Looking for support and greater dialogue with Canadian churches, the Canadian diocese of the Armenian Orthodox Church invited a group of church leaders, including the Anglican primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, to visit Armenia in late August.
Throughout 70 years of Soviet rule, the Armenian Orthodox Church was repressed and it is now “trying to rebuild,” said Archbishop Hutchison in an interview, noting that the trip was completely sponsored by the Armenian church.
“The church survived and a core of the faithful survived. It is a Christian country surrounded by Muslim countries. The borders to Azerbaijan and Turkey are closed and the border with Georgia is not as free-flowing as it might be,” said Archbishop Hutchison.
In Canada, he pointed out, the Anglican church has aided Armenian churches by providing space for new Armenian congregations and Archbishop George Carey visited Armenia when he was Archbishop of Canterbury.
The delegation also included Archbishop Brendan O’Brien, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; Archbishop Sotirios, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Canada; and Richard Schneider, president of the Canadian Council of Churches.
The hosts were Bishop Bagrat Galstanian, primate of the Armenian church in Canada, and his assistant, Deacon Hagop Arslanian.
While in Armenia from August 24-31, the group met with His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, a cathedral complex near the capital of Yerevan that is the center of authority for the worldwide church.
Last year, the Canadian parliament acknowledged the genocide of 1915, during which 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Turkish forces, and “that means a great deal to them,” said Archbishop Hutchison, who participated in a wreath-laying at a memorial for genocide victims.
The visit coincided with the 90th anniversary of the genocide and the 1600th anniversary of the invention of the Armenian alphabet, he noted.
The group also met with political leaders and visited major historic and religious sites.
The primate discussed with the Armenian church two possible projects for the Anglican Church of Canada: a bursary to support a theological student studying in Canada and advice from Canada’s well-developed military chaplaincy to support a new chaplaincy in Armenia.