On June 6, His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, concluded his Pontifical Visit to Artsakh by presiding over the Divine Liturgy at the Sourp Asdvadzadzin Cathedral in the city of Stepanakert.
The occasion coincided with the Feast of Holy Etchmiadzin, and His Holiness had brought with him the relic of St. Gregory the Illuminator, one of the most sacred treasures of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, to be placed before the faithful for veneration and blessing.
Primate of the Artsakh Diocese Bishop Vrtanes Abrahamyan celebrated the liturgy, which was attended Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan and members of his council; former Presidents Arkady Ghukasyan and Bako Sahakyan; and the President AGBU Berge Setrakian, who accompanied the Catholicos throughout his travels.
Worshiping alongside the clergy and faithful of Artsakh were numerous servicemen, who received special blessings from His Holiness.
In his message to the people, Catholicos Karekin II prayed to God for the “strength and power to overcome the horrors of war, to rise from this heavy period of sorrow and suffering, and to repair our wounded lives.”
“Today we are united in prayer for peace and security in our world, and in Artsakh,” he said. “We pray for the strength and prosperity of our homeland; for our immortal heroes of the battlefield; for our victims among the civilian population; for the wounded, the missing, our children still held captive as prisoners of war.”
“Over the centuries, we have lived through very hard and cruel times. We have witnessed destruction, massacre, and genocide. But we have always relied on God with a strong will and hope to build a better future. Today we have the same faith that by the grace of our crucified and resurrected Savior, we will overcome the hardships of war, rise from the tribulations that have befallen us, and walk forward to new horizons in our lives.”
Sacred Cradle of Our Native Land
His remarks laid profound emphasis on Artsakh as “the sacred cradle of our native land, the wealth of our Christian people with its history and sacred monuments.”
To the faithful of Artsakh he said: “You have set a wonderful example in this cherished land of courageous, godly deeds. You have bravely defended your homeland; renovated and enlightened your cities and buildings, your gardens, your sanctuaries; built new places of worship, like this magnificent church of Sourp Asdvadzadzin.”
He continued: “The Armenian spirit does not run away from difficulties. It is not broken by pain and sorrow. We have experienced terrible plagues and overcome them, resurrecting our nation and finding the strength to create anew, to believe in our future, to believe in the re-awakening of our homeland.”
“During the war we lost a significant part of our homeland,” he said. “But we are assured that your spirit is unwavering, your hope is indelible, that you will rebuild Artsakh despite all obstacles. Artsakh is a symbol of the determination to protect the rights of our people, to live freely and independently. The remnants of our historical homeland on which we continue to live must be strengthened.”
His Holiness assured his listeners that the Armenian Church, its dioceses and institutional structures, would always stand with the people of Artsakh in their aspiration to peace and freedom.
To the officers and soldiers of the Artsakh Defense Forces he offered a special blessing, emphasizing that “every child of Artsakh is a homeland fighter; he keeps his homeland in Artsakh.” He expressed his appreciation to the Armenian General Benevolent Union, and to all the generous Armenian faithful across the world who have supported Artsakh in the past, during the tense days of war, and beyond. He also paid his respects to the current Primate of Artsakh Bishop Vrtanes Abrahamyan, and his longtime predecessor in that role, Archbishop Barkev Martirosyan, for their leadership and service.
From the heart of Artsakh, the Catholicos of All Armenians expressed gratitude to the Russian Federation and Russian President Putin, for their efforts to establish peace, which prevented further human losses and the destruction of Armenian settlements in the large-scale war unleashed by Azerbaijan. He praised the critical role of Russian peacekeepers in ensuring security and stability for Artsakh. His Holiness also conveyed brotherly love to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia for his peace-promoting efforts, in particular to ensure the safety of Artsakh’s historic Dadivank monastic complex.
Finally, he prayed for the heroic soldiers lost in the Artsakh war, for Christ’s consolation upon the relatives of the departed, and for a speedy return to the captives and missing-in-action. With the relics of St. Gregory the Illuminator, he blessed the worshipers and the entire Artsakh republic.
The Pontifical Visit began on June 3 in Syunik, the southern-most region of the Armenian Republic, and in medieval times the neighboring province of Artsakh. There, in the city of Goris, the Catholicos led a prayer service at St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, visited the military cemetery to perform a requiem service for the fallen heroes of the homeland, and paid a personal visit to the faithful in the town of Shurnukh.
Click here to view photos of His Holiness Karekin II’s Pontifical Visit to Syunik and Artsakh.