of the Armenian Church
By Archbishop Hovnan
2001 Armenia celebrated its 1700th anniversary as the oldest Christian
Church in the world. There was an historic opportunity to celebrate in
a genuine spiritual revival of the Armenian Church. Pilgrimages were among
the most popular aspects of the events and activities planned on the occasion
of the 1700th anniversary of the declaration of Christianity as state religion
The two main purposes of the 1700th
anniversary celebrations were:
(a) To highlight the 1700-year old
splendid history of the Armenian Church through seriously studied planned
(b) To refocus the mission of the
Church for contemporary times, with the cooperation of all layers of the
Armenian people, especially the youth.
In the chain of events and activities
dedicated to the 1700th anniversary, pilgrimage was one of the interconnected
rings. the pilgrimage
movement had a simple goal: to lead
the individual and the multitudes to God, with an inner awareness of faith
in life. Therefore, it was essential that the wave of pilgrimages were
spread with great enthusiasm both in Armenia, and especially, in the Disapora
by bringing them closer to their roots of faith, and by maintaining their
participation in a central project and mission.
over 1700 years, pilgrimage has been an inseperable part of the life of
the Armenian Christian. The specific pilgrimages dedicated to the 1700th
anniversary led the children of the Church, especially the youth, the new
generation, into a new era. Through this spiritual journey, the new generation
of Armenians have reestablished a sense of belonging to the Armenian Church
and have turned the strength of that identity into a purpose in their lives.
Indeed, the life of the Armenian
faithful, in its entirety, should be a pilgrimage toward the heavenly Eden,
God's Kingdom, and toward Armenia, the earthly Eden of Armenians.
The adoption of
Christianity in Armenia
the beginning of the fourth century, an extremely important development
took place in Armenia with the adoption of Christianity as the state religion.
According to Armenian traditions, Christianity was brought to Armenia in
the first century by two apostles, Saint Bartholomew and Saint Thaddaeus.
Christians were persecuted by pagan
rulers in the second and third centuries, but they finally triumphed in
301ad when Saint Gregory the Illuminator converted the Armenian King Trdat
(at that time a vassal of Rome) and Christianity was proclaimed the state
This made the Armenians the first
nation to adopt Christianity, a fact Armenians pride themselves on to this
day. Following the proclamation of Christianity as the state religion,
Saint Gregory became head of the Armenian church and was given the title
of Catholicos. With the help of King Trdat he organised religious institutions,
trained clergymen, and opened churches all over the country; rapidly and
at times coercively, he converted the rest of the population.