Vatican City — Pope Francis has welcomed the election of a new patriarch for the Armenian Catholic Church, extending what is known as "ecclesial communion" to Patriarch Gregoire Pierre XX Ghabroyan of Cilicia, who was elected Friday by his fellow Armenian bishops.
The day after the election, the pope wrote to the new patriarch offering his congratulations and praying that God would shower him with an "abundance of divine gifts."
As is customary for the patriarchs of the Eastern churches in union with Rome, the newly elected patriarch had written the pope formally requesting communion, or unity, with him and the universal Catholic community.
"Your Beatitude's election comes at a time when your church faces difficulties and new challenges, particularly the situation of those Armenian Catholic faithful who are going through great trials in the Middle East," Pope Francis wrote Saturday to the 80-year-old Syrian-born patriarch.
Despite the hardships faced, particularly in Syria and Iraq, Pope Francis said, "enlightened by the light of faith in the risen Christ, our gaze is full of hope and mercy because we are certain that the cross of Christ is the tree that gives life."
At the time of his election, Pierre was the retired bishop of Sainte-Croix-de-Paris.
Born in Aleppo, Syria, Nov. 15, 1934, he attended the minor seminary in Lebanon and the Marist College there before completing his preparation for the priesthood at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
He was ordained to the priesthood in 1959 and named a bishop and apostolic exarch for Armenian Catholics in France in 1977. The exarchate was raised to the status of eparchy (similar to a diocese) in 1986.