GYUMRI — President Serzh Sarkisian attended today the official consecration ceremony of Holy Martyrs Armenian Catholic Church, an episcopal residence, in Gyumri. The ceremony was held as part of the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Centennial. The church is named “Holy Martyrs” in memory of the Holy martyrs of the Armenian Genocide.

Church-GyumriThe Church was consecrated by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Oriental Churches, five years after the start of its construction financed by Roman Catholic structures in Europe and the United States. The Lebanon-based Patriarch Gregory Peter XX, the head of the Armenian Catholic Church, also took part in the ceremony.

Armenia is home to some 20,000 Catholics following traditional Armenian religious rites. They are concentrated in the northwestern Shirak province, of which Gyumri is the capital. All Catholic churches in Gyumri were shut down shortly after Armenia was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1922.

Thousands of other Armenian Catholics live in Georgia’s Javakheti province bordering Shirak.

Officials said that the Church of Holy Martyrs is dedicated to some 1.5 million Armenians who were massacred by the Ottoman Turks during the 1915 Genocide.

Pope Francis referred to those massacres as “the first genocide of the 20th century” in April while holding a special mass at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s basilica on the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.

Pope Francis again paid tribute to Armenians massacred “just for being Christians” after holding a mass with Gregory Peter XX at the Vatican’s St. Martha chapel earlier this month. He compared their suffering with the ongoing persecution of ancient Christian communities of the Middle East.

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