HE first visit in history by head of the Armenian Church to the head of the Catholic Church will take place from May 8 to 12, when Katholikos Vasken 1 visits Pope Paul, the Vatican announced last week.
He will be accompanied by the Armenian Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Constantinople, the Archbishop primates of Western Europe and of the Americas, and by several archbishops and bishops.
The visit, at the invitation of Pope Paul, is the result of a series of contacts begun when the Armenian church accepted the Pope's invitation to send observers to the Vatican Council.
The Katholikos who is also known as the "Arnsen'an Pope" by his two million followers will stay in the papal apartments of the Tower of St. John in the Vatican gardens. His programme includes a joint prayer service with the Pope, an official Vatican reception and a private conversation with Pope Paul.
FIFTH CENTURY SPLIT He will also visit, and pray in, the Basilicas of Se Peter, St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. John in Lateran and St. Mary Major. He will meet with the Armenian community in Rome and attend a reception given by Cardinal Agaganiaj of the Armenian Rite Catholic Church.
The Armenian Church, which split from the Church of Rome in the fifth century, is organised under two Patriarchs and two Katholikos in the Near East, with the Katholikos
of Echmiadzin, S o v i e t Armenia, the supreme head. Vasken's title is Katholikos of all the Armenians.
The Armenian Church ritual preserves unique and ancient customs such as the slaughter of sheep, doves and cocks. Its history has a notable continuity from the time of the schism.
The Armenians in Echmiadzin say this was caused by their absence from the Council of Chalcedon in 451, at which Christ's nature was defined. The Armenians, however, agree about the Divinity of Christ.
ATEACH-IN on the teaching of ecumenism has been organised by Fr. Herbert Keldany, secretary of the Westminster Ecumenical Cornmission, at Westminster Cathedral Library on Saturday, April 11, at 2.30 p.m.