Երեքշաբթի, 25. 06. 2024

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“Everyone was Amazed at How we Armenians were Granted a Church in Central Prague”

*GOHAR HAKOBYAN*

In an interview with Aravot newspaper, pastor of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Archimandrite Barsegh Pilavchyan viewed the Armenian community of the Czech Republic as a community with potential and perspectives. As far as his pastorship is concerned, he says it’s easy to serve God no matter where you are, if you love your job.

His Holiness was appointed a decade ago and remembers when he set foot in Prague. He didn’t know anyone and only had the phone number of an Armenian whom he also didn’t know. On 11 November 2015, Prague’s 14th century Holy Spirit Catholic Church was transferred to the parish community of the St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church for use for an indefinite period. His Holiness is pleased to state that the Armenian community established by Armenians of the post-Soviet area have close ties with the church and are attached to their roots, adding that there are also Armenians who might not have close ties with the church, but try to make efforts to help people become attached to the church.

According to the pastor, among the members of the Armenian community of the Czech Republic are highly intellectual people, university students, as well as numerous artists and businesspeople. “The Republic of Armenia opened its embassy in Prague five years ago. We have achieved quite a lot of successes through collaboration with the embassy. The Armenian community also has a magazine called “Orer”, the editor-in-chief of which is our friend Hakob Asatryan. We have an Armenian Saturday school, which is administered by the local church’s benefactors, the youth union and several organizations, including the Czech-Armenian Cultural Society, the “Urartu” Union, the “Armenia” Club and more. To put it shortly, we’re quite successful in different areas. We try to combine the efforts of Czech-Armenian intellectuals and businesspeople to solve all the problems together,” the pastor of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia said.

We asked His Holiness when the last time a wedding or baptism ceremony took place at an Armenian church, to which Father Barsegh said the Holy Spirit Church hosted two baptism ceremonies and one wedding ceremony last year, and the wedding ceremony was actually held on December 25th. Father Barsegh hopes those who were baptized and got married at the church remember that they were baptized or wed at the Holy Spirit Church in Prague.

Our interlocutor informed that the Armenian community of the Czech Republic had established wonderful relations with Cardinal Dominique Duca of the Czech Republic over the past four to five years and that it was thanks to him that the Holy Spirit Church, which is located right in the heart of Prague, was granted to the Armenian Apostolic Church for an indefinite period. “We worked quite hard. It seemed impossible, and everyone was amazed at how we Armenians were granted a church in central Prague. We express our gratitude to Cardinal Duca for his generosity towards the Armenians that helped us achieve such a result. In fact, the Armenian community also has a cross-stone in Prague, which was unveiled in the presence of the President of the Republic of Armenia. The site for the cross-stone was also provided by Cardinal Duca.”

We asked Father Barsegh if there are Armenians who don’t a word in Armenian, but like visiting the Armenian church. The clergyman said they are mainly the youth of the new generation of Armenians and stated that, in this sense, the situation in the Czech Republic is better than in the Armenian communities of Germany where Armenians have a lower level of Armenian language proficiency. We asked him if there had been wedding ceremonies in case of mixed marriages. “Eighty percent of marriages are mixed and are mainly held at the Armenian Apostolic Church. Since we already witness such things, and since people have to get married, we try to at least keep it within the church. We can’t be strict against them; otherwise, they will avoid the community and the church. It is our generosity that allows people to establish more contacts with us and preserve the Armenian identity.”

Since the discrepancies between traditional Armenian political parties and organizations of the Diaspora often have a negative impact on an Armenian community, we asked if there was such a situation in the Czech Republic. “The members of our community are very happy that there are no political parties,” Father Barsegh said, smiling. In the end, he wished to see the homeland so strong that no Armenian would ever leave. He also wished for peace on the border and that people work and live the good life. As for those abroad, he wished that they do their best to help Armenia advance.

Prague-Yerevan

Aravot

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