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Ecumenical Delegation from U.S. Visits Patriarch and Churches of Armenian Apostolic Church

YEREVAN, ARMENIA, August 25, 2002 -- An interchurch delegation from the United States was in Armenia August 22-25. Highlights included a meeting with His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and visits with a number of congregations and institutions of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Organized by the Legate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, the pilgrimage represented a broad range of Christian communions, including leaders in the Episcopal, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic churches and the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, Dr. Bob Edgar. 

Members of the delegation expressed their appreciation for the signs of renewal of the church, which suffered for many decades under an atheistic and totalitarian government. Even though it is clear that the needs are still great and the full recovery of the church will take many years, already there are signs that the process is well under way, the visiting church leaders said. Similar positive signs were observed in the life of other churches in Armenia that the delegation encountered.

Procession in Etchmiadzin.   Worship in Holy Etchmiadzin.

The delegation was particularly moved by its visit to Tzitzernagapert, the memorial to the Armenian Genocide. Stark in its simplicity, the memorial represents a powerful reminder of this great wound on the Armenian people, and of the need to work together to avoid such horrific events in the future.

In its discussions the delegation also outlined the efforts of Christian churches in America to help resolve the property issues faced by the Episcopal Bishop Christopher Epting, left, reads the delegation's statement at the climax of the Armenian visit.Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem. (See NCC news story, July 31, 2002)   They were very pleased that the Israeli     government appeared ready to avoid dividing Armenian property by the construction of a wall separating Israelis from Palestinians, and looks forward to a definitive solution of the problem.

Bishop Vicken Aykazian, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Office of the Armenian Church in America, Washington, DC, reported the visiting Americans noted with delight that the Armenian Apostolic Church is now resuming its place within the worldwide communion of Christian Churches. The ancient Armenian tradition, tempered and formed by the many decades of persecution it had to endure, possesses a richness and distinctiveness that is a great gift to the worldwide communion of Christian churches, the bishop said, adding, "It is the lively hope of the members of the delegation that with the continued training of competent theologians, the Armenian Church’s contribution will be increasingly appreciated and valued throughout the Christian world."

The members of the delegation expressed their warmest fraternal greetings to their fellow Christians in Armenia, noting that their pilgrimage had strengthened their conviction "that the Spirit is alive and well in Armenia. Even though the country may be landlocked by geography, there is no doubt that the Spirit breaks down the barriers that divide us, and creates a bond of communion that can never be forgotten," they said in a final statement.

The members of the delegation included:

The Rev. Dr. Lowell Almen, Secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and member of the Conference of Bishops, Chicago;
Bishop Vicken Aykazian, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Office and Diocesan Legate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, Washington, DC;
Bishop Manuel Batakian, Apostolic Exarch for Armenian Catholics in the United States, New York;
Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States, New York;
Bishop Christopher Epting, Ecumenical Officer of the Episcopal Church in the United States, New York;
Rev. Dr. Ronald G. Roberson, Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC; and
Mr. Kevork Toroyan, Chairman of the Legate’s Committee of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, New Canaan, Connecticut.

His Eminence William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore, had planned to join the delegation, but was forced to cancel because of illness.

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