Karekin II Russian Patriarch Consecrate Church in St. Petersburg.

ST. PETERSBURG–Russia (RFE/RL)–His Holiness Karekin II–Catholicos of All Armenia’s during a visit to St. Petersburg presided over the re-opening and re-consecration of St. Catherine’s Armenian Church which was closed and abandoned during Communist rule.

The consecration of the altar and the main church took place on Tuesday and Wednesday during two separate ceremonies. Patriarch Aleksei II of All Russia also arrived in St. Petersburg to participate in the ceremonies. Other dignitaries included the Mayor of St. Petersburg–Vladimir Yakovlev–and many prominent Armenia’s from other parts of Russia and neighboring countries.

The Armenian Primates of Eastern and Western Dioceses of the US–as well as many other Armenian clergymen also participated in the rites of the consecration.

Following the ceremonies–Karekin II said that the re-opening of St. Catherine church will further strengthen Russian-Armenian friendship which has withstood the test of times. The Armenian and the Russian church leaders exchanged gifts to mark the occasion. Karekin II presented a silver cross–modeled after a Khachkar (traditional Armenian cross carved on stone)–and Aleksei II gave the newly consecrated church a painting of Christ.

The Catholicos arrived in St. Petersburg Tuesday and is expected to meet with high-ranking Russian officials–as well as the Armenian community.

Bishop Navasard Ktchoyan–Vicar General of Araratian Diocese; Reverend Father Arshak Khachatrian; Rafayel Papayan–a member of the Supreme Spiritual Council–are accompanying Karekin I on his trip–which will conclude Saturday.

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