ETCHMIADZIN (Noyan Tapan)–His Holiness Karekin I–Catholicos of All Armenia’s was laid to rest Thursday during a burial ceremony attended by thousands of faithful and several religious and political officials from Armenia and abroad.
Beginning at dawn a funeral Mass was said–at which time the late Catholicos was received his last anointing.
His Holiness Aram I–Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia–His Beatitude Arch. Mesrob Mutafyan–Patriarch of Constantinople–His Beatitude Arch. Torkom Manoogian–Patriarch of Jerusalem and Arch. Nerses Pozapalyan–the interim Catholicos–each spoke during the Mass.
"Our Catholicos is now imortal. He has now become one of the peaks of the Armenian mind and spirit," said Aram I.
"He was not only a prominent clergyman–but also a salient scientist and theologist. In the short period of time when he was the supreme patriarch of all Armenia’s–Karekin I was able to explain to the nation God’s word," Arch. Pozapalyan said.
Pozapalyan was named last week as temporary head of the Armenian Church. A permanent replacement is due to be chosen no sooner than the first half of next year.
Following the Mass–a special blessing of the soil was performed–after which the Catholicos remains were interred at a gravesite adjacent to his predecessor–His Holiness Vazken I.
Attending the funeral at Etchmiadzin were President Robert Kocharian–National Assembly Speaker Karen Demirchian–Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan–National Assembly deputies and other high ranking officials from the governmen’s of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
In his remarks Kocharian stressed that Catholicos Karekin I was one of the more fortunate Armenian church leaders–since–he became the first in centuries to ascend the throne of the Gregory the Illuminator in an independent Armenia.
Armenian ousted leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan–and former National Assembly Speaker Babken Ararktsian were also present at the funeral.
Also taking part in the ceremonies were the Patriarch of the Georgian Church–Ilias II and other world religious leaders.
Armenia observed three days of national mourning for Karekin from July 6 to 8. Television and radio channels canceled all entertainment programs and national red-blue-orange flags on top of government buildings were flying at half-mast with black ribbons attached to them.
The funeral followed a three-hour church service in accordance with Armenian religious rites honed over many centuries. Religious and political leaders paid tribute to Karekin’s contribution to reviving religious life following the collapse of Communism and Armenia’s emergence as an independent state.