A Vatican press release confirmed a meeting between Pope Francis and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan Friday morning, during which they paid “special attention” to the plight of “Christian communities and other religious minorities in the area, and to the humanitarian crisis regarding refugees from the affected zones.”
The Armenian President met subsequently with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, as well as with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican Foreign Minister.
The statement says that the meeting between the Pope and Sargsyan was cordial and that they spoke of “the special role of Christianity in the history and life of Armenian society.”
The two leaders also spoke about the regional political situation and the Middle East conflict, expressing trust in “the common efforts of interested nations and religious communities to achieve a peaceful co-existence of peoples throughout the entire region.”
Since he took office in April 2008, Sargsyan’s regime has improved both freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Armenia, and civil society has developed considerably.
He has also followed a policy of rapprochement with Turkey, with recent signs that relations between the two states are thawing.
On September 12, Pope Francis announced that he will visit Turkey in late November.
This past week in Lisbon, Turkish EU Minister Volkan Bozkir spoke of normalizing ties between Turkey and Armenia, remarking on the mood of optimism witnessed in the last few months. Bozkir referenced a letter from President Erdogan last April 24, saying, “With this letter, we showed that we are turning over a new leaf to heartbreaking events and offer a hand of peace.”