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Area Armenians Twice Blessed

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  • Area Armenians Twice Blessed


    San Gabriel Valley Tribune, CA
    Oct 17 2005

    Aram I is second Apostolic Church pope to visit Pasadena this year
    By Marshall Allen, Staff Writer

    PASADENA -- The city's Armenian Christian community celebrated its
    second pontifical visit in the past four months Sunday, as a pope
    from the historic church consecrated a new church building in Pasadena.

    While the world's billion Catholics follow one pope, the Armenian
    Apostolic Church has two pontiffs. With equal authority, the popes
    lead two arms of the same church, sharing history and doctrine.

    In June, His Holiness Karekin II, who is based in Armenia, visited
    St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church in Pasadena. On Sunday,
    His Holiness Aram I, who is based in Lebanon, led a ceremony at
    Pasadena's Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church.

    Both popes visited the Los Angeles area this year to celebrate the
    1,700-year anniversary of the church in Armenia, and the 1,600-year
    anniversary of the creation of the Armenian alphabet.

    The two Armenian Catholicos date back to 1441 and are a testimony to
    the suffering experienced by Armenians. For centuries, Armenia has
    been overrun by enemies, and its people scattered to neighboring
    regions. The years of conflict and domination resulted in the
    reorganization of the church to ensure its survival, Armenian Christian
    leaders said.

    The two branches of the Armenian Apostolic Church -- called the Diocese
    of the Armenian Church and the Prelacy of the Armenian Church -- now
    enjoy friendly relations. But their relationship was strained during
    much of the 20th century, when the Diocese in Armenia came under the
    control of the Soviet Union, said Raffi Hamparian, a board member of
    the Armenian National Committee of America.

    During the Cold War, there was the impression that the church in
    Armenia, because of Soviet oppression, was not free to operate
    independently, said Hamparian, 37, who attends St. Sarkis Armenian
    Apostolic Church.

    "For an Armenian-American born and bred on apple pie and the



    First Amendment that doesn't cut the right way," he said.

    With the fall of the Soviet Union and the establishment of an
    independent Armenia in 1991, the relationship between the two branches
    has strengthened, Hamparian said.

    Now, Armenians often go back and forth between the two branches of the
    church, said Bo Patatian, a member of St. Sarkis who helped organize
    the visit of Aram I.

    "The church isn't divided, it's diversified," Patatian said. "Most
    people only have one pope. We're blessed that God has provided us
    with two popes."

    In the past month, St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church has been
    transformed in preparation of the pope's visit. The church spent
    about $1.5 million on the purchase and renovation of the building,
    a former hall owned by the Boys and Girls Club, said the Rev. Khoren
    Babouchian, pastor of the church.

    The church owned the building at 58 S. Sierra Madre Blvd. for about
    a year before completely changing its interior. It used to be dark
    inside, with musty carpets, church members said. But now sunlight pours
    into the room through broad, arched windows, on to a hardwood floor.

    The renovations were performed almost completely by the Armenian
    community and much of the work was donated, church leaders said. The
    new building, combined with the visit of Aram I, has brought pride
    to the community, Babouchian said.