Friday, June 10, 2005

A 'renaissance of faith' for Armenians
By Sister Nancy Munro, CSJ

On June 5 His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, served a
special liturgy in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, an ecumenical
and interreligious event attended by many members of the Armenian Church,
Roman Catholic Church and many Jewish, Protestant and Eastern Rite churches.
The pontifical visit of the Catholicos to the Western Diocese of the
Armenian Church was initiated by Archbishop Hovan Derderian, who called the
visit a "Renaissance of Faith" for the Armenian Church. During the Pontiff's
20-day tour of the Armenian Western Diocese, he was scheduled to visit
California, Nevada and Arizona, and will attend the laying of the foundation
for a new cathedral for the diocese.
The ecumenical event at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels marked a
special step in improving Catholic relations with orthodox churches. When
Pope John Paul II visited Armenia he stayed in the Catholicos, Karekin II's,
palace in Holy Etchmiadzin and celebrated Mass in his chapel. It was only
fitting that the opportunity be reciprocated when the Armenian Pontiff
visited Los Angeles.
"In light of Pope Benedict XVI's outreach to the orthodox community, the
visit of the Catholicos to our cathedral and the fact that he is serving his
divine liturgy speaks highly of the level of ecumenical cooperation between
our two churches," said Father Alexi Smith, director of Ecumenical and
Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, prior to the
visit of Karekin II.
Sunday's Cathedral service was said in classical Armenian with the exception
of the reading of the epistle by Father Smith, who helped to coordinate the
celebration. During his sermon (delivered in Armenian and a synopsis was
read in English), Karekin II told his faithful that he was "proud of their
devotion and their love" and he also shared how important it is for him to
visit the people in the Armenian diaspora. He also urged remembrance of the
1.5 million victims of Armenian Genocide under the Ottoman Empire.
At the end of his remarks he drew laughter from the audience when he added
in English: "This is the longest sermon ever I have done."
Following the liturgy, Vahrim "Warren" Biricik shared, "This was truly our
Renaissance of Faith. We welcomed our Catholicos who came from Holy
Etchmiadzin, and we are so very happy he can be here and give his fatherly
blessings to all of our faithful."