Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul
1700th Anniversary of
VATICAN CITY (VIS) - Made public today was the Apostolic Letter,
dated February 2, written by the Pope for the occasion of the
anniversary of the Baptism of the Armenian People.
John Paul II recalled that the conversion of the Armenian people to
Christianity occurred seventeen centuries ago. "It was an event
which profoundly marked your identity; not only your personal identity,
but that of the community as well. For this reason one can speak of the
'Baptism' of your nation, even if in reality the spreading of
Christianity had already begun some time earlier in your land."
After a brief narration of the events which, according to tradition,
were at the origin of the massive conversion of the Armenian people, the
Pope writes: "The preaching of the Good News and the conversion of
Armenia are, above all, founded on the blood of witnesses to the faith.
... The component of martyrdom constitutes a constant element in the
history of your people. ... The entire culture and very spirituality of
the Armenians are pervaded by the boldness of the supreme sign of the
gift of life in martyrdom. ... One such emblem is the sacrifice of
Vardan Mamikonian and his companions" who, facing attempts to
impose mazdaism (Zoroastrianism), "gave their life to remain
faithful to Christ and defend the faith of the nation." The Pope
emphasized that since then similar events have been repeated, "up
through the massacres suffered by the Armenians in the years spanning
the 19th and 20th centuries and culminating in the tragic events of
1915, when the Armenian people suffered unspeakable violence, the
painful consequences of which are still visible in the Diaspora into
which many of its sons have been constrained. It is a memory which
cannot be lost."
Furthermore, the Holy Father recalled, these bloody events have
compelled the Armenian people "to continual migrations throughout
the world." But, he writes, "the Christian faith, even in the
most tragic moments of Armenian history, has been the propulsive spring
which has marked the beginning of the rebirth of this tried people."
Another element "of great value in your troubled history"
is comprised of the "relation between evangelization and culture."
From the term "'Illuminator,' as St. Gregory the Apostle of Armenia
is named" is derived 'Illumination', a term which indicates that
"through Baptism, the disciple ... is inundated by the splendor of
Christ 'light of the world'." Such a term also indicates "the
spreading of culture through teaching, entrusted in particular to the
monk- teachers, who continue the evangelical preaching of St. Gregory."
The Pope then pointed to the "powerful force of faith, which
prompts us not to give in to the temptations of power and of the world,
and which enables us to resist atrocious sufferings as well as the most
seductive flattery." When man distances himself from God, "he
loses his own dignity, debasing himself, and thus becoming a prisoner of
his own avidity." An important truth in all of this emerges, he
says: "An absolute sacredness of power does not exist, and this
doesn't mean to say that it is always justified in everything one does.
One must, rather, recognize the personal responsibility of one's choices:
if they are wrong, they remain such, even if a king makes them."
The Holy Father said he wants to express to the Lord "the
gratitude of the entire Church for having inspired in the Armenian
people a faith which is so firm and courageous and for having always
supported them in their witness to it. ... I want to express my thanks
to the Armenian people, above all for their long history of fidelity to
Christ, a fidelity which has known persecution and martyrdom."
"The Armenian people's patrimony of faith and culture has
enriched mankind with treasures of art and talent, which are now spread
throughout the world. ... Ambassadors of peace and industriousness,
Armenians have traveled the world and ... have offered a precious
contribution to transforming it and making it closer to the Father's
project of love." John Paul II expressed "a special thought to
all those who worked so that Armenia could rise from the sufferings of
so many years of a totalitarian regime."
"I also fervently hope that the faithful will courageously
continue their commitment and their already notable efforts so that the
Armenia of tomorrow will bloom again in the human and Christian values
of justice, solidarity, equality, respect, honesty and hospitality which
are at the basis of human coexistence."
He underscored how "the already cordial relations between the
Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church have had, in recent
decades, a decisive thrust through meetings between the Pope and the
highest authorities of that Church." In particular, he cites the
encounter with His Holiness Karekin II to whom he gave the relics of
Gregory the Illuminator for the new cathedral in Yerevan.
Remarking on tomorrow's liturgy in the Armenian rite in St. Peter's
Basilica, "with Armenians and for Armenians ... to praise God for
the gift of faith they have received," the Pope writes: "It is
my great hope that that sacred thanksgiving will embrace all Armenians,
wherever they are."
