Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Leader of Armenian Apostolic Christians to speak and receive honorary degree here Friday


left His Holiness Karekin II

above left The Rev. Zaven Yazichyan talks with St. Thomas professors Wendy Wyatt and Mark Neuzil as they stroll the grounds of the Mother See of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the holy city of Etchmiadzin, Armenia. Wyatt and Neuzil, along with professor Michael O'Donnell and journalism student Anne Marie Iddins, visited Armenia in August. Yazichyan returned to St. Thomas this fall to work on a master's degree at the St. Paul Seminary.

His Holiness Karekin II, the spiritual leader of the world’s 9 million Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Christians, will give an address and receive an honorary degree Friday, Oct. 26, at the University of St. Thomas.

His Holiness will give the talk at 10:30 a.m. in the Schulze Grand Atrium of the School of Law on the university’s downtown Minneapolis campus. The event is open to the public.
Elected “Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of Armenia and of All Armenians” in 1999, His Holiness is visiting St. Thomas and the Twin Cities as part of a tour of more than a dozen U.S. cities in October. (“Catholicos,” from a Greek word meaning “universal,” is the highest ecclesiastical title in the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church.)

Born Ktrij Nersissian in Voskehat, Armenia, in 1951, he was ordained a celibate priest and received his priestly name, Karekin, in 1972. He continued his studies in Austria, Germany and Russia, and was consecrated a bishop in 1983 and elevated to archbishop in 1992. He is the 132nd in a continuous line of Catholicoi dating back to 301 when Armenia became the first nation to declare Christianity as its national religion.
About 1,150 Minnesotans are from Armenia or of Armenian descent; most of them live in the Twin Cities. The state’s only Armenian Apostolic Orthodox church, the St. Sahag Armenian Church, was established five years ago. It is located at 203 Howell Street N., not far from St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus.
His Holiness will participate in a service at the church at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25. The service will be followed by a public reception at 8 p.m. All are welcome; for more information call (651) 603-1940.

Armenia is a landlocked former Soviet republic about the size of the state of Maryland. It borders Turkey on the west, Azerbaijan on the east, Iran on the south and Georgia on the north. After gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenians dealt with the results of a catastrophic earthquake, a two-year power outage and a collapse of their infrastructure.
His Holiness has been active in helping his country rebuild after the earthquake struck Armenia in 1988. Since his election as Catholicos, he has been reorganizing the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church: building and restoring its churches, monasteries and seminaries; visiting church and government leaders throughout the word; and strengthening ecumenical ties.

St. Thomas has a growing number of ties with Armenia, in part because of a friendship between the Rev. Dennis Dease, St. Thomas’ president, and Gerard Cafesjian, a retired West Publishing executive who is president of the Minneapolis-based Cafesjian Family Foundation.
Cafesjian, who is of Armenian descent, and the Cafesjian Family Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting Armenian-oriented philanthropy, are collaborating with St. Thomas on several fronts.

Dr. Thomas Rochon, executive vice president and chief academic officer at St. Thomas, traveled to Armenia last April to explore partnerships in the fields of business, law and journalism.
In August three St. Thomas journalism professors visited Armenia to work on media-literacy, Web-training and public relations projects in the fledgling democracy. The faculty members were Dr. Wendy Wyatt, Dr. Mark Neuzil and Mike O’Donnell. A senior, Annemarie Iddins, joined them on the trip.

Their visit included time at the English-language Armenian Reporter, a New Jersey-based weekly newspaper that is edited in Armenia but printed and distributed in the United States and Canada. They worked with the newspaper staff on design, style, writing and editing, Web sites and software.
Several St. Thomas journalism students have become involved with the Armenian Reporter. Iddins, Pam Hendrickson, Jeff Day, Stephanie Edquist and Jennie Betchwars have been writing stories for the newspaper.

Public relations students Brandon Fredrickson and Bridget Jewell were also involved in a research project for the paper.
In another initiative supported by the Cafesjian Family Foundation, a deacon and a priest from Armenia are in residence this year at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas. The Very Rev. Father Zaven Yazichyan is pursuing a master’s in counseling psychology at the university and Deacon Manuk Malkhasyan is studying for a master’s in theology at the School of Divinity. More Armenians are expected to study at the seminary in coming years.

St. Thomas in recent years has hosted talks and symposiums on Armenia. National and international scholars participated in a “Tribute to Armenia” program in 2001 and a “Windows on the Armenian Genocide” symposium in 2003.
More information about His Holiness and the pontifical visit can be found at http://www.pontificalvisit.org/ .

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