The General Secretary of the World Council of Churches has participated in the 20th anniversary of Armenia’s independence.
The Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit also had extensive conversations with the Catholicos of All Armenians, Supreme Patriarch Karekin II, visited the Armenian Apostolic Church, as well as the Memorial to the Armenian Genocide at Tsitsernakaberd, and spoke at a theological seminary at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.
All this was part of Dr Tveit’s official visit to Armenia, which took place from 21 to 23 September 2011.
At the Memorial to the Armenian Genocide Dr Tveit laid a wreath, offered a prayer, toured the museum, and planted a tree in memory of the victims of the 1915-1923 horrors visited upon the Armenian people.
Karekin told Tveit that some of the struggles of the Armenian churches during the past years emerge from the genocide, which began a year after the outbreak of World War One.
The church suffered a huge loss due to the genocide, and the community was diminished. The influences of communism and the Soviet Union followed. Yet, “in the hearts of people, the faith has prevailed,” Karekin said.
Now, Karekin is leading rebuilding and expansion of the church for the present and future. This is carried out with a hope that the church can address new questions of the faithful.
Dr Tveit said of his visit, “It is an honour to be here at this special time. It has been a learning, as well as an inspirational time. It is inspiring to see how the church can play a role in the destiny of a people. Throughout the centuries, the Armenian Church has had a global understanding, balancing a global expression throughout the Diaspora with the nurturing of local expressions of faith.”
“The WCC is very grateful for the contributions and commitment of the Armenian Apostolic Church,” the WCC chief added.
The visit included participation in the official audience with Karekin, contacts with the government officials, including Armenian President Serzh Azati Sargsyan, and visits to different diaconal, media, and social branches of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
This week in the ecumenical prayer cycle, 25 September to 1 October 2011, the WCC is asking Christians to pray for the churches and peoples of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
The local hosts for the visit were Archbishop Dr Vicken Aykazian and Bishop Hovakim Manukyan of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Tveit was accompanied by WCC staff members, Father Dr Daniel Buda, programme executive for church and ecumenical relations and the Rev Garland F. Pierce, senior assistant to the General Secretary.