Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Armenian patriarch visits Chicago faithful

27 Nov. 2007
Pueblo Chieftain, CO
In his Holiness Kareking II's words "In spite of all the crimes committed against Armenia, our people have never been filled with hate toward the Turkish people".

I concur with that statement. It is Turkey that portrays Armenians as hating Turks, because it is convenient for them to hate Armenians. Hate is emotion and does not speak to reason. Armenians are seeking understanding from Turkey in order to protect themselves from future repeats of the genocide. It is a shame that many journalists pick up from Turkey's PR propaganda that Armenians hate the Turks.
CHICAGO - Robed in gold and black vestments with a jeweled cross on his forehead, His Holiness Karekin II, patriarch of the worldwide Armenian Apostolic Church, anointed the entrance of a modest, brick church in Chicago on Wednesday and urged his people to remain on the path toward faith.

Outside St. Gregory the Illuminator Church, old and new generations of Armenians sang hymns of their native country nation as Karekin climbed onto a step ladder and blessed the new, bronze doors. As the crowd watched, he dipped his thumb in holy oil and traced a cross above the entry. Inside the building, Karekin told more than 200 worshipers that the anointing of the doors was a symbolic gesture to remind Armenians to continue living their Christian faith.

‘‘My exhortation to you all . . . is to walk always in the ways that are leading you to the church,’’ Karekin said. ‘‘With God, we have stayed together . . . Faith in God has helped us survive.’’

As Catholicos of all Armenians, Karekin is the spiritual leader of the world’s 7 million Armenian Orthodox Christians, including 1 million in the United States and about 10,000 in the Chicago area. This pontifical trip is Karekin’s second visit to the U.S. and his first to Chicago.

‘‘I’m overwhelmed by this visit by His Holiness,’’ said Raelene Ohanesian, 33, who wept after the patriarch blessed her. ‘‘He represents our heritage, our conversion to Christianity. We have such a long history of struggle and it’s our faith that has gotten us through.’’

Before the blessing at St. Gregory, Karekin met with Chicago’s Roman Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Francis George. On Wednesday night, the Armenian patriarch also attended a public prayer service with ecumenical leaders at a Greek Orthodox Church.

Karekin’s trip has taken him to New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. to spread a message of ‘‘Bringing Faith Home.’’ He has stressed efforts to remember faith and culture, which are tightly intertwined in the Armenian community, and bring back Armenians who have left the church.

Karekin’s visit comes on the heels of an explosive debate in Washington regarding a painful piece of Armenian history. Earlier this month, a congressional committee approved a nonbinding resolution that condemns as genocide the killing of 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey nearly a century ago as genocide. The resolution, though largely symbolic, unleashed an international furor that offended the Turkish government, a key supporter of the American presence in Iraq. President George W. Bush opposed the resolution, saying it could damage efforts to end the war in Iraq.

At an interview in his hotel suite at the Four Seasons, Karekin said the recognition of the killings as genocide is necessary to prevent further atrocities. He expressed disappointment that the resolution had faced opposition in Congress due to Turkey’s logistical importance in the war.

‘‘The best way to prevent similar kinds of atrocities is through recognition and condemnation,’’ Karekin said. ‘‘Values such as these should never be sacrificed for political interests.’’

‘‘Our people are a Christian people. . . . In spite of all the crimes committed against Armenia, our people have never been filled with hate toward the Turkish people.’’

Though Karekin did not speak of the genocide resolution at St. Gregory’s Church, it was on the minds of many. Karekin offered a special blessing to 100-year-old Helen Polaian, a survivor of the genocide.

‘‘It happened,’’ said Diane Abezetian, ‘‘regardless of the resolution or what anyone says. We know it happened.’’

Although the community is united politically, the religious identity is strained by division within the Armenian church. The church became divided administratively about 50 years ago as the former Soviet Union curbed religious freedom. Some Armenian churches broke off and switched allegiance to the Lebanon-based See of Cilicia. Others remained loyal to the Armenia-based church.

Today, Armenia is an independent republic, but the split in the church remains. One branch is headed by Karekin and based in the Armenian city of Etchmiadzin. The other is led by His Holiness Aram I and based in Lebanon. As supreme patriarch, Karekin is pre-eminent. The division means that there are two Armenian archbishops in the United States. Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, who reports to Aram, and Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, who is under Karekin.

When asked if there was any hope for reconciliation, Karekin said church leaders have formed committees to discuss healing the rift.

‘‘You cannot have two bishops. I am hopeful we will one day have a solution,’’ he said.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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