Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly reminded secularized Europe’s leaders that the Christian faith has formed their societies.

Speaking Saturday at the World Synod of Bishops on the Word of God, Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX of the Armenian Catholic Church spelled out what reading the Bible did for Armenia, which is regarded historically as the first nation to embrace Christianity.

“According to tradition, the origin of the Armenian Church, evangelized by St. Gregory the Illuminator, can be traced to the adoption of Christianity as the State religion of Armenia in the year 301,” Patriarch Nerses Bedros said. “At that time, the Armenian alphabet did not exist and Bible readings were proclaimed in Greek or Syriac.

“The reader then would translate it into Armenian. This did not help in understanding the Word of God by the Armenian neophytes. This led to the idea of inventing an alphabet to translate the Bible into the language of the people…

“We can conclude without hesitation that the invention of the Armenian alphabet in the year 406 had no other goal but that of evangelization. This evangelization helped maintain the Christian faith which was often endangered, as in 451 — the Bible had just been translated — and during the centuries to follow.”

Said the Armenian patriarch, “The Word of God supported the Church and the Armenian people during their painful history. It impregnated and animated all of Armenian culture down the centuries. The lives of the Armenians were continually penetrated and guided by the Word of God.”

—Tom McFeely