4 October 2012
A farmer brings peppers to sell at a wholesale market in Malatia, Armenia. (photo: Armineh Johannes)
Under the Soviet Union, Christians in Armenia were forced to practice their faith in secret. When Armenia declared its independence in 1991, the suppression of Christianity ended. Even so, some divisions, predating even Soviet communism, would still take time to mend.
In the January 2006 issue of ONE, John Hughes wrote on religious life in Armenia before and after independence:
“If you go to the left, you’ll find the Armenians,” explained a villager. “To the right are the Franks.”
The villager’s directions speak not only of a geographic divide, but a lingering theological and cultural divide that has survived despite 70 years of Communism.
In Dzithankov, Arevik, Lanchik and Panik — villages with large Catholic populations — there was a time when Armenian Catholic (“Franks”) and Armenian Apostolic Christians (“Armenians”) hardly mixed.
The two share the same rites and traditions, but Armenian Catholics maintain full communion with the Church of Rome. (The term Franks derives from the influence of French Catholic missionaries.)
In Arevik, 83-year-old Yeproxia Grigorian remembers when a “mixed marriage” would have caused scandal. It was practically forbidden for Franks to integrate with Armenians. But by the time her daughter Julietta married, only hardliners might have objected to a husband from the Armenian Apostolic Church, an ancient church to which 95 percent of Armenians belong. …
Julietta’s 13-year-old daughter, Armineh, is making up for the church-going opportunities denied her mother and her grandmother. And Armineh’s generation has only their elders’ recollections to connect them to the time when the church was divided by labels and lifestyles, even in a village of only several hundred.
“There was a time,” Julietta said, “when there was a big difference between Franks and Armenians. But there is one God.”
For the Catholic and Apostolic Christians of Dzithankov that one God is worshiped in St. Prkitch Church, which, since Armenia achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, both communities share.
For more, read A New Start for Armenia’s Catholics.
Tags: Armenia Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church Communism/Communist Soviet Union