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Armenian Church Wing Broke Away in 1933 Political Division : Patriarch's Tour Reignites Sect Rivalry

November 08, 1987|JOHN DART | Times Religion Writer

The Los Angeles visit of Patriarch Vazken I has revived longstanding tensions between two Armenian Apostolic Church jurisdictions with churches in California.

Most parishes are loyal to Vazken I's See of Etchmiadzin, in Soviet Armenia, but a division occurred in 1933 with political overtones. The breakaway wing is affiliated with the See of Cilicia in Lebanon, currently headed by Karekin II. The Cilician jurisdiction has nine parishes in California, whereas 17 churches in the state are under Vazken I's authority.

Archbishop Datev Sarkissian of Los Angeles, western prelate for the Cilician-related church, said Friday that his prelacy "has not received any official invitation to participate in the events" during Vazken I's six-day visit in Los Angeles.

A spokesman for Sarkissian said that an invitation was received but it was to the archbishop as an individual and not to the prelacy, implying recognition of his jurisdiction.

"He (Sarkissian) would not be invited as the primate (prelate) because he is not. There is only one primate in a jurisdiction in any church in the world," said Walter Karabian, California chairman of Vazken I's visit and a former state assemblyman.

Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, the western primate for the larger church, is based in Hollywood.

Sarkissian emphasized that he has respect for Vazken I. Sarkissian said he visited Vazken I last month in a New York hospital where the patriarch was treated for a sciatic nerve injury.

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