and wrote the message given above.
From there he traveled to the airport to take the flight to Gumyri, the country’s second city some 75 miles distant from Yerevan that was hit by the terrible earthquake in 1988, where he would celebrate Mass.