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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

John Paul II Urges Armenia's Catholics to Help Rebuild

APThe pope greeting the Armenian Catholic Church`s head Nerson Ter-Nersesian.
YEREVAN, Armenia -- Pope John Paul II opened his final day in Armenia on Thursday with a call to Armenia's small Catholic community to help rebuild the country.

"At this time, Armenia needs from all her sons and daughters fresh efforts and new sacrifices,"he said in a homily delivered by another priest in Armenian, at an outdoor Mass at Echmiadzin, 25 kilometers west of Yerevan.

"I am certain that in this momentous task, our brothers and sisters of the Armenian Apostolic Church look upon the members of the Catholic community as children of the same mother."

About 5 percent of Armenia's 3.6 million people are Catholics or adherents of a Uniate church that follows an Orthodox liturgy but accepts the supremacy of the pope.

The pope signed a declaration Thursday with Armenian Apostolic Church leader Catholicos Karekin II, using careful phrasing just as he had done in a prayer service Wednesday.

"The extermination of 1.5 million Armenian Christians, in what is generally referred to as the first genocide of the 20th century, and the subsequent annihilation of thousands under the former totalitarian regime are tragedies that still live in the memory of the present-day generation," the statement said.