Armenian Tragedy and the Meaning of Genocide Discussed in February 8
issue of the London Review of Books:
Armenian president visits south Ukrainian region, meets diaspora
2 March 2001
Armenian President Robert Kocharyan, who came to Ukraine on an
official visit and spent the first day in Kiev, has visited Odessa
and Illichivsk today. Apart from economic issues, the Armenian
president was interested in how his compatriots live in Ukraine.
The Armenian diaspora in Odessa Region is the biggest one in
[Correspondent] Our guests were primarily interested in the sea
transport centre in Illichivsk and the Odessa-Varna and
Odessa-Poti-Batumi ferries successfully operating nearby. They
paid much attention to them as the ninth European transport
corridor connecting the Balkans and Transcaucasian countries is
successfully operating due to the normal work of the Ukrferry Ukrainian
shipping company. This is an Armenian goal too. Robert Kocharyan met
the Armenian diaspora, which is the biggest in Ukraine. Almost 50,000
Armenians live in Odessa Region. An Armenian church was the first
to be constructed in independent Ukraine. There had been no
Armenian temple built before that in the former USSR and
post-Soviet countries. People of Caucasus origins have an
opportunity to have their children learn the Armenian language,
traditions and culture at school. Even the place for the church is
a prestigious one - in the Arkadiya area at the seashore. So
Ukraine is becoming mother to many people living comfortably here,
the Armenian president said in his speech to businessmen from the
BAKU: Aliyev's son denies Karabakh deal linked to his succession
Azerbaijani Space TV
2 March 2001
[Presenter] The settlement of the Nagornyy Karabakh problem has been
one of the most widely discussed subjects among the Azerbaijani
public recently. The public does not have a single opinion on the
settlement of the problem. While some support a peaceful
resolution, there is a considerable number of those who want war.
Let us recall that the head of state is to leave for France soon.
As for the opposition, they say that [Azerbaijani President] Heydar
Aliyev will sign a defeatist agreement. At the same time they
assert that in this way [Heydar Aliyev's son] Ilham Aliyev will be
brought to power. Ilham Aliyev granted an exclusive interview to
Space today. He said that this version did not correspond to
reality. He also presented his own version: [Ilham Aliyev,
captioned as vice president of State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani
Republic] They [the press] are writing that Heydar Aliyev wants to
go for concessions [on Nagornyy Karabakh] because there is the issue of
succession and he wants to facilitate his successor's job. You
know, when I read such things I hate those people who spread such
rumours. I can present a different scenario. It is no secret to
anyone that the big powers want to expand their influence in
Azerbaijan. Until 1993 the big, or not big, neighbouring states'
influence here was extremely great. And even some countries'
ambassadors were in a certain sense formulating the foreign and
internal policy of Azerbaijan.
An end was put to these tendencies after 1993 because a strong
personality like Heydar Aliyev could never allow other countries'
interests to prevail over Azerbaijan's interests in the foreign or
internal issues of Azerbaijan. For this reason, an end was put to
this. And during the last seven to eight years that Heydar Aliyev
has been head of state, neither America nor Russia nor our other
friendly neighbouring countries have been able to implement their
interests however they please, because Azerbaijan's own interests are
paramount for us, and we must defend these interests, and after
that we can establish bilateral or multilateral relations.
And certainly, the Azerbaijani authorities' strength probably does
not suit other countries. There is a version currently circulating
in the press that Western states are looking for the weakest group
among the opposition in Azerbaijan. For this reason they are
exerting pressure on Heydar Aliyev to compel him to agree to a
defeatist peace, so the situation could accelerate and they could
bring more suitable forces to power.
They have selected the weakest group among this
opposition, this is
the current People's Front [of Azerbaijan] Party and they want to
slightly increase their authority here. This version, I repeat,
has not been invented by me. This version exists in the press and
among political scientists. [Presenter] We should note that
Ilham Aliyev has recently been sympathetic to the youths who want
to wage war. According to him, lands which cannot be taken
peacefully must definitely be regained by war. We will present details
of the exclusive interview with Ilham Aliyev in our 2100 [1700 gmt].
Agassi ousts his practice partner Sargsian
Friday, March 2
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Australian Open champion Andre Agassi advanced
to the semifinals of the Sybase Open with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over
his friend and hitting partner Sargis Sargsian on Friday night.
Top-seeded Agassi improved to 10-0 this year in the lighthearted
quarterfinal match, as girlfriend Steffi Graf looked on. Fans,
including musician Carlos Santana, cheered for both the seven-time
Grand Slam winner and his underdog opponent.
