(Vatican Radio)  At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy celebrated at the apostolic Cathedral in Etchmiadzin, Armenia, the Catholicos of all Armenians Karekin II thanked Pope Francis for his “brotherly visit” to the country and prayed that the Lord “keep firm our Churches in love and collaboration” and “grant us new opportunities for witness of brotherhood.”

Pope Francis has been the guest of the Oriental Orthodox Catholicos during his three day pastoral visit to Armenia and participated in Sunday’s celebration.

In a reflection on the miracle of the multiplication of bread, the day’s reading of the Scripture, the Catholicos recalled that Christ performed the miracle in order to feed the hungry crowds.  “The essence of this miracle, which became one of the important missions of Christ’s Holy Church,” he said, “is the satisfaction of empty spirits” by the Gospel teachings and “the support of the needy through compassion.”

The Lord urges us to be “co-workers with God,” he added, by rejuvenating the faith through good works, prayer and “worship with compassion” and “giving alms,” he said.

“Today, faith in God is being tempted and human souls are being hardened during times of hardship and difficulties as well as during times of wealth and lavishness, when they are disengaged with the concerns of those who long for daily bread and are in pain and suffering,” added the Catholicos. And, he warned:  “Faith is put to the test by extremism and other kinds of ideologies; xenophobia, addictions, passions and self-centred profits. The processes of secularism are intensifying, spiritual and ethical values and views are distorted, and the family structure, established by God, is being shaken. The root of evil in modern life is in trying to build a world without God, to construe the laws and commandments of God which bring forward economic, political, social, environmental and other problems, that day by day deepen and threaten the natural way of life.”

But, “goodness will prevail in the world and current challenges will be overcome” through Christ’s Eucharist and reflection on Christ’s teachings he observed.  Such Christian witness, he said, “will repeat the miracle of the multiplication of the bread through supporting and consoling the needy, the sick, and the sorrowful.”

Ecumenical brotherhood and mission

During Pope Francis’ visit, Catholicos Karekin took care to stress, “we reconfirmed that the Holy Church of Christ is one in the spreading of the gospel of Christ in the world, in taking care of creation, standing against common problems, and in the vital mission of the salvation of man who is the crown and glory of God’s creation. The inseparable mission of the Church of Christ is the strengthening of solidarity among nations and peoples, reinforcing of brotherhood and collaboration, and a witness to this is the participation in this Divine Liturgy today of the ethnic minorities in Armenia: the Assyrians, Belarus, Greeks, Georgians, Jews, Yezidis, Kurds, Germans, Poles, Russians and Ukrainians who in brotherly coexistence with our people bring their assistance towards the development of our country and the progress of social life.”

Below, please find the English translation of Catholicos Karekin II’s discourse:

When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd;

and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

John 13:34

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,

Yours Holiness, beloved brother in Christ,

Your Excellency, President of the Republic of Armenia,

Beloved spiritual brothers and faithful people,

Over the course of the past few days we have been experiencing an abundance of spiritual joy and joint prayer while glorifying God in Holy Etchmiadzin. Today we have gathered for the celebration of Divine Liturgy, joined in prayer by the Pontiff of Rome, our beloved brother, Pope Francis.

It is symbolic that today’s reading of the Scripture, during the celebration of Divine Liturgy, was the story of the multiplication of bread. The Evangelist tells us that when Christ secluded himself, knowing this, the multitude of people followed Him, and when the Lord saw the gathered crowd, He had compassion for them and healed the sick. In the evening the apostles asked the Lord to set the people free so that they could find food for themselves. Christ commanded them to feed the people. However, there was a shortage of food, and the Lord blessed it and the bread, which had miraculously multiplied, was enough for the apostles to feed the entire multitude.

The essence of this miracle, which became one of the important missions of Christ’s Holy Church, is the satisfaction of empty spirits by the Lord-given teachings and the support of the needy through compassion. The Lord urges His followers to rejuvenate faith by works, to conjoin prayer and worship with compassion, and to give alms; through which, by the appeasement of hardship and tribulations, we are co-workers with God, according to the words of the apostle (1 Corinthians 3:9). Through this vision, numerous prophesying Church fathers, graceful patriarchs, brave and good shepherds, countless witnesses of faith and devout believers have for centuries depicted the pages of the history of Christ’s Church with the devout preaching of the Word of God and the great works of giving alms and fostering; so that the people may be strengthened by faith, and through the works of faith they may secure the presence of God in the lives of humanity.

Today, faith in God is being tempted and human souls are being hardened during times of hardship and difficulties as well as during times of wealth and lavishness, when they are disengaged with the concerns of those who long for daily bread and are in pain and suffering. Faith is put to the test by extremism and other kinds of ideologies; xenophobia, addictions, passions and self-centred profits. The processes of secularism are intensifying, spiritual and ethical values and views are distorted, and the family structure, established by God, is being shaken. The root of evil in modern life is in trying to build a world without God, to construe the laws and commandments of God which bring forward economic, political, social, environmental and other problems, that day by day deepen and threaten the natural way of life.

Nevertheless, the world does not cease from being the center of God’s love and care. The Lord continues to say, “I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). The one who has tasted the delightful teachings of the Lord stoops to raise the fallen, to increase hope and faith in the hearts of men, and to repeat the miracle of the multiplication of the bread through supporting and consoling the needy, the sick, and the sorrowful. Goodness will prevail in the world and current challenges will be overcome by these commands of God, and by utilizing spiritual and moral values. All good works express God’s care towards humanity and the world, according to the words of the Lord, “behold the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21), and as an affirmation of this, the churches of the world bring their service.

Dear ones, during these days together with our spiritual brother, Pope Francis, with joint visits and prayers we reconfirmed that the Holy Church of Christ is one in the spreading of the gospel of Christ in the world, in taking care of creation, standing against common problems, and in the vital mission of the salvation of man who is the crown and glory of God’s creation. The inseparable mission of the Church of Christ is the strengthening of solidarity among nations and peoples, reinforcing of brotherhood and collaboration, and a witness to this is the participation in this Divine Liturgy today of the ethnic minorities in Armenia: the Assyrians, Belarus, Greeks, Georgians, Jews, Yezidis, Kurds, Germans, Poles, Russians and Ukrainians who in brotherly coexistence with our people bring their assistance towards the development of our country and the progress of social life.

On this graceful day we are appreciative for another opportunity to thank Pope Francis on the occasion of his brotherly visit. We and our people will always pray for you, beloved brother, and for your efforts made towards peace and prosperity of humanity and towards the advancement of the Church of Christ. May God give you strength, bless and keep firm our Churches in love and collaboration and may He grant us new opportunities for witness of brotherhood. In your daily prayers remember the Armenian people, the Armenian statehood and the Armenian Church and the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.

With a prayerful spirit we ask for the protection and support of the Holy Right Hand of Almighty God to shelter those suffering from wars and terrorism, as well as those who are in starvation, poverty and other kinds of afflictions. We also beseech the Lord to pour abundant graces of heaven upon our lives and the whole world.  Amen

(from Vatican Radio)