WATERTOWN — On June 30, 40 pilgrims from St. James Armenian Church in Watertown made a 10-day pilgrimage to Armenia to embark on a spiritual journey to explore the country and give back to their homeland. The group, led by Fr. Arakel Aljalian, consisted of several families traveling together and pilgrims of all ages. With Yerevan as their base, the pilgrims made day trips to visit various sites throughout the country.
The trip began with a city tour of Yerevan, as the group visited Armenia’s Natural History Museum, taking in Armenia’s ancient roots, and learning that Yerevan is 29 years older than the city of Rome. A visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial and newly renovated museum was a moving site to see for all, especially following the Armenian Genocide centennial events this past spring.
Each day brought a new journey for the group, many of whom were visiting Armenia for the first time. The participants visited various breathtaking monasteries and churches, seeing the origins of our faith firsthand. While visiting the Geghard monastery complex, which was bustling with tourists of various nationalities, the group was able to have a private moment in the upper chapel. Aljalian led the group in the singing of the Lord’s Prayer and “Der Voghormya” while the pilgrims spent a few moments in prayer and reflection.
Participant Steve Derderian noted, “Our family had a wonderful trip to Armenia. We were able to see so many historical sites and also spend time with cousins we met for the first time, in their village of Vanashen.”
On Sunday morning, the group departed for Holy Echmiadzin, attending Divine Liturgy in the mother cathedral followed by an audience with His Holiness Karekin II. The Catholicos visited with the group, sharing his thoughts on the Armenian Genocide centennial, the growth of the Armenian Church, and answering questions from the group.
Other churches visited included Khor Virap – the site of the pit of St. Gregory the Illuminator, Noravank Monastery, and the beautiful Haghartsin monastery complex.