"It's always tough playing somebody you want to see win,"
Agassi said. "You have to stay focused. You have to concentrate."
Serving with a 4-2 advantage in the second set, Agassi rallied
Top-ranked Agassi, who has won the Sybase four times, faces
Gambill in a semifinal match on Saturday.
Sixth-seeded Gambill defeated Spain's Juan Balcells -- who upset
third-seeded Mark Philippoussis in a marathon match Thursday -- 6-2, 6-0
in the late match Friday night.
In an earlier quarterfinal match, Greg Rusedski used his size and
power to upset Australian sensation Lleyton Hewitt 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.
Eighth-seeded Rusedski, who advanced to his third semifinal this
year, easily took the second set as Hewitt struggled with his
first serves. He won the match with a cross-court drop shot that
Hewitt couldn't get to. "He definitely got better and better
as the match went on," Hewitt said. Second-seeded Hewitt,
wearing his trademark backward baseball cap, needed quickness and
agility to overcome Rusedski's booming serve in the first set. He
took the opening set with a 105-mph serve that Rusedski returned into
Rusedski said he varied his chip-and-charge strategy a bit to throw
off after getting off to a jittery start.
"My main plan was to go to the net with him because I think from
the back he's a better player," he said.
Hewitt, who turned 20 last Saturday, beat Rusedski in their previous
two meetings. The quarterfinal loss spoiled hopes of a final between
Australian Open winner Andre Agassi and Hewitt.
Rusedski made it to the Sybase final in 1997, but retired from the
match against Pete Sampras with a wrist injury.
Rusedski's opponent for Saturday's semifinals was decided when
fourth-seeded Tommy Haas couldn't finish his match against qualifier
Xavier Malisse of Belgium because of a right hip injury.
Haas said he dove twice in the final set, bruising his right knee and
aggravating a hip injury he'd been nursing all week.
"When I came up, I didn't feel right, and I knew I couldn't risk
any more," he said.
In quarterfinal doubles matches played earlier Friday, Simon Aspelin
and Johan Landsberg of Sweden defeated second-seeded Americans Justin
Gimelstob and Scott Humphries 6-3, 7-6 (8). Mark Knowles of the Bahamas
and American Brian MacPhie defeated American wild card entries Paul
Goldstein and Jim Thomas, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
Armenians living in
S. Russia want closer contact with homeland
2 March 2001
The number of Armenians living in southern districts of Russia has
increased in recent years. They have united to form the
Association of Azov-Black Sea Armenian Communities and Armenian
Societies. Anatoliy Saakyan, the chairman of the association, and
Grigor Martirosyan, the head of the Union of Artsakh (Karabakh)
Compatriots, talk here about the life of these Armenian communities.
Anatoliy Saakyan: Each Armenian family lives relatively
their main concerns are everyday problems. There are 32 Armenian
communities and societies involved in the Association of
Azov-Black Sea Armenian Communities. They are not operating at a
satisfactory level today. Although all these communities organize
Armenian language courses and there are song and dance groups and
libraries, none of these are satisfactory yet. Armenia should play
a serious role in the organization, activation and development of
the life of Armenian communities and the maintenance of the
Armenian spirit. We would appreciate visits by cultural groups
from Armenia to Armenian communities outside the republic and
would be grateful if Armenian publications, particularly newspapers, could be sent to these
communities. We will give a
warm welcome to cultural groups from Artsakh and Armenia. Grigor
Martirosyan: Since the first years of the Artsakh movement, a large
number of Armenian refugees from Baku, Sumgait [Sumqayit],
Gyandzha [Ganca] and other districts of Azerbaijan have resettled
in Krasnodar Region. More than one million Armenians live in this
region. According to estimates, more than one hundred of them are
from Azerbaijan [figures as given]. Armenians living here have
good relations with them.
The Union of Artsakh Compatriots is today not only interested in
assistance to refugees, but also organizes charitable aid to
Artsakh's population. But today our ties with mother Armenia and
Artsakh have weakened. And it is not our fault. Formerly, our
representatives transported aid to Artsakh, so there was a tie.
Cultural groups from Armenia and Artsakh also used to visit our region
regularly, but now they have forgotten us. But our union is working.
There are many refugees from Artsakh who want to return there. We
organize their return and allocate money for their journey and
their first few months in their homeland. Thanks to our help, 62
refugees from Artsakh returned there in 2000.