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#1 MosJan


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Posted 09 November 2002 - 02:48 PM


According to some sources, Armenians have been present in France for almost a millenium. There are also numerous other evidences about Armenian clergy’s presence in France, but the Armenian Apostolic Church became established in France as a legal entity only in late 19-th and in early 20-th centuries in the aftermath of waves of Armenians, who arrived in France, escaping massacres in the Ottoman empire.

Armenian Catholicos Khrimian Hayrik issued a special decree on establishing a Representation of Armenian Church in France that also encompassed other European cities with strong Armenian communities. The first Armenian Church of Saint John the Baptist in France was built in 1904 with the financial assistance of Armenian businessman A. Mantashev. It later was converted into the residence of the head of the Armenian Church in Western Europe. Today the Western European Representation of the Armenian Church includes Armenian congregations, besides France, also in Holland, Belgium, Italy and other countries.

In France there are more than 25 acting Armenian churches. The head of the Parisian Diocese is the formal head of the entire Representation, but the spiritual life is organized in each region by different organizations and religious associations. Actually, France, which has, according to official figures, some 350,000 strong Armenian community, is not represented as a separate administrative unit, or Diocese, of the Armenian Church, which would undoubtedly foster more efficient organization of the community’s spiritual life.

Since 1984 the head of the Representation has been Archbishop Gyut Naggashian. Talking to the daily Azg, Archbishop Naggashian recalled that envoys had been sent by the Mother See of Echmiadzin to try to establish Dioceses in Europe, but all their attempts failed and only his predecessor, Archbishop Serovbe Manukian, succeeded in founding the Paris Diocese.

Archbishop Naggashian convened a special meeting last September of representatives from all France-based Armenian congregations to discuss ways for founding Dioceses not only in France but also in other European countries.

According to him, relations between the Armenian Apostolic Church and Armenian Catholics and Protestants in France are friendly and respectful, but he added that he had conveyed his concerns to the head of Armenian Evangelical Church, which is trying to win over members of the traditional Armenian Church. Archbishop Naggashian also shared his apprehensions concerning the spread of various sects, which are proselytizing openly. Regarding the relations between the Armenian Church and French authorities, he said there is no discrimination against the Church. “All religious congregations in France act under the 1901 and 1905 laws on religious organizations,” he said, adding that France is the first country to have officially established three Armenian holidays- the Armenian Christmas, celebrated January 6, Vardanants and Genocide Commemoration Day on April 24 as non-working days for Armenians. Under this law all Armenians have the right to be absent from work, school and universities to honor their national holidays.

By Heghineh Mkrtchian

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