VATICAN CITY, 9 MAY 2008 (VIS).- This morning the Pope received His Holiness Karekin II Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. He then met with the bishops in the patriarch's delegation who were from many diverse countries.

At noon in the Clementine Hall, the Holy Father presided over the celebration of the Middle Hour (hora media), which was attended by Karekin II, the Armenian bishops, and a group of faithful apostolic Armenians from a number of countries in the East and West.

After the Patriarch's greeting, the Pope addressed the assembly. Referring to tomorrow's solemnity of Pentecost, Benedict XVI affirmed that, on this day, "we will pray in a particular way for the unity of the Church. (...) If our hearts and minds are open to the Spirit of communion, God can work miracles again in the Church, restoring the bonds of unity. Striving for Christian unity is an act of obedient trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, who leads the Church to the full realization of the Father's plan, in conformity with the will of Christ".

Continuing, the Holy Father pointed out that "the recent history of the Armenian Apostolic Church has been written in the contrasting colors of persecution and martyrdom, darkness and hope, humiliation and spiritual re- birth". However, he added, "the restoration of freedom to the Church in Armenia has been a source of great joy for us all. An immense task of rebuilding the Church has been laid on your shoulders," mentioning the "remarkable pastoral results that have been achieved in such a short time".

"Thanks to your pastoral leadership," the Pope assured, "the glorious light of Christ shines again in Armenia and the saving words of the Gospel can be heard once more. Of course, you are still facing many challenges on social, cultural, and spiritual levels. In this regard," he added, "I must mention the recent difficulties suffered by the people of Armenia, and I express the prayerful support of the Catholic Church in their search for justice and peace and the promotion of the common good".

Benedict XVI emphasized that in ecumenical dialogue "important progress has been made in clarifying the doctrinal controversies that have traditionally divided us, particularly over questions of Christology. During the last five years, much has been achieved by the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, of which the Catholicosate of All Armenians is a full member".

In conclusion, the Holy Father added that "we pray that its activity will bring us closer to full and visible communion, and that the day will come when our unity in faith makes possible a common celebration of the Eucharist. (...) Only when sustained by prayer and supported by effective cooperation, can theological dialogue lead to the unity that the Lord wishes for his disciples".