1700th Birthday: Armenian Church Celebrates

Article excerpt

Moscow

One of the world's oldest churches -- the Armenian Apostolic Church -- and one of its youngest states -- the post-Soviet republic of Armenia, barely 10 years old -- are celebrating the 1,700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity by ancient Armenia.

Armenia became the world's first nation officially to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301 -- two years before the Christianity was tolerated in the Roman Empire.

The Armenian church became a powerful national church helping to create and preserve the identity of Armenians, who have lived under foreign rule for a large part of the past 1,700 years.

This year's celebrations come at a significant time for Armenia, emerging from 70 years of Communist rule and having fought a long and bloody war with neighbouring Azerbaijan, and for the church, which, like other churches in the former Soviet Union, faces the task of rebuilding its life.

To mark the anniversary, Pope John Paul II visited Armenia in September, and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul), Bartholomeos I, symbolic leader of Orthodox churches world-wide, was scheduled to visit the country before the end of the year.

Armenian communities all over the world are celebrating the anniversary throughout the year. However, festivities in Armenia culminated in September in a gathering attended by leaders from the world's main Christian traditions and hosted by the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II.

Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican leaders attended the consecration on Sept. …