image of jerusalem 2013

Armenians Celebrate 1700 Years of Christianity
Holy Etchmiadzin Hosts Celebrations

27 September 2001   |   Armenian Issues   |   Subject  Armenia

One year into the new millennium and new century, Armenians worldwide have been celebrating this year the1700 th anniversary of Armenia adopting Christianity as its official national religion.

Tradition has it that the land of Armenia was evangelised by Saints Thaddeus and Bartholomew, two of the twelve apostles of Christ. Armenia was converted to Christianity during the reign of King Trdat III in 301 AD through the healing impact of St Gregory the Enlightener who cured the king from a neurological disorder. The Armenian alphabet was created in the early fifth century.

All eight million Armenians worldwide have been celebrating throughout the year this faith-centred anniversary. However, those events have culminated in a ten-day period of celebrations at Holy Etchmiadzin in Armenia – from 20 to 30 September 2001. Etchmiadzin is considered by Armenians as the Mother Church and constitutes one of the four ecclesial Sees – the other three being the Catholicosate of Cilicia at Antelias as well as the Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Constantinople. His Holiness Karekin II, the spiritual host of the events, bears the title of Catholicos of All Armenians.

The celebrations have assembled the leaders and representatives of many Churches worldwide. Amongst those leaders present were HH Patriarch Alexy II from Russia, HH Patriarch Teoctist of Romania, HB Patriarch Petros VII of Alexandria and Revd Dr Konrad Raiser from the World Council of Churches. Also present were the representatives of the Holy See, the Conference of European Churches, the Lutheran World Federation and the Evangelical Church of Germany.

The weekend of 22and 23 September 2001 included a visit to the monastery of Khor Virap in memory of St Gregory the Enlightener, the first Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church. This was followed by a visit to the Tsitsernagaberd monument in memory of those Armenians who lost their lives during the genocide of1915 . There was also the inauguration of St Greogory’s Church in Yerevan as well as the blessing of the Muron or Holy Chrysm. According to Armenian tradition, the Muron is the substantial emanation of the Holy Spirit, and its blessing imparts upon the faithful the grace of the Holy Spirit.

One highlight of the weekend was the Ecumenical Gathering. It was led by the words of Psalm 133 ‘Behold, how good, pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity’ and emphasised the ecumenical dimension of the Armenian Church throughout its centuries-old history. In his welcoming address to the assembled leaders and faithful, HH Catholicos Karekin II summarised the attitude of his church when he said that the Armenian Church adheres to a concept that proclaims ‘unity in essential issues, freedom in the secondary points and love among all’.

A further significant highlight of the 1700 celebrations is the visit tomorrow of HH Pope John-Paul II. The Roman pontiff arrives in Armenia from Kazakhstan on Tuesday, 25 September2001 , and leaves for Rome on Thursday, 27 September2001 .

For further information, you can access the web site of Holy Etchmiadzin on or else the Vatican web site on Alternatively, you can also call me at the Yerevan hotel - room 427 – on374 -1- 375010or at the Etchmiadzin Press Centre on374 -1-517125.

© harry hagopian @ holy etchmiadzin - 24 September2001

Pope John-Paul II Visits Armenia!

A Synopsis of the Visit

For the first time in the history of the Roman Catholic and Armenian Apostolic Churches, a Bishop of Rome visits Armenia. This historical and ground-breaking meeting between the two lungs of Christianity took place on Tuesday when HH Pope John-Paul II started a three-day pilgrimage to Holy Etchmiadzin.

During the welcoming statement at Zvartnots airport, HH Catholicos Karekin II reminded the assembly that Armenia – the biblical land of Ararat, Noah and Gregory the Enlightener – welcomed with joy the successor to St Peter’s throne. HH Karekin II also expressed the hope that the papal pilgrimage will ‘strengthen the relations of our Churches further and may the bonds of love make our cooperation fruitful.’ Arriving together at the Cathedral, HH Karekin II described the mission of Holy Etchmiadzin as one that leads people ‘from darkness to light, from death to life.’

Indeed, this march from death to life was the focus of the Requiem Service in memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide of1915 . Armenians claim that Ottoman Turkey killed1 . 5million Armenians during World War I in1915 . They point out that those massacres, which attempted to enforce a pan-Turkic ideology across Turkey, have not yet been recognised by the entire world. Addressing this issue, HH John-Paul II echoed the plea of Pope Benedict XV who had raised his voice in 1915 to defend ‘the sorely afflicted Armenian people brought to the brink of annihilation’. Following this prayer by the Pope, Charles Aznavour sang ‘Ave Maria’ in front of the monument for the dead.

But inter-church relations were also highlighted during this visit. An ‘ecumenical celebration for the adoration of the relics of Saint Gregory the Illuminator’ took place at the newly-built church in Yerevan. HH Pope John-Paul II focused on the need to hasten the move forward in ecumenical terms, and added that the unity of the Churches should be steeped in the richness of their diversity. HH Karekin II responded by quoting from St Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians in underscoring the Christian ministry of reconciliation ( 2Cor5 :18). He added that the co-operation between the churches should be enhanced in future in a spirit of love and peace.

