VATICAN Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian is the new Armenian Catholic Patriarch

Coming from a family in the diaspora, the new patriarch lost his grandparents during the genocide of 1915. His orphan father was taken in at Castel Gandolfo at the request of Benedict XV. Raphaël Bedros welcomed Francis during his visit to Armenia in 2016, underlining the Armenians’ “debt of gratitude” to the pontiff. When the Pope received the new Patriarch, he underlined the “joy” of the Armenian people.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The Armenian Catholic community has a new patriarch.

The Synod of Bishops of the Patriarchal Church of Cilicia of the Armenians (Lebanon), convened by Pope Francis in Rome on September 22 and 23, elected Bishop Raphaël François Minassian.

Until then Titular Archbishop of Caesarea of ​​Cappadocia for the Armenians and Ordinary for the faithful Armenian Catholics of Eastern Europe, the new patriarch took the name of His Beatitude Raphaël Bedros (Pierre) XXI Minassian during his election.

This morning, Pope Francis met in audience with the new Patriarch, to whom he granted the Ecclesiastical Communion and delivered a letter in which he joins in the “joy” of the Armenian Catholic people who “await” their pastor.

The election, writes the pontiff, “came at a time when people are particularly overwhelmed by various challenges. I think of the suffering in Syria and Lebanon – countries where the Church of Cilicia of Armenians is present – as well as of the pandemic, which is still far from being overcome in many parts of the world.

“We know the Armenian people as experts in suffering, because of the many trials throughout their more than 1,700 years of Christian history, but also because of their inexhaustible capacity to flourish and bear fruit.”

The Armenian Church “is fully integrated in the affairs of the Armenian people, preserving its memory and traditions, and at the same time deeply linked to the Successor of the apostle Peter”.

In conclusion, Francis writes: “I entrust to you the care of the young generations, the promotion of vocations, the wise harmony that you must be able to find between the different entities of your community”.

The new patriarch was born in Beirut on November 24, 1946. He attended the Patriarchal Seminary of Bzommar (1958-1967) and studied philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University between 1967 and 1973. His studies included a course in specialization in educational psychology. at the Pontifical Salesian University.

He was ordained a priest on June 24, 1973 as a member of the Patriarchal Congregation of Bzommar (Institute of Patriarchal Clergy of Bzommar). From 1973 to 1982, he was parish priest of the Armenian Cathedral in Beirut.

From 1982 to 1984 he was secretary to Patriarch Hovannes Bedros XVIII Kasparian. He was responsible for the establishment of the parish complex of the Holy Cross in Zalka, Beirut, from 1984 to 1989.

From 1985 to 1989, he was a judge at the ecclesiastical tribunal of the Armenian Church in Beirut and taught Armenian liturgy at the Pontifical University of Kaslik.

Soon after, he was transferred to the United States, where he served as pastor in New York for a year. Later, until 2003, he was pastor for Armenian Catholics in California, Arizona and Nevada.

In 2004, he founded and directed Telepace Armenia, while the following year he was named Patriarchal Exarch of Jerusalem and Amman for the Armenians.

On June 24, 2011, he was appointed Ordinary of Armenian Catholics of Eastern Europe, with the titular Episcopal See of Caesarea of ​​Cappadocia for the Armenians and the title of Archbishop. a d anybody.

Former president of Caritas Armenia, he comes from a diaspora family of the Armenian-Catholic Church, which broke up the Armenian Apostolic Church and entered into communion with the Holy See in 1742.

His grandparents died in the Armenian genocide, which he strongly denounced over the years, while offering words of dialogue and reconciliation to the Turkish people.

Her orphaned father was rescued in 1919 and brought with hundreds of other children to Castel Gandolfo at the behest of Pope Benedict XV.

From June 24 to 26, 2016, Bishop Minassian then welcomed Pope Francis during his apostolic visit in Armenia.

Talk to AsiaNews on this occasion, the future patriarch underlined the words “clear and simple” used by the pontiff to commemorate the Armenian genocide in the Vatican in April 2015, “the first of the 20th century”, that is why “we have a debt of gratitude towards him.”

Some of the most poignant moments of the papal visit, which had “double value”, were the solemn mass in Gyumri and the ecumenical prayer for peace in Yerevan.

During the visit, Francis showed that he “cares about the Armenian people” and the country as “the first Christian nation in history which has borne witness to its faith for centuries in martyrdom”.

While the pontiff “has a special affection” for the Armenian people, Armenians are grateful to the Pope for “speaking so boldly before the world about the Armenian genocide of 1915”.

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