Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox to honor Armenians' 1,700th anniversary

Posted: Friday, May 25, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The National Council of Churches and National Conference of Catholic Bishops will sponsor an unusual joint prayer service on Wednesday to mark the 1,700th anniversary of Armenian Christianity.

The rite, at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, will be attended by Catholicos Garegin II, primate of the church in Armenia, during his first U.S. visit. The National Council's president, former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, and Baltimore's Cardinal William Keeler will speak.

Armenia was proclaimed the first nation to adopt Christianity in A.D. 301 by newly converted King Trdat III, who tradition says was cured of leprosy and madness by St. Gregory the Illuminator.

In Armenia itself, a new cathedral is being consecrated in the capital of Yerevan. Festivities culminate in September to coincide with the 10th anniversary of national independence from the Soviet Union. John Paul II plans the first papal visit that month.

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