Gift of Appreciation: Sculptor prepares special piece to honor Pope Francis’ visit

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A prominent Armenian artist has created a sculpture that he wants to be donated to Pope Francis during the Pontiff’s upcoming visit in appreciation of the Pope’s stance on the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey.

Sculptor Ferdinand Arakelyan, among whose works are also monuments to prominent Armenian philanthropists in Yerevan’s Philanthropist Alley, does not yet reveal all the details of his “Minute of Silence” work, but says it is dedicated to Pope Francis as a sign of gratitude of the Armenian people.

Pope Francis’ visit to Armenia, which is scheduled on June 24-26, will include his meeting with His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, in Holy Echmiadzin, as well as travel to Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city in the northwestern Shirak province that has one of the largest Catholic communities in the predominantly Orthodox Christian country.

The artist believes that by his reference to the Armenian Genocide during a landmark Vatican sermon the Pope labled Turkey, “an ignorant antagonist of politics”.

“He said that the crime of genocide must not be committed towards any people. When the Pope recognized the Armenian Genocide, I planned to dedicate a work to him, and so I have been working on it for two months now. I am dedicating it to the visit of the Pope. The Tree of Life is in the center, around which the pope and other religious leaders are gathered to honor the memory of Genocide victims with a minute of silence,” the sculptor told media on Monday.

He said that if the Pope wants he can take the statue with him. But even if he did not, he will know that Armenian people are a grateful nation with a deep history.

“The sculpture is bronze, some crosses are gold plate. It is 4 meters wide, 1 meter high and consists of 220 figures,” he said, adding that he personally covered expenses for the piece.

In connection with the papal visit there will be special insignias with a slogan – “Visit to the First Christian Country”. Symbolic colors of the insignia will be violet and yellow, reflecting the official colors of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The insignia will also include a coat of arms of the two churches.

It is expected that up to 25,000 people will be present at Vardanants Square in Gyumri while the Pope will be conducting a mass there. More than 3,000 pilgrims are expected to arrive in Armenia on the occasion of the pontifical trip.