Catholicos likely to draw crowds here

Chicago Sun-Times, IL
Aug 10 2007

Catholicos likely to draw crowds here

KAREKIN II | ‘None of the Armenian churches can hold the number of
people expected’ for Oct. visit

August 10, 2007

BY SUSAN HOGAN/ALBACH Religion Reporter/[email protected]
Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians,
will visit Chicago for the first time during an October pontifical
trip to the United States, church officials told the Sun-Times on

Karekin is the spiritual leader, chief shepherd and pontiff to the
world’s 7 million Armenian Apostolic Christians. He’s twice visited
the U.S. on private trips, but this is his first pontifical tour of
America since being elected in 1999.

To meet with Cardinal George
"This is quite a historic trip," said the Rev. Aren Jebejian, pastor
of St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church, 6700 W. Diversey.
Karekin will be in Chicago 1½ days, Oct. 24-25, as part of a 15-city
tour of the Diocese of Armenian Church of America (Eastern), church
officials said.

On Oct. 24, he’ll meet with Cardinal Francis George of the
Archdiocese of Chicago as well as the Council of Religious Leaders,
which includes representatives of the region’s Christian, Muslim and
Jewish communities.

Karekin also will lead a worship service of adoration. The time and
site of the service are still being determined, but Jebejian said he
hoped to use either the city’s Catholic or Episcopal cathedral.

"None of the Armenian churches can hold the number of people
expected," he said.

‘Resurgence in spirituality’
Karekin’s predecessor, Karekin I, visited Chicago in 1996 and spoke
to a packed house at Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago on
Michigan Avenue. He died from throat cancer in 1999.
Karekin II was then elected the 132nd Supreme Patriarch and
Catholicos, which means "universal leader." He occupies the throne of
St. Gregory in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, which is in

Karekin will be in the U.S. from Oct. 6 to Nov. 2. In addition to
Chicago, he’ll make stopovers in New York City; Boston; Washington,
D.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; St. Petersburg, Fla.; Boca Raton, Fla.; New
Orleans; Baton Rouge, La.; Dallas; Houston; Cleveland; Racine, Wis.;
Minneapolis, and Detroit.

"This is an opportunity for Armenian American Christians to get to
know their catholicos," said Michael O’Hurley-Pitts, spokesman for
the pontifical tour. "There’s a resurgence in spirituality among

The diocese has parishes in five Illinois cities: Chicago, Evanston,
Palos Heights, Waukegan and Downstate Belleville. Three other
Illinois parishes belong to a smaller, second branch of the church
based in Lebanon and now led by Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House
of Cilicia.

Church officials say 1 million members live in the U.S. — including
thousands in the Chicago area — and 3 million in Armenia. There are
also large pockets in Lebanon, Iran and Syria.

During Karekin’s meeting at the Vatican in 2000, Pope John Paul II
turned over the relics of St. Gregory the Illuminator, whom Armenians
recognize as their first catholicos.

Bridge between East and West
Armenia, which embraced Christianity in 301, identifies itself as the
world’s oldest Christian nation.
"Armenia became a Christian nation more than a decade before the
Roman Empire was Christianized under the Emperor Constantine," said

The Armenian Church is often wrongly considered an Eastern Orthodox
church, he said. The Armenian Church broke away from Christendom in
451 because it disagreed with the Council of Chalcedon’s declaration
that Christ had two natures, human and divine.

"We’re not an Orthodox church, we’re an Oriental church, which has
been a bridge between the Christian East and West," O’Hurley-Pitts

The Armenian community has thrived despite numerous incidents of
religious oppression over the years that led many members to flee
their country to survive.

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