Pope Francis will journey this summer to Armenia, and will visit Georgia and Azerbaijan later in the year, the Vatican announced Saturday.
The visit to Armenia will take place June 24-26, following the invitation of Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II, the nation's civil authorities, and the Catholic Church, according to the April 9 statement from the Holy See press office.
Francis himself had expressed his wish to go to the Caucasus nation in his Nov. 30 press conference in the flight from Central Africa. In 2014, he said: “I promised the three (Armenian) Patriarchs that I would go: the promise has been made. I don’t know if it will be possible, but I did promise.”
Armenia is the site of the 1915 Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire which targeted Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek Christian minorities. Some 1.5 million Christians, most of them Armenians, were killed, and millions more were displaced during the genocide.
Speaking during a Sept. 7 Mass, the Pope called it “one of many great persecutions.”
Francis will be the second pontiff to visit Armenia, after St. John Paul II's 2001 visit to the nation.
From Sept. 20 — Oct. 2, the Pope will visit the Caucasus nations of Georgia and Azerbaijan, having accepted “the invitations from His Holiness and Beatitude Ilia II, Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia, and the civil and religious authorities of Georgia and Azerbaijan,” the Vatican statement said.
Georgia and Azerbaijan had previously been visited by St. John Paul II in 1999 and 2002, respectively.