- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
July 2, 2004

Pilgrims’ Progress: Young people gather for a day of spiritual reflection and discovery

There was a larger than usual gathering of visitors to the Holy See of Echmiatsin on June 27. About 2,000 young people from different universities and schools in Yerevan gathered there for a day of pilgrimage declared by the Araratian Patriarchal Diocese.

Students from the Diaspora are also here together with local young people for the event which has been mainly organized by the Youth Union of the Araratian Patriarchal Diocese. They are led in the pilgrimage by the head of the Araratian Patriarchal Diocese, Bishop Navasard Ktchoyan.

Pilgrims follow the Cross to Echmiatsin

One of the faithful is Tigranuhi Hovhannisyan, a student at the Medical University of Vayots Dzor, who says: “Pilgrimage is a duty of every Armenian and Christian. This is an opportunity to know your national church better.”

Arman Harutyunyan, another in the group and a student of the Yerevan Polytechnic University, says: “Frankly, I must confess that they have organized this and I just joined them. But now I’m satisfied that I took part as I feel how close we approach to the spiritual life and roots, which all of us need so very much these days.”

A sweet bright bustle of activity reigns in the yard of St. Echmiatsin as pilgrims wait for the mass. The symbolic sounds of the church bell invite them to enter and the senior priest responsible for the youth movement says a mass.

“A pilgrimage is one of the great symbols. By visiting shrines people first of all communicate with them. It is no accident that we selected Echmiatsin for this visit, it is the place where Christ brought His blessing,” says Deacon Manuk Ghalachyan, who has responsibility for the Youth Union of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

He considers the gathering of so many young people to be a powerful symbol of hope – the Church gaining strength from unity with the people.

A candle and a prayer mark the day

The young pilgrims receive their blessing in the yard of the church after the mass and leaflets titled “to St. Echmiatsin pilgrims” are distributed among them. The leaflet includes words from Archbishop Mesrop Ashtyan’s work “Edge of the World”: “Pilgrimage is a union, oath, commission, suffering, right for victory and achievement. A man is a pilgrim in his great journey to heaven, his pilgrimage has three points. The first one is sanctity of the place. We are going towards one place. That place is a holy one. The second point is that we are traveling to those holy places. It moves the pilgrimage. Third point is movement. Our goal is to live the present days spiritually and provide spiritual profit for the personality.”

Deacon Ghalachyan explains: “People used to call pilgrims the ‘braves’. Pilgrims didn’t think what they would eat, where they would sleep and when they would reach the place. They used simply to say ‘Ahead! God’ and walk towards a holy place.”

Elza Manukyan, press secretary of the Araratian Patriarchal Diocese, says it organizes the pilgrimage every year.

She says: “We invite all students as well as young people who have recently finished schools and are on the verge of a new life. Many of them are now graduating and many are preparing for examinations. All of that involves the pursuit of great goals and having those goals in mind they came today to make a pilgrimage to St. Echmiatsin.”

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Bearing Fruit

A priest blesses a bowl of Armenian apricots prior to the opening of the Golden Apricot International Film Festival in Yerevan on June 30. The fruit was handed out to guests at the opening ceremony at the city's Moscow Cinema.



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