By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
BERLIN — Among the hundreds of commemorative events organized to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation over the past year — “Luther year” in Germany — was a special gathering from October 18 to 21 in Berlin. On the invitation of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), four of the highest representatives of the Eastern Orthodox churches met in the capital for a series of meetings and religious services dedicated to the situation of Christians in the Middle East today. Joining Catholicos Karekin II were the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem, Coptic Pope Tawadros and the Indian-Orthodox-Syrian Catholicos Baselios Marthoma for a five-day visit which included a meeting with the German president and participation in a conference organized by the EKD on the future of Christians in the Near East. The visit culminated in an ecumenical mass at the historic Berlin Cathedral, during which the leaders of the four churches joined with German Catholic and Protestant leaders to pray for Christians in the Middle East and for peace.
On October 18, the four visiting church leaders were received by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The following day they met with representatives of the Bundestag (Parliament) factions and on October 20, they visited the Evangelical Center for Social Welfare and Development. Following the conference was the ecumenical church service.
In addition to the joint events, Catholicos Karekin II presided at a welcoming ceremony with the Armenian community at the Evangelical Luisenkirche on October 18, in a Hrashapar service, blessing all Armenians. On October 21, he laid a wreath at a Khatchkar (cross stone) which had been erected on the initiative of the German-Armenian Society (DAG) and ceremoniously dedicated on April 23, 2016, in memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide. At the conclusion of his Berlin visit, Karekin II was at the St. Camillus Catholic Church to celebrate Divine Liturgy with Bishop Armash Nalbandyan, Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Damascus, and accompanied musically by the women’s choir of Geghard monastery. In addition to Nalbandyan, accompanying him on his visit were the Very Rev. Shahe Ananyan, dDirector of the Ecumenical Relations Department of Mother See, Rev. Ghevond Saghatelyan, dean of the Harichavank Turpanjian Theological High School, who served as staff bearer, Rev. Markos Mangasaryan, Director of the Social Services Department of Mother See and Ms. Tamara Shakaryan, member of the Legal Advisor Committee of Mother See.