Pope Francis is drawing attention to another issue in the former Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, which in mid-September was taken over by Azerbaijan. Now some 100,000 of the 120,000 ethnic Armenians who lived there have fled the area.
After praying the midday Angelus this October 15, Pope Francis noted:
My concern for the crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh has not waned. In addition to the humanitarian situation of the displaced people – which is serious – I would also like to make a special appeal for the protection of the monasteries and places of worship in the region.
I hope that, starting with the Authorities and all the inhabitants, they can be respected and protected as part of the local culture, expressions of faith and a sign of a fraternity that makes it possible to live together despite differences.
The Caucasus Heritage Watch released a special report already months before the take-over noting the situation of these cultural sites: “with 6 confirmed destroyed, 7 confirmed damaged, and 17 threatened just since the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War began in September 2020.”
Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity, around 300 AD, before the Edict of Milan. According to tradition, the region was evangelized by the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus.