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His Holiness Vasken I Baljian (1955-1994)

By Gevork Nazaryan

atholicos Vasken I reigned on the Seat of St. Gregory from 1955 - 1994, one of the longest in Catholicosal history. During these utmost critical years Vasken I managed to prevent the collapse of the Holy Apostolic Church of Armenia in the face of disputes and strives among the dioceses of the Holy See of St. Etchmiadzin. Catholicos Vasken I also asserted a great degree of independence in policy making of the Church from the central, communist authority which had controled almost every aspect of socio-economic and political spheres of the society. His remarkable reign outlasted the communist atheism and saw the independence and the rebirth of Republic of Armenia. The new Armenian national government finaly ended the long decades of persecution and the desolation of the Holy Apostolic Church. 

In August 21, 1991 independent Armenia was proclaimed and was reborn out of the ashes of the collapsing Soviet Empire. President of the Republic of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosian, elected by a popular vote in the democratic elections was blessed by one of the longest reigning and most favored Catholicos of all time, Catholicos Vasken I. Religious freedom and the right of worship, were once again restored. The people could freely worship God, without being harassed or questioned for it. The Holy Apostolic Church of Armenia, also made grate moves toward the reunification of the two wings of Apostolic Christendom, with the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia. Also under Vasken I the preparations began for the momentous celebration of the 1700th Anniversary of the official establishment of Christendom, first in the world to be established as a state religion, in Armenia, by St. Gregory the Illuminator. In the fall of 1994 after a nearly 40 year reign ( from 1955), Catholicos Vasken I passed away, forever being remembered by the people of Armenia as the outspoken protector of Christianity in Armenia against the Communist regime. Catholicos Vasken I who also did much in reestablishment of St. Etchmiadzin as the Holy Center of All of Armenians, he was also credited with his effort to save the treasures of St. Etchmiadzin, such as the Holy relics, icons and treasures of the church that the Church accumulated throughout its 1700 year history, by establishing the museum of the Mother Church of St. Etchmiadzin were the treasures are kept and displayed to the public. 

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. Vasken I 's successor became Karekin I, who was previously Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia in April of 1995, elected by the Church Council held in St. Etchmiadzin.

Catholicos Vasken I will always be remembered in the hearts and minds of the faithful as the just, virtuous and devout servant of God and his people.

Courtesy of 
Armenian Highland - Armenian Enlightenment Chronicle 
Web site: www.armenianhighland.com
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Updated 30 August 1999 ..
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