JERUSALEM–His Holiness Karekin II–Catholicos of All Armenia’s–will arrive in the Holy Land from his residence at the ecclesiastical seat of the Armenian Orthodox Church–the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin–Republic of Armenia–on Friday–January 14 for a ten- day visit. His visit coincides with a pilgrimage of Armenia’s from North and South America–Europe–and Turkey–gathering for the first Armenian Christmas celebration in the new Millennium on January 18 in Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
Arriving initially in Amman–Jordan–on 14 January 2000–His Holiness will meet with His Majesty King Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan– and will visit with members of his flock there for three days. The pontiff will cross into the Holy Land via the Allenby Bridge on Monday–January 17–and will make his processional entry into St. James Cathedral via the Jaffa Gate at 3 p.m.
In his first visit to the area after being elected in November–the Catholicos will have an opportunity to acquaint himself with the mosaic of religious and cultural lives in the region and plans to meet in Jerusalem and Bethlehem with Christian church leaders and Israeli and Palestinian governmental officials. His Holiness’ visit takes place during an official state visit by Armenia’s President Robert Kocharian–also making his first presidential trip to Israel and Palestine.
The Armenian pontiff is expected to hold consultations on various church matters with His Beatitude Archbishop Torkom Manoogian–the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem–and with His Beatitude Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan–Patriarch of All Armenia’s in Turkey–who will also be present for the Christmas celebrations. The Armenian Orthodox Church has approximately seven million communicants throughout the world.
Armenia’s were the first to adopt Christianity as a state religion on or about 301 AD–and there is recorded historical evidence that they have had a continuing presence in Jerusalem since 254 AD. Together with the Greek Orthodox and the Franciscan Brotherhood–the Armenian Orthodox Church has served as Custodian of the Holy Places–such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre–the Garden of Gethsemane–the Grave of the Holy Virgin Mary and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.