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Under the auspices and blessing of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, a three-day retreat for the Brotherhood of Holy Etchmiadzin commenced on July 24 in the Mother See. Armenian priests from throughout the world, representing nearly every diocese and every continent, have gathered in the spiritual center of the Armenian Church to participate in this noteworthy event. The theme of the retreat, dedicated to the 1,700th Anniversary of the Consecration of the Mother Cathedral of All Armenians, is `Come and Build the Holy Altar of Light!’

This is the third retreat of the members of Brotherhood of Holy Etchmiadzin being held since 1998. This year’s retreat is the largest yet, with the participation of nearly 65 Senior Archimandrites (Dzayraguyn Vardapets), Archimandrites (Vardapets) and Monks (Abeghas). The clergymen are currently serving in dioceses and/or pursuing their higher educations in the United States, Canada, Argentina, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Latvia, Rumania, Hungary, Greece, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Syria, India, Iraq, Russia, the Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia.

The agenda for the retreat includes participation in Morning and Evening Services, special prayer services, seminars with presentations and discussions focusing on pastoral life and ministry, pilgrimages to the St. Mesrop Mashtots Church in Oshakan, the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, and the St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan.

The retreat opened with the welcoming words and blessing of His Holiness, who greeted the clergymen and invited them to fully participate and make good use of their time together. His Holiness stated, `We welcome all of you who have traveled back home to Holy Etchmiadzin to renew and revitalize your call of service to the Armenia People, Nation and Church. Each opportunity such as this, when our Brotherhood comes together, strengthens the love between us and fortifies the spirit within us. We see our role and place in the life of the Church, we see through our Brotherhood the ability to fulfill our sacred mission, together and unified. Through the path of prayer, both individually and collectively we face the question of `How can we benefit the realization of the mission to which we are called?’

Appealing to the assembled priests, the Pontiff of All Armenians said, `At present, our people are re-directing their paths to the Church. At this moment we face a most important, decisive and critical time. We must do our very best not to disappoint our flock that has been entrusted to our care. Our people expect more from you. We expect and demand more from you.’

His Holiness ended his remarks with a note of appreciation, and spoke of the devout works of the spiritual servants. He noted, `We pray that God strengthen, keep and protect this army of clergy and our Church. The faithful are looking to us with hope to lead them in the correct paths in these difficult times and trying circumstances.’

Very Rev. Fr. Narek Vardapet Berberian, from the United States, is in charge of organizing the retreat. Very Rev. Fr. Zatik Vardapet Avetikian, from France, presented the first lecture entitled `Christ’s invitation of `Come to me’ as the cornerstone of our sacred mission’.

The retreat continues through Sunday, July 27, the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ. On that day, the retreat participants will travel to the Diocese of Gegharkunik to participate in preaching and ministry to the faithful as they visit more than 30 different communities, towns and villages surrounding Lake Sevan.

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