YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Catholicos of All Armenia’s Karekin II is continuing his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. His Holiness made his first stopover in Jordan.
The second leg of the Catholicos’s pilgrimage was Jerusalem. At the Southern entrance to the city – Jaffe Gate -Catholicos Karekin II was greeted with jubilation by thousands of pilgrims who had arrived in Jerusalem from various countries of the world. The brethren of the Armenian Patriarchy of Jerusalem–heads and representatives of fraternal churches–officials came to meet His Holiness.
After a 25-year break the most ancient Armenian holy abode–Surb Hakobants Cloister –again welcomed the Catholicos of All Armenia’s with hymns and psalms. His Holiness–accompanied by two Patriarchs of the Armenian Apostolic Church–expressed satisfaction with the unique opportunity to say prayers to the Lord in the Holy Land together with other pilgrims and local Armenia’s.
Tuesday–on the Eve of old-style Armenian Christmas–Catholicos Karekin II–accompanied by the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem Arch. Torgom Manoogian–the brethren of Jerusalem and ecclesiastics of Echmiadzin–headed for Bethlehem. In Bethlehem His Holiness was met by Mayor Hanna Nassar–Commander-in-Chief of the Forces of the Palestine National Administration General Abu Bakr–other officials–as well as representatives of the Greek and Latin Patriarchies.
Greeting the Catholicos of All Armenia’s–the Mayor of Bethlehem addressed those present with good wishes. "We all are aware of the price and significance of peace–which the entire world needs badly today," the Supreme Patriarch said in return for the Mayor’s well-wishing speech.
At 2 p.m. local time–the procession headed for Holy Nativity Church to serve a Divine Liturgy on the Eve of Holy Nativity in the Cave where Jesus Christ was born in a manger. At this Holy Place–where the Armenian–Greek and Catholic Churches appear on equal rights–the Catholicos of All Armenia’s offered his first Patriarchal Liturgy during his pilgrimage. During the service His Holiness addressed those present.
The Liturgy was followed by Eve Supper held under the aegis of His Holiness and attended by clerics of sister churches–representatives of the Palestine National Administration–diplomats–pilgrims.
A Christmas Overnight Service overseen by the Supreme Patriarch began at 10 p.m. local time to culminate with midnight recitals of fragmen’s of the Gospel. The Armenian Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Constantinople stood beside Karekin II. It was with great joy and rapture that those present greeted President of Armenia Robert Kocharian and Palestinian leader Yaser Arafat.
According to the Press Service of the Mother See of St. Echmiadzin–on January 18–after the Christmas Eve Liturgy–His Holiness–accompanied by the Armenian Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Constantinople and bishops–paid a visit to the leader of the Palestinian Autonomy Yaser Arafat.
President of Armenia Robert Kocharian was also there with a large delegation that had arrived in Jerusalem to participate in the celebrations of Armenian Christmas. The Palestinian leader decorated Catholicos of All Armenia’s Karekin II–Patriarch of Jerusalem Arch. Torgom Manoogian and Patriarch of Constantinople Arch. Mesrob Mutafyan with "Bethlehem-2000" medals.
Catholicos Karekin II hailed the Palestinian leader–thanking him for the high appreciation on his own behalf and on behalf of the Armenian patriarchs.
He said that under the guidance of Arafat the Palestinians–with their wisdom–fair struggle and strong will–had made their dream come true–that is–to return to the native land–native home.