Pope faces thick past and tricky present on Armenia trip

YEREVAN, ARMENIA – Analysts like to say that the South Caucasus region, including Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, is one of those spots where the burden of history is especially heavy.

Newly minted leaders here often make stops at the tombs of kings or martyrs from the past, in order to claim legitimacy in the present, and grievances from a century or more ago still define regional relationships.

Tensions forged by the past complicate life for anyone trying to navigate the area, even a pope. Francis is making not one but two trips to the South Caucasus in 2016, including his present June 24-26 outing to Armenia and a separate foray to Georgia and Azerbaijan in late September and early October.

Officially, organizers say logistics prevent combining the three stops, including the fact that Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia is presently in Crete for the “Holy and Great Council” of the Eastern Orthodox churches, and thus wouldn’t be on hand to host the pontiff.  Continue reading…

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