ETCHMIADZIN—The Armenian Church held a ceremony on Thursday at the Holy See of Etchmiadzin near Yerevan to canonize 1.5 million Armenians killed in massacres and deportations by Ottoman Turks during the Armenian Genocide.
The church says the aim of the ceremony was to proclaim the martyrdom of those killed for their faith and homeland.
On Friday commemorations will mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
After the ceremony, bells tolled in Armenian churches around the world, except for those in Turkey.
Thursday marked the first time in 400 years that the Armenian Church has used the rite of canonization.
Catholicos Aram I of the Holy See of Cilicia, who partook in the canonization service, said: “Today the church celebrates the sacred memory of saints who in the power of the Holy Spirit won the war against evil. These simple yet deeply penetrating words of prayer, said at the celebration of saints in the Armenian Church, depict the particular importance of saints in the life and witness of the church.”
“Saints are those persons who, being endowed with spiritual and moral virtues, live their life according to the Gospel values and sacrifice their lives for their Christian faith,” Aram I said.
“This is a unique moment in our modern history; a moment marked by profound meaning and message. This moment calls us not only to look backward by remembering our martyrs, but also to look forward by reaffirming our commitment to carry on, with renewed vigor and sense of responsibility, the cause of our martyrs. Indeed, the cause of the martyrs is a cause of justice and human dignity. We do believe that truth must be accepted and the human rights of our people restored. Only the acceptance of the truth will lead to reconciliation.”
During the canonization ceremony, by order of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, the following fourteen Holy Relics, out of the numerous Holy relics of the Armenian Church, were used during the landmark service.
1. The Holy Lance ‘Geghard’
The Holy Lance is the tip of the metal spear which was used by the Roman soldier to pierce the side of our Lord Jesus Christ while he hung on the cross. According to historical tradition, the Apostle St. Thaddeus, one of the 12 disciples of Christ, brought this sacred relic of the Lord to the Armenian world in the first century. For centuries the Holy Christian relic has been kept at different monasteries in Western (historical) Armenia, and in Ayrivank since the 13th century, which later was renamed Geghardavanq (the Monastery of Holy Geghard) after the Holy Lance. In the second half of the 18th century the Holy Lance was brought to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and is still kept in the spiritual center of All Armenians. The Holy Lance is also one of the three Holy Relics used to bless and consecrate the Holy Chrism (Muron) of the Armenian Church.
2. The Right Hand of St. Gregory the Illuminator
The Right Hand of St. Gregory the Illuminator is the symbol of the highest spiritual authority of the Armenian Church, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. The newer silver gilded reliquary was made in 1657, on which is depicted the twelve sufferings of the Illuminator. The Right Hand is also one of the three Holy Relics used to bless and consecrate the Holy Chrism (Muron) of the Armenian Church.
3. Relic of the True Cross
The Reliquary of the True Cross, made in 1651, contains a small piece of the life-giving wooden cross of our Lord Jesus. The Cross relic is one of the three Holy Relics used to bless and consecrate the Holy Chrism (Muron) of the Armenian Church.
4. Reliquary of Skevra
One of the priceless gems of Armenian ecclesiastical art is the reliquary of Skevra which was made in Cilician Armenia in 1293, and is kept in the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg. The reliquary contains the relics of 18 saints: the Apostles St. Paul, St. Peter, St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew; St. Gregory the Illuminator, Patriarch James of Nisibis, Saint John Chrysostom, St. Catherine, and others. In 2000, during a Pontifical visit of the Catholicos of All Armenians to the Armenian Diocese of New Nakhichevan and Russia, the Hermitage returned the relics of the 18 saints to the Armenian Church, and they were placed in a duplicate reliquary that had been specially made.
5. The Right Hand of St. Stephen the Proto-Deacon and First Martyr of the Church
The silver Right Hand reliquary, from the XVII-XVIII centuries, contains the relic of St. Stephen the Proto-Deacon, the first Christian martyr.
6. The Right Hand of the Virgin St. Hripsime
The silver gilded Right Hand reliquary contains the relic of the virgin St. Hripsime. The relic dates back to the XVII-XVIII centuries.
7. The Right Hand of the Apostle Ananias
The Seventeenth century silver gilded Right Hand reliquary contains the relics of the Apostle Anania, one of the 72 disciples of Jesus Christ.
8. The Right Hand of Catholicos St. Sahak I Parthev
The XVII-XVIII centuries Right Hand reliquary contains the relic of the 10th Catholicos of All Armenians, St. Sahak I Parthev (387-428). The Right Hand of Catholicos Sahak Parthev was brought to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin from Western Armenia, Anapat Armenian Мonastery, Lim Island, Lake Van , Turkey.
9. The Right Hand of St. Sarkis the Warrior
The Right Hand reliquary was commissioned in 2008 by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. The silversmith is Mamikon Mkhitaryan. The reliquary contains the relics of St. Sarkis the Warrior, which were discovered during excavations of the St. Sarkis Monastery in Ushi, in the Aragatsotn Province of Armenia.
10. The Right Hand of St. Gevork the Warrior
The reliquary contains the relics of St. Gevork the Warrior. The Right Hand reliquary was made in Kolkata, India in 1928, and is silver gilded.
11. Cross-reliquary of St. Thaddeus and St. Virgin Sandukht
The eighteenth century made cross-reliquary contains the relics of the Apostle St. Thaddeus, one of the Armenian first illuminators, and the relic of the first Armenian Martyr St. Sandukht the Princess.
12. Cross-reliquary of St. John the Baptist
The cross-reliquary, created in Cilician Armenia in the fourteenth century, contains the relics of St. John the Baptist.
13. St. Gregory of Narek and other Saints
Made in the nineteenth century, the octagon star-shaped reliquary contains the relics of St. Gregory of Narek and the relics of other Pan-Christian Saints. The relic was presented to the Catholicos of All Armenian in 2012 and given to the Armenian Church.
14. The Gospel of Zeytun
The Gospel of Zeytun was written in Hromkla in 1256 by Toros Roslin, the most prominent Armenian manuscript illuminator in the High Middle Ages. It is one of numerous treasures kept in the The Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts (Matenaderan). The manuscript was commisioned and received by the 69th Catholicos of All Armenians, Constantine I of Bartzrapert (1221-1267). The Holy Gospel was donated to the Matenadaran by the Catholicos of All Armenians Vazgen I.