Ancient art to grace St Mary’s Cathedral

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In progress: the stele, or Khachkhar, that will adorn St Mary’s Cathedral.

Leaders of the Australian Armenian community will gather at St Mary’s Cathedral for the blessing and unveiling of their special gift to the Catholic Church in Sydney.

The Premier of NSW Gladys Berejiklian will also attend the ceremony on 18 December led by Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP to bless and unveil the Khachkar (‘cross-stone’), a traditional Armenian monument at a ceremony from 5pm.

The Khachkar, carved from volcanic stone unique to Armenia, will have a permanent home along the western exterior of the cathedral to represent the community’s gratitude to Archbishop Fisher and St Mary’s Cathedral for hosting a Mass in 2015 commemorating the centenary of the Armenian genocide.

The Armenian Apostolic Bishop of Australia celebrated that Mass, which followed Pope Francis’ celebration of Mass in St Peter’s Basilica in 2015 marking the centenary of the genocide and naming St Gregory of Narek a Doctor of the Church.

That Mass at the Vatican was also the first meeting between the two Patriarchs of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church and Pope Francis.

Vice chair of the diocesan council of Armenian Apostolic Church of Australia and New Zealand Dr Stepan Kerkyasharian AO said that the Khachkar at St Mary’s will be a visual reminder of the “love and respect that exists between the different Christian denominations, and the long relationship between the Armenian Church and the Catholic Church”.

“It’s very important at this point of time when there is so much debate and discussion about religion and Christianity that there are opportunities like this for people to stop and think about the value Christianity has brought to the human race for two millennia,” he said.

The Khachkar, which includes intricate carvings of Christian and Armenian symbols, was crafted by Armenian sculptor Artak Hambardzoumyan, who will also be present at the unveiling ceremony in Sydney.