His Holiness Catholicos Aram I raised the issue of the Armenian prisoners of war captured by Azerbaijan in an aside with Pope Francis I during the Vatican summit with the heads of Lebanon’s Christian churches last week.

The Catholicos thanked the Pope for recently speaking about the Armenian POWs and urged him to intervene for their release. He reminded the Pope that their captivity stands in violation of international law.

At the request of the Pope, the Catholicos delivered a speech about “The current socio-economic situation in Lebanon and the ways to emerge from it.”

Aram I said Lebanon was teetering “at the edge of a cliff,” with its identity existentially compromised. “Today most people live in poverty and faced with uncertainty while the political leaders who should be ruling the country and push it to progress watch from afar the daily suffering of the people.”

Under the Pope, the Vatican “has always been on the side of Lebanon and its people, especially in times of crisis, and has defended the cause of Lebanon in the international community,” the Catholicos said. “The Vatican has considered Lebanon not only a country of coexistence of communities, but in the words of Pope Saint John Paul II, it has also represented a message of coexistence of religions addressed to the entire world.”

As a way of the current crisis, the Catholicos called on the prompt formation of a new government and a new interreligious agreement between the Christian and Muslim communities of the country.

In the course of the Vatican summit, the Catholicos also met with the Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, with whom he also raised the issue of the Armenian prisoners in Azerbaijani captivity. In a meeting with Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, he discussed about ecumenism, whereas he briefed the Ambassadors of Armenia to the Holy See, Karen Nazaryan, and Lebanon, Farid Al-Khazen, about the Lebanese Christian leaders meeting with the Pope.

During a separate meeting with Ambassador Nazaryan, the Catholicos had words of praise for strengthening relations between Armenia and the Vatican, expressing his joy over the upcoming appointment of a Nuncio to represent the diplomatic interests of the Holy See in Armenia.

The Catholicos also spoke with journalists accredited to the Vatican.