Sept. 9, 2003
Monsignor Stephen P. Happel, dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies, was part of an 11-person delegation of American Catholic clergy to Armenia from Aug. 27 to Sept. 3, 2003. Invited by the leader of the Armenian Church, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, the delegation was led by Cardinal William Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore and a member of CUA’s Board of Trustees.
The Catholic delegation from the United States with His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, in front of the residence of the Catholicos in Etchmiadzin, Armenia. Front row, from the left: Bishop Hubbard, Bishop Blaire, Bishop Losten, Cardinal Keeler, His Holiness Karekin II , Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Bishop Mulvee, in addition to two members of a delegation from Romania. Back rows, left to right: Monsignor Stern, Bishop Nevins, Bishop Samra, Monsignor Happel, Bishop Aykazian, Father Roberson, Father Oliveira.
The delegation went to Armenia to commemorate the 1,700th anniversary of the consecration of the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin. The visit provided an opportunity for the Catholic clergy to familiarize themselves with the ongoing revival of the Armenian Church since the establishment of the country’s independence in 1991.
Monsignor Happel said delegates to the former Soviet republic were deeply moved by its citizenry’s strength of faith and evidence of a Christian revival in a country long controlled by an atheist government.
"The immense suffering and martyrdom of the Armenian Apostolic Church under the Ottoman Empire, then the Soviet Union, have given way to a rebirth of Church life in Armenia,” Monsignor Happel said. “The average age for clergy is under 30 years old; in the next few years, the Church will ordain 70 priests, some married, some celibate. Churches are being built; schools are thriving."
Monsignor Happel had many opportunities to talk with Armenian Church leaders during the trip, which also included meetings with Armenian political leaders and visits to the Vaskenian Theological Seminary at Lake Sevan, the Armenian Church Youth Center in Yerevan, monastic establishments and various parish communities.
On Aug. 28, the delegation traveled to the Armenian Genocide Memorial (Dzidzernagapert), where Cardinal Keeler laid a wreath and the American clergy toured an adjoining museum.
"During our visit with the Catholicos Karekin II, I discussed the rich theological and historical resources the Catholic University has in patristic theology, early Christian studies and church history,” Monsignor Happel said. “I asked the Catholicos whether he would be interested in having one or more of his priests study at the university. He returned a 'yes' on more than one occasion. His leadership of the Church over the past few years has been nothing short of miraculous."
Monsignor Happel with His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, in the cathedral dedicated to the Mother of God in Holy Etchmiadzin, Armenia.
Along with Monsignor Happel and Cardinal Keeler, the Catholic clergy participating included Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif.; Bishop Robert E. Mulvee of Providence, R.I.; Bishop Basil H. Losten of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, Conn.; Bishop Nicholas J. Samra, auxiliary of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, Mass.; Bishop John J. Nevins of Venice, Fla.; Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, N.Y.; and Bishop Vicken Aykazian, diocesan legate and ecumenical officer of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America.
Accompanying the bishops were Monsignor Robert L. Stern, general secretary of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association in New York; the Rev. Ronald Roberson, associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; and the Rev. Humbert Oliveira.
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