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PILGRIMAGE TO ST. PETER’S ARMENIAN CHURCH (MUMBAI)

Arriving in Mumbai as traders in the late 17th Century and early 18th Century, Armenians built a Church nestled in the lanes of Fort. Named St Peter’s Orthodox Church, it was built in 1796 by Armenians. Besides Kolkata, where they continue to be in large numbers, presence of Armenians can also be seen in Surat, Delhi, and Agra.

The members of the St. Peters Orthodox Church (Colaba Parish) had the privilege to see the Armenian Holy Liturgy held on August 3rd , 2017 at the St. Peter’s Armenian Church in Fort. Rev Fr. Movses Sargsyan ( Manager of Indian – Armenian Spiritual Pastorate Armenian College & Philanthropic Academy) who on his 2 day visit to Mumbai had visited the Armenian Church on August 3rd, 2017. Fr. Movses Sargsyan celebrated the Holy Mass in Armenian language. There were members from other Orthodox Parishes too who came to attend the Holy Liturgy.

Two years ago there was a small prayer service in Armenian language but this is happening after six years,” said Zabel “Bella” Joshi, one of the few Armenians living in the city. Joshi, now 70-years-old came from Juhu where she now lives. “I came to India in 1972 after my marriage to my Indian husband. I am originally from Beirut in Lebanon. A lot of Armenians live there, too. For me, praying in Armenian language is something that is me. My grandfather was a priest,” said Joshi who now speaks different Indian languages.

Considered Orthodox, Armenia was the first Christian nation over 18 centuries ago in 310 AD. “Back then, the Armenian ruler’s daughter was unwell. The King vouched to convert to Christianity if his daughter is healed. That is when the nation became the first Christian nation,” said Thomas Varughese of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church who is looking after the Armenian Church for the last 12 years. The church opens only once a week for service by the Malankara Church followers.

“We are sister churches. Unlike Roman Catholics, Orthodox do not have one head. In each region we have heads. Our head is in India. Their’s is Catholicos (Supreme Head of Armenian Church). Since we are both Orthodox and have mainly everything similar, when the population of Armenians thinned out in city, we were looking for space and they gave the church when we asked for it,” said Fr Benjamin Philip, Vicar (head) of the St Peter’s Church Orthodox Church. Both orthodox churches do not use idols and have only icons (pictures) of Jesus and Mary.

On the second day Fr Movses Sargsyan visited the graves of the Armenians in Antop Hill. There were total of 109 graveyards of Armenians here. These trace back to centuries old.

Fr Movses Sargsyan, pastor manager of Indian-Armenian Spiritual Pastorate who flew from Kolkatta thanked the Malankara community for taking care of the Church.”It was excellent being here. It was like a pilgrimage for us. Mass was not done for and I look to doing one every year,” said Fr. Movses.

 

(excerpts from DNA Newspaper dated 6th August 2017)

THOMAS VARUGHESE

(St. Peters Orthodox Church – ARMENIAN CHURCH)