Pope Francis’ trip to Armenia

Papal trips are important for many reasons, including their geopolitical significance, their meaning for relations with other Christian churches and other faiths, their impact on the local Catholic community, and the media coverage they generate.

As a result, foreign trips are among the events every year in which a pope invests the most of himself – the most time preparing speeches and gestures, the most energy in thinking about the messages he wants to convey, and so on.

All this means there’s another level of interpretation every time a pope hits the road, which is what the outing reveals about his own personality and priorities.

In that light, it’s worth asking what Pope Francis’ June 24-26 trip to Armenia tells us about the pontiff himself. Surveying everything that happened, three conclusions suggest themselves.

Argentina matters

From the beginning, it’s been striking how often Pope Francis, when pressed to explain a particular statement or policy choice, will invoke his background in Argentina.

There are really too many examples to count, but just to choose one almost at random, in a session with priests from the diocese of Rome earlier this month, Francis stirred controversy by suggesting there are cases in which it’s better for couples to live together for a while rather than take part in a shotgun wedding.

“Here’s a social fact in Buenos Aires,” he said. “I prohibited religious marriages in Buenos Aires in cases of what we call matrimonios de apuro, meaning ‘in a hurry,’ when a baby is on the way.”

In fact, Francis cited his experience in Buenos Aires no fewer than five times in that address to priests, on multiple topics.

The same point emerged on the Armenia trip, especially in the press conference he held on the papal plane on his return. Francis cited Argentina on three separate points:

To explain his choice to add the word “genocide” to a speech on Friday about the massacres suffered by Armenians in 1915 at the hands of Ottoman Turks, saying that in Argentina that’s just the word used and that “I brought it with me to Rome.” Continue reading


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