KHACHKAR TO THE HONOUR OF JOHN PAUL II
On 22 September 2018 in front of the Church of Divine Providence in Wilanów in Warsaw there is going to be a khachkar, an ornamented stony Armenian cross, which is something rare in Poland. It is necessary to commemorate St. John Paul Ii, a great friend of the Armenians.
The enormous cross was funded by archbishop Rafael Minassian, a superior of the Ordinariate of the Catholics, which comprises Armenia, Georgia, Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as the ambassador of Armenia in Poland Edgar Ghazaryan, ending his four-year mission in our country in a glorious way.
The Excellency Ghazaryan is an unusual diplomat. As an ambassador of a small country he contributed to making the sign of Armenia, not another bigger nation, to be permanently placed in the Church of Divine Providence. – The Armenians have always been the first – joked the ambassador Ghazaryan, when I drew his attention to it. He meant the baptism of Armenia in the year 301, that is, over 60 years before Poland. The ruler of Armenia, accepting the baptism from St. Grzegorz Oświeciciel, made it the first Christian country in the world.
Edgar Ghazaryan learnt Polish language very well, when he was travelling round Poland, even where there are small groups of the Armenians. He was giving speeches and when it was necessary he sat at the piano, played music and sang Armenian songs moving hearts.
During his visit to Poland he was lucky to experience great satisfaction. It happened on 24 November 2017, when the Seym of the Republic of Poland unanimously with 435 votes (none of them against nor refraining!) accepted a bill on the occasion of the 650th anniversary of granting a privilege to the Armenians in Poland by Kazimierz the Great, which, in fact means as many years as their presence in their new homeland. The Seym exposed the significant role of the Armenians in the history of Poland and paid the tribute to those who had devoted their lives for its independence. Authors of the bill emphasized, that both throughout centuries, and today mutual relations between Poles and the Armenians can be an example for other countries and nations to follow. On YouTube one can see a report on this unusual event, finished with a photo from the Seym gallery presenting Ghazaryan with his arms crossed on his breast bowing and thanking Polish MPs for their unanimity in tribute paid to his nation.
The Armenians all over the world have been grateful to St. John Paul II till today, for what he did for their nation and country. Being aware of it, the ambassador Ghazaryan – with the help of the Museum of John Paul II and Primate Wyszyński and the Centre of Divine Providence – decided to express his gratitude to the Pope. Its expression is to be khachkar in front of the Church of Divine Providence.
All countries and nations can say that John Paul II was their friend, but the Armenians have particular reasons for it.
In 2001 the Pope visited Armenia on the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of Christianity in this country. The Armenians were very grateful to the Holy Father that he had reminded the whole world of genocide of their nation committed in 1915 by the Turks and whose facts had been distorted by them. A moving prayer of John Paul II in the Museum of the Armenians’ Genocide situated on the outskirts of Erywan – on the Cicrenagaberd hill) was heard all over the world. When Charles Aznavour, a famous French Armenian singer, standing next to the Pope, sang ‘Ave Maria’, nearly everybody was crying.
During that pilgrimage there was an unusual event. For the whole time of the pilgrimage John Paul II was living in a residence of a Catholicos (patriarch) of the Armenians – Garegin II. It was the first and the only one then – case of Pope’s staying with the superior of a different Christian Church.
John Paul II really developed a dialogue with the Apostolic Armenian Church. In his treaty he made a friendship with the former Catholicos – Garegin I. I remember an unusual fact of the papal pilgrimage to Poland in 1999. I was standing close to Joaquin Navarro-Valls, a spokesman of the Holy See, who said to journalists that soon after the visit in Poland the Pope wanted to go to Armenia. There fell consternation. Why? And after such a tiring pilgrimage?
The reason was explained soon. John Paul II got to know about a severe illness of his friend and he wanted to visit him. Soon after that it turned out that the state of the Catholicos’ health was really bad and it was impossible to visit him. However, I will not forget that determination of the elderly ill Pope, who – despite everything and everybody – wanted to confirm his friendship and show his solidarity in suffering to the superior of a different Church. There is no stronger ecumenical testimony.
Translated by Aneta Amrozik
Niedziela 38/2018 (23 IX 2018)