Christ Church & the Armenians

Christ Church & the Armenians

Christ Church has a special link with the Armenian community in Wales through the Vicar,
Canon Patrick Thomas, who has played a significant role in promoting Welsh recognition of
the Genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.
In 2013 the Armenian Primate of Britain and Ireland appointed Canon Patrick as Honorary
Pastor to the Armenian Community in Wales (there being no Armenian priest in Wales). His
contribution has received official commendation and recognition from the Ministry of the
Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia and His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All
Armenians.

The Welsh Armenians attend the Easter morning Sung Eucharist in Christ Church, coming
from as far away as Cardiff. The service includes recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in Armenian,
Welsh and English. It is followed by coffee and Armenian Easter cakes in the hall, and the
Armenian children and their Christ Church counterparts play a traditional Armenian Easter
game (a bit like ‘conkers’) involving smashing coloured hard-boiled eggs.
Several items in the church celebrate our link with the Armenians. Behind the altar is the
icon of the Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide (canonized in 2015). There is a copy of this
icon in every Armenian church throughout the world.

The model by the pulpit shows Holy Etchmiadzin Cathedral, the spiritual centre of the
Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church. ‘Etchmiadzin’ means ‘where the Only-begotten
descended’, and the Cathedral is built on the place where in 301 St Gregory the Enlightener
had a vision of Christ coming from heaven to touch the soil of Armenia (which had just
become the first country to recognize Christianity as its official religion.

There are also several examples of khatchkars, the characteristic Armenian symbols of hope
and new life which combine the Cross of Christ with the Tree of Life. The wooden Armenian
cross above the door of the Church Office has a special poignancy. It was used as a
temporary replacement after the slate cross on the Armenian Genocide Memorial in the
garden of the Temple of Peace in Cardiff was smashed to bits with a sledge hammer in a hate
crime. After a new slate cross was installed, the wooden cross was given to Christ Church by
the Welsh Armenians.