Brief history of the Armenian Catholic Community of Armenia , Georgia and Eastern Europe
The long history of the Armenian Catholics in Armenia and in the bordering countries continues since centuries joining the history of interminable and complex Christological discussions about Caledonian traditions.
The actual Catholic community is related historically to the migrations which took place in the first quarter of the 19th century after the Russian - Turk treaty of Adriana pole (1929) , of Garin-Erzrum , Alachgert , Mush , etc ….when a certain mass of the Armenian population escaped from the disasters caused by the Ottoman empire. They preferred to seek refuge under the protection of the Russian empire. They settled in the provinces of Chirak , Tachir, Lori and Tchavakhk of the actual Armenia by creating dozens of new villages in Georgia and in the provinces of Akhaltsakha - Akhalkalak and Bagdanovka - Ninodzminda.
They built churches , schools , hospitals; they gathered around their priests and parishes , they contributed to the Armenian Catholic hierarchy with diocesan members educated in the congregations of the Mekhitarist Fathers of Venice , Vienna also in the Patriarchal convent of Bzommar in Lebanon.
Since the beginning of the 19th century, the Seat of Rome created ecclesiastic organizations for these regions and villages. In 1909, the Seat nominated the Rev. Mgr. Sarkis Der Aprahamian (1863 Alexandra pole - 1952 Rome) as the apostolic administrator of Caucasus. During this period , he undertook an uninterrupted mission towards the communist soviet regime.
In these provinces, we have 7 large ecclesiastic regions: Alexandra pole (Chirak), Lori, Akhalkalak, Akhaltsakha, Ardvin, Karin and Crimea; with 86 parishes and 71 curates for 172 villages. The number of the Armenian Catholics is 61, 240 people without taking into consideration the borders of Georgia and Armenia.
Today , we recognize 20 villages in Georgia and 30 in Armenia with a considerable number of 200.000 Armenian Catholics living in the frontier regions (Russia) Soci, Adler, Krasnodar, Rostov, Mosco, St. Peterbourg.
In all these territories , there were 70 beautiful churches dedicated to the Christ, the Holy Cross and Virgin Mary and to the other Saints .
Around 3 priests were victims of the terrible Stalin persecutions , many churches and vaults were destroyed or half destroyed or intended for other usages.
Honor to our ecclesiasts who sacrificed themselves heroically in the name of the Gospel. The Apostolic Church remembers them from generation to generation.
During the fall of the Soviet regime, the Pope of Rome His Beatitude John Paul II reconstructed the Catholic Hierarchy of Armenia in 1991 by unifying Georgia and Eastern Europe ( Russia , Ukraine) in one eparchy . The Rev. F. Nerses Der-Nersessian Mekhitarist of Venice was elected as the chief bishop of this eparchy.
During this period , the Pope dedicated the hospital of Ashotsk to the Armenian people aiming to relieve serious faintnesses created by the earthquake of Dec. 7, 1988.
At the end of the year 1992, the Armenian Catholic Community was known officially in Armenia through regulations based on the human rights , then in 1993 , the official seat of the ordinariat was inaugurated in Gumri.
A second official recognition was done in May 30 , 2000 with juridical precisions and an important title was given to the organism: Armenian Catholic Church.
The churches of Panik , Arevik , Lantchik , Azatan Tzihhankov and Medz - Sepasar , are all in the regions of Chirak today.
There are also many other churches , particularly on the side of Tachir and Ashotsk provinces.
In the ordinariat, there are few priests for pastoral works . 4 in Armenia , 4 in Georgia , a group of sisters - 9 of the Armenian Congregation of the Immaculate Conception , 3 Eucharistics , 6 Silesians and 6 from the institution of Mother Teresa of Calcutta . These sisters are dedicated to give a Christian education in Armenia and in Georgia , to organize colonies , take care of the orphans and handicaps also to establish centers for several works.
Two of the little sisters of Jesus are engaged in the hospital of Ashotsk in favor of the sick and poor people.
The sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta work in Armenia since 1989 , first of all in Erevan , today in Spidak in favor of the handicapped children.
The subject of a serious preoccupation is the question of education of the future candidates who intend to the ecclesiastic state. Therefore , a small seminary was built in Gumri in 1994 . Today this small seminary receives dozens of candidates who after receiving a certain level of education , continue their university education in Philosophy or in Theology in Rome in the Pontifical College of the Armenian Catholics .
In the days of the Catholicos Vazken I of venerated memory who died in 1994 , the relation of our Armenian Catholic community with the sisters of the Apostolic Church was based on friendship and respect. On January 1992, Mgr. N. Der- Nersessian was welcomed in the monastery of Etchmiadzin for 40 days.
We have to notice here that Catholicos Vazken discussed in the new parliament of the Armenian government about the question of freedom of religion and conscious (November 1991) , after a long official intervention. He declared in the Armenian Apostolic church the following : " the presence of the Armenian Catholic Church in Armenia with its community and places of pilgrimage go back to an ancient time". This declaration is similar to the one of Karekin I in the beginning of his election (1995).
The priests and the sisters collaborate in Armenia and in Georgia . They work for the Christian predication , the consolidation of the sacred faith , the propagation of the Gospel , the administration of the sacraments in our Armenian Catholic community with a fraternal spirit authentically ecumenical.
The faith is still present in the heart of our Catholic population. Most of the time, the old people tell us with tears the terrifying memories of the past and the bad fruits of the atheist regimes. They thank the masters who built churches so that the children can feel and study now beyond our heroic traditional history the sacred lessons of the Christian religion and the voice of the Gospel.
On September 1996 , we have celebrated the first centenary of the birth of the famous Armenian Cardinal His Eminence. R. Gregorio- Pietro Aghagianian , Patriarch of the Armenian Catholics , in his birthplace at Akhaltsike in Georgia , then in the neighboring Armenian Catholic village of Skhvilisi with a large participation of believers , then at Ghiumri , in Armenia , we have honored the memory of the Patriarch who had an international reputation with a second solemn celebration on academic and cultural levels, in the large hall of the communal theater. It was a great miracle.
At the end of the year 1997, it was celebrated in the same hall , the 50th anniversary of the religious - spiritual and philological- literary activities of the Archbishop of the Armenian Catholics Mgr. Nerses Der-Nersessian who received officially the wishes and the benediction letter of His Holiness the Pope John Paul II and the Catholicos His Holiness Karekin I.
On November 16, 2000 , the 180th anniversary of the Archbishop was celebrated in a private meeting , who received a letter from the actual Catholicos His Holiness Karekin II for the cultural , literary and ecclesiastic activities.
With the new millennium , new horizons give live hopes to Armenia .
We celebrate solemnly the 1700th anniversary of the conversion and the baptism of Armenia through St. Gregory the Illuminator first Patriarch - Catholicos of Armenia and of the proclamation of the Christian religion as a religion of State in Armenia : the first event in the history of the church in the year 301.
The imminent visit of His Holiness the Pope of Rome to Armenia is very important.
New millennium , new light , new life , new graces and benedictions.