WASHINGTON (August 29, 2002) –- An interchurch delegation from the United States was in Armenia from August 22 to 25, 2002. Organized by the Legate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, the pilgrimage represented a broad range of Christian Churches in the United States, according to an August 25 communique from Yerevan, Armenia.
The members of the delegation had an opportunity to meet with His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and to visit a number of churches and institutions of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
They were very impressed by the signs of renewal of this church, which suffered for so long under an atheistic and totalitarian government. Even though it is clear that the needs are still great and the full recovery of the church will take many years, already there are signs that the process is
well under way. Similar positive signs were observed in the life of other churches in Armenia that the delegation encountered.
The delegation was particularly moved by its visit to Tzitzernagapert, the memorial to the Armenian Genocide. Stark in its simplicity, the memorial represents a powerful reminder of this great wound on the Armenian people, and of the need to work together to avoid such horrific events in the future.
In its discussions, the delegation also outlined the efforts of Christian churches in America to help resolve the property issues faced by the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem. They are very pleased that the Israeli government appears ready to avoid dividing Armenian property by the construction of a wall separating Israelis from Palestinians, and looks forward to a definitive solution of the problem.
The visiting Americans were delighted to note that the Armenian Apostolic Church is now resuming its rightful place within the worldwide communion of Christian Churches. The ancient Armenian tradition, tempered and formed by the many decades of persecution it had to endure, possesses a richness and distinctiveness that is a great gift to the worldwide communion of Christian churches. It is the lively hope of the members of the delegation that with the continued training of competent theologians, the Armenian Church's contribution will be increasingly appreciated and valued throughout the Christian world.
And finally, the members of the delegation wish to express their warmest fraternal greetings to their fellow Christians in Armenia. This pilgrimage has had a profound effect on them all, and strengthened their conviction that the Spirit is alive and well in Armenia. Even though the country may be landlocked by geography, there is no doubt that the Spirit breaks down the barriers that divide us, and creates a bond of communion that can never be forgotten.
The members of the delegation included:
The Rev. Dr. Lowell Almen, Secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and member of the Conference of Bishops, Chicago; Bishop Vicken Aykazian, Executive Director of the Ecumenical Office and Diocesan Legate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, Washington, DC; Bishop Manuel Batakian, Apostolic Exarch for Armenian Catholics in the United States, New York; Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States, New York; Bishop Christopher Epting, Ecumenical Officer of the Episcopal Church in the United States, New York; Rev. Dr. Ronald G. Roberson, Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC; and Mr. Kevork Toroyan, Chairman of the Legate's Committee of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, New Canaan, Connecticut. His Eminence William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore, had planned to join the delegation, but regretfully had to cancel at the last moment because of illness.