Pope Francis sends Gold Medal to Armenian President

President Serzh Sargsyan received today the delegation headed by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. The meeting was also joined by His Beatitude Gregory Petros XX Gabroyan, the newly elected Catholicos-Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church.

Armenia’s president welcomed the guests and expressed satisfaction with the fact that more than a 20-year history of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Vatican City has always been characterized by high-level political dialogue. The president stated that Cardinal Sandri’s visit is a striking illustration of the fact that Armenian-Vaticanian relations has always been the center of mutual care and continue to strengthen.

Serzh Sargsyan greatly appreciated Cardinal Leonardo Sandri’s own major contribution to the reinforcement of bilateral interstate relations, noting that he is aware of the cardinal’s attention and care for the issues of great concern to the Armenian people.

At the meeting, President Serzh Sargsyan awarded Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, the Order of Friendship for the protection of spiritual values, making a significant contribution to the strengthening of bilateral ties between Armenia and the Holy See, as well as for his active pro-Armenian activities.

“We are grateful for your personal devotion and great support. Please accept, Your Excellency, this honor, as a symbol of our deep gratitude. The Armenian people highly esteem the names that have showed concern for their problems across history, that have ever been involved in dealing with them,” said the RA president.

Serzh Sargsyan noted that it is hard to overestimate Vatican City’s role not only in the consolidation of the Christian world, but also in the protection of human rights, maintenance of tolerance, mutual understanding and peace. He stated that it is vividly illustrated by the fact of Vatican City’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide which was a step aimed at restoring the historical justice and was a tribute to those Armenian Christians who fell prey to the terrific crimes committed in Ottoman Turkey. Armenia’s president said that the impressions of the prayer offered by the Pope in April in memory of the Armenian Genocide victims will remain in the Armenian people’s memory for many years to come.

Serzh Sargsyan mentioned that the Armenian people are very proud of the fact that throughout the 2000-year history of the Catholic Church, Saint Gregory of Narek, a son of the Armenian people and a genius of Medieval thought, joined the 36 greatest thinkers who received the title “Doctor of the Church.”

At the meeting, the parties attached great importance to the promotion of cultural cooperation between Armenia and Vatican City. They welcomed the steps taken in this direction, expressing satisfaction with the fact that the cooperation between the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the Holy See has always remained at a high level.

Cardinal Sandri expressed his gratitude for the honor accorded to him and for the warm welcome, noting that he accepted such gesture in the spirit of profound esteem and friendship, which linked him to the sons and daughters of Armenia’s noble land. “Over the years, both in my service as Substitute of the Secretary of State and now as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Studies, I have had occasion to participate in events which exemplify the friendship and collaboration between your Country and the Holy See: the commemoration of 1700 years of the Baptism of Armenia, with the memorable voyage of Saint John Paul II; the placing of a statue of Saint Gregory the Illuminator in a niche of the Vatican Basilica; the naming in his honor of a courtyard of the same Basilica; various visits to the Pontiffs, such as those of the Catholicos, His Holiness Karekin II; and also the prayer, led by Pope Francis and witnessed by the entire world, at the Altar of the Confession of Saint Peter last 12 April, on the occasion of the commemoration of the victims of Metz Yeghern.

We can truly call this a profound friendship, and I welcome this honor which is accorded me today as a sign of this close bond between the Republic of Armenia and the Supreme Pontiff and the Apostolic See.

I recognize that it is bestowed not so much on my person, but even more on His Holiness Pope Francis. Indeed, it is an honor for all those who love Armenia, a Country so proud of its Christian identity and also magnanimous in its openness to peoples and cultures, respectful of man and his rights in the concert of Nations,” said Cardinal Sandri at the meeting with the RA president.

Cardinal Sandri handed over the Gold Medal of Pope Francis to the RA President.