Naming a Vatican courtyard after Armenia’s patron saint

Under a beautifully sunny sky Friday, Pope Benedict XVI presided over the formal naming of the St. Gregory the Illuminator Courtyard on the north side of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The courtyard, between the basilica’s exterior wall and a booth selling tickets to reach St. Peter’s famous dome, is named after the patron saint of Armenia, the evangelizer who brought Christianity to the country in 301.

Pope John Paul II blesses a statue of St. Gregory the Illuminator in 2005. (CNS/Catholic Press Photo)St. Gregory is no stranger to the courtyard now named after him. In January 2005, Pope John Paul II presided over the unveiling of a statue of the bearded and mitered saint in a niche of the basilica facing the courtyard.

Unveiling the stone tablet with the courtyard’s new name on it, Pope Benedict was joined by officials from St. Peter’s Basilica, from Vatican City’s central government and Armenian Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX Tarmouni of Cilicia.

The pope told the group, “More than 17 centuries ago, this great saint made the Armenians a Christian people,” the first nation to declare itself officially Christian.

By calling the saint “the illuminator,” Pope Benedict said, Armenians recognize that he led the people from darkness to the light of Christ, but also that through his teaching and preaching he shed light on the truth about human life.

PHOTO: Pope John Paul II blesses the statue of St. Gregory the Illuminator which was placed in a niche on the northern exterior wall of St. Peter’s Basilica in this January 2005 file photo. Pope Benedict XVI officially named the little courtyard which the statue faces after the saint Feb. 22. (CNS/Catholic Press Photo)

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