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Visit of His Holiness Karekin II to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Wednesday 9th June 2004

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, will host a five-day visit from His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, from Thursday 10 June until Monday 14 June 2004.

During the visit His Holiness will take part in a number of meetings and consultations. He will also attend a reception at Lambeth Palace, be guest of honour at a Nikaean Club dinner, attend Evensong at Westminster Abbey on Friday 11th June and preach at the Eucharist on Sunday morning in Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday 13th June. During the course of the visit His Holiness will be received at Buckingham Palace by Her Majesty the Queen.

His Holiness Karekin II is the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. He presides of the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and is the chief pastor of the Armenian Church throughout the world.

Dr Williams said, "I am delighted to welcome His Holiness Karekin II to my home in Lambeth and to my own diocese of Canterbury. There is a long history of warm personal relationships between the Church of England and the Armenian Apostolic Church, and I look forward to renewing my friendship with the Catholicos and building up the links between our Churches."

Notes to editors:

The Armenian Apostolic Church has approximately 7 million members, and Armenia established Christianity as the official religion in 301  AD, the first country to do so. In 2001 the 1700th anniversary was celebrated in Holy Etchmiadzin, the ecclesiastical capital of Armenia and the seat of the Catholicos, and the celebrations were attended by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, representing the Queen, by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, and by many other church and political leaders.


His Holiness Karekin II, was born on 21st August 1951 in the village of Voskehat near Etchmiadzin. He entered the Theological Seminary of Holy Etchmiadzin in 1965, graduating with honours in 1971. For a year after his graduation, he taught New Testament at the Theological Seminary. In 1970 he was ordained a deacon, and in 1972 a celibate priest.

Shortly thereafter, HH Vasken I Catholicos of All Armenians sent the new priest to Vienna to study theology. In 1975, Fr. Nersissian moved to Germany, where he studied and graduated from Bonn University, while serving as pastor to the local Armenian Community. Following a brief return to Armenia, he enrolled to postgraduate studies at the Russian Orthodox Academy in Zagorsk, Russia, from which he graduated in 1979.

In March 1980 he entered the service of the Armenian Pontifical Diocese, the Armenian Church's most populous diocesan jurisdiction, which incorporates the capital Yerevan and the vicinity of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. He was appointed the head of that Diocese in June 1983 and soon was elevated to the rank of bishop on 23rd October of the same year, by His Holiness Vasken I. In November 1992 he was granted the title of Archbishop.

In November 1998 Archbishop Karekin Nersissian was appointed as Pontifical Vicar by His Holiness Karekin I and served in this capacity until the death of the late Catholicos.

On 27th October 1999, the National-Ecclesiastical Assembly held in Holy Etchmiadzin, elected Archbishop Karekin Nersissian Catholicos who thus became Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. The consecration and enthronement of the Catholicos took place on 4th November 1999.

Extracts from the visit:

Friday 11 Evensong at Westminster Abbey followed by a private visit to the Shrine of St Edward and the 20th century martyrs

For further information please contact John McAngus on 0207 654 4888

Sunday 13 Eucharist at 11.00. The Archbishop of Canterbury to preside, His Holiness to preach

For further information please contact Chris Robinson on 01227 865282 / 07759 215537

Monday 14 His Holiness returns to London

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