AREA ARMENIANS TWICE BLESSED
San Gabriel Valley Tribune, CA
Oct 17 2005
Aram I is second Apostolic Church pope to visit Pasadena this year
By Marshall Allen, Staff Writer
PASADENA — The city’s Armenian Christian community celebrated its
second pontifical visit in the past four months Sunday, as a pope
from the historic church consecrated a new church building in Pasadena.
While the world’s billion Catholics follow one pope, the Armenian
Apostolic Church has two pontiffs. With equal authority, the popes
lead two arms of the same church, sharing history and doctrine.
In June, His Holiness Karekin II, who is based in Armenia, visited
St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church in Pasadena. On Sunday,
His Holiness Aram I, who is based in Lebanon, led a ceremony at
Pasadena’s Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church.
Both popes visited the Los Angeles area this year to celebrate the
1,700-year anniversary of the church in Armenia, and the 1,600-year
anniversary of the creation of the Armenian alphabet.
The two Armenian Catholicos date back to 1441 and are a testimony to
the suffering experienced by Armenians. For centuries, Armenia has
been overrun by enemies, and its people scattered to neighboring
regions. The years of conflict and domination resulted in the
reorganization of the church to ensure its survival, Armenian Christian
The two branches of the Armenian Apostolic Church — called the Diocese
of the Armenian Church and the Prelacy of the Armenian Church — now
enjoy friendly relations. But their relationship was strained during
much of the 20th century, when the Diocese in Armenia came under the
control of the Soviet Union, said Raffi Hamparian, a board member of
the Armenian National Committee of America.
During the Cold War, there was the impression that the church in
Armenia, because of Soviet oppression, was not free to operate
independently, said Hamparian, 37, who attends St. Sarkis Armenian
“For an Armenian-American born and bred on apple pie and the
First Amendment that doesn’t cut the right way,” he said.
With the fall of the Soviet Union and the establishment of an
independent Armenia in 1991, the relationship between the two branches
has strengthened, Hamparian said.
Now, Armenians often go back and forth between the two branches of the
church, said Bo Patatian, a member of St. Sarkis who helped organize
the visit of Aram I.
“The church isn’t divided, it’s diversified,” Patatian said. “Most
people only have one pope. We’re blessed that God has provided us
with two popes.”
In the past month, St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church has been
transformed in preparation of the pope’s visit. The church spent
about $1.5 million on the purchase and renovation of the building,
a former hall owned by the Boys and Girls Club, said the Rev. Khoren
Babouchian, pastor of the church.
The church owned the building at 58 S. Sierra Madre Blvd. for about
a year before completely changing its interior. It used to be dark
inside, with musty carpets, church members said. But now sunlight pours
into the room through broad, arched windows, on to a hardwood floor.
The renovations were performed almost completely by the Armenian
community and much of the work was donated, church leaders said. The
new building, combined with the visit of Aram I, has brought pride
to the community, Babouchian said.