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YEREVAN, June 24. /TASS/. President Serzh Sargsyan of Armenia has called the visit of Pope Francis to the country a historic event. He said it on Friday while welcoming the Pope in his residence.
"Your commitment to common human values of love, peace, mercy, and humanism, your permanent care for the problems, which pose concern to the global Armenian community, have earned big respect and admiration by the Armenian people," he said.
"Christianity means not only faith to us," Sargsyan went on. "It also means a way of life. It has seeded the wish to live in peace and the philosophy of overcoming hardships with self-restraint and dignity in the Armenian people."
‘The longer we got imbued with Christianity, the more we respected and treasured other religions," he said. "We developed a tolerant and peace-loving character. We could exist in concord with other nations. We learned to safeguard the spiritual and cultural values of other peoples in our own land."
As an instance of friendly inter-denominational relations, Sargsyan cited cooperation between Armenia and Iran.
"One more instance of this can be seen in the peaceful coexistence and flourishing of Armenian communities in the Middle East - before the outbreak of discouraging events of the past few years there - and the harmonic life side by side with the regional peoples, with ethnic and religious minorities," Sargsyan said.
"We’re now watching with deep pain the manifestation of vandalism and xenophobia in the Middle East," he said. "Their only goal is to wipe out historical memories in those territories through the carnage of culture."
"Peoples of our complicated region need peace," Sargsyan said. "I mean the peoples that have enjoyed long historical periods of peaceful life and even have supported each other in hardships," Sargsyan indicated.
"Today, too, Armenia is seeking peace and negotiations are by all means more preferable for us than gunfire," he said. "We’re prepared for peaceful coexistence in the region in spite of all the possible difficulties and impasses on the way to peace."
During reception at the Presidential Palace, the Pope met with national parliament deputies, members of the government, and accredited foreign diplomats.