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Armenian Primate to Step Down

June 01, 2002|From a Times Staff Writer

Archbishop Vatche Hovespian, primate of the Burbank-based Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America, has announced that he will step down next year.

Hovespian, 71, disclosed that he had informed the Armenian patriarch of his plans more than a year ago. Hovespian has served as archbishop for 31 years.

Father Sipan Mekhsian, editor of the diocesan newspaper Mother Church, said the election of a new archbishop is scheduled for a year from now. The new archbishop will be elected by delegates from each of the diocese's parishes, as well as by active priests.

Mekhsian reported that Hovespian has said he will continue to work within the diocese after the election of his successor and has offered his full support to the new archbishop.

The election must be approved by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, headquartered in the Armenian city of Echmiadzin.

Hovespian was in Armenia this week and was not available for comment.

The diocese includes 26 parishes in 13 Western states. The church said more than half a million Armenians live within its jurisdiction.

The church teaches that it was founded by St. Gregory the Illuminator, who converted the Armenian King Tiridates to Christianity in 301 and established the Church of Armenia as the first official Christian state church in the world.

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