On the last day of his pilgrimage to Armenia, Pope John-Paul II celebrated an open-air mass in the presence of large numbers of Armenians. Armenia has a small Armenian Catholic community of fewer than100 , 000members. HH Catholicos Karekin II read a message on this occasion in which he underscored that “One is the voice of prayer. We offer worship to Christ our God with the same faith, with the same love and with the same hope.” He added that “Our Christian cultures are formed from the same source of divine love” and that “faith is the one important aspect that combines our ministry and calls us to work in love and harmony together in spite of our unique differences.”

The papal pilgrimage concludes this afternoon with a visit to the monastery of Khor Virap in memory of St Gregory the Enlightener, the first Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church. St Gregory was imprisoned for thirteen years at this deep mountainous pit on the border with Turkey before being set free and putting in motion the conversion of Armenia to Christianity in 301 AD.

>For further information, you can access the Vatican web site on or the web site of Holy Etchmiadzin on Alternatively, you can also call me at the Yerevan hotel - room 427 – on374 -1- 375010or at the Etchmiadzin Press Centre on374 -1-517125.

© harry hagopian @ holy etchmiadzin - 27 September2001


at Holy Etchmiadzin, Republic of Armenia - 27 September 2001

The celebration of the1700 th anniversary of the proclamation of Christianity as the religion of Armenia has brought us together – John Paul II, Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the Catholic Church, and Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians – and we thank God for giving us this joyous opportunity to join again in common prayer, in praise of his all-holy Name. Blessed be the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – now and forever.

As we commemorate this wondrous event, we remember with reverence, gratitude and love the great confessor of our Lord Jesus Christ, Saint Gregory the Illuminator, as well as his collaborators and successors. They enlightened not only the people of Armenia but also others in the neighbouring countries of the Caucasus. Thanks to their witness, dedication and example, the Armenian people in A. D. 301 were bathed in the divine light and earnestly turned to Christ as the Truth, the Life, and the Way to salvation.

They worshipped God as their Father, professed Christ as their Lord and invoked the Holy Spirit as their Sanctifier; they loved the apostolic universal Church as their Mother. Christ’s supreme commandment, to love God above all and our neighbour as ourselves, became a way of life for the Armenians of old. Endowed with great faith, they chose to bear witness to the Truth and accept death when necessary, in order to share eternal life. Martyrdom for the love of Christ thus became a great legacy of many generations of Armenians. The most valuable treasure that one generation could bequeath to the next was fidelity to the Gospel, so that, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, the young would become as resolute as their ancestors in bearing witness to the Truth. The extermination of a million and a half Armenian Christians, in what is generally referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century, and the subsequent annihilation of thousands under the former totalitarian regime are tragedies that still live in the memory of the present-day generation. These innocents who were butchered in vain are not canonized, but many among them were certainly confessors and martyrs for the name of Christ. We pray for the repose of their souls, and urge the faithful never to lose sight of the meaning of their sacrifice. We thank God for the fact that Christianity in Armenia has survived the adversities of the past seventeen centuries, and that the Armenian Church is now free to carry out her mission of proclaiming the Good News in the modern Republic of Armenia and in many areas near and far where Armenian communities are present.

Armenia is again a free country, as in the early days of King Tiridates and Saint Gregory the Illuminator. Over the past ten years, the right of citizens in the burgeoning Republic to worship and practise their re1igion in freedom has been recognized. In Armenia and in the diaspora, new Armenian institutions have been established, churches have been built, associations and schools have been founded. In all of this we acknowledge the loving hand of God. For he has made his miracles visible in the continuing history of a small nation, which has preserved its particular identity thanks to its Christian faith. Because of their faith and their Church, the Armenian people have developed a unique Christian culture, which is indeed a most valuable contribution to the treasury of Christianity as a whole.

The example of Christian Armenia testifies that faith in Christ brings hope to every human situation, no matter how difficult. We pray that the saving light of Christian faith may shine on both the weak and the strong, on both the developed and developing nations of this world. Particularly today, the complexities and challenges of the international situation require a choice between good and evil, darkness and light, humanity and inhumanity, truth and falsehood. Present issues of law, politics, science, and family life touch upon the very meaning of humanity and its vocation. They call today’s Christians – no less than the martyrs of other times – to bear witness to the Truth even at the risk of paying a high price.

This witness will be all the more convincing if all of Christ’s disciples could profess together the one faith and heal the wounds of division among themselves. May the Holy Spirit guide Christians, and indeed all people of good will, on the path of reconciliation and brotherhood. Here at Holy Etchmiadzin we renew our solemn commitment to pray and work to hasten the day of communion among all the members of Christ’s faithful flock, with true regard for our respective sacred traditions.

With God’s help, we shall do nothing against love, but ”surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, we shall lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and shall run with perseverance the race that is set before as” (cf. Heb12 :1)

We urge our fruitful to pray without ceasing that the Holy Spirit will fill us all, as he did the holy martyrs of every time and place, with the wisdom and courage to follow Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Holy Etchmiadzin, 27 September 2001

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   Armenian Issues   |   27 September 2001


Print or download a copy of this article.


Google: Yahoo: MSN: