Teachers trained at a theological faculty which opened in 1995 at the Erevan State University are responsible for religious instruction in the schools. The church is also more visible via mass media, with its own radio and television channels and periodical press. Training of priests has been augmented by the creation of two new seminaries. Catholicos Garegin I Sargisean (1995-99), a man ofvision and a powerful orator, increased the number of internal dioceses to eight, coterminous with the civil administrative regions. Over 150 churches have been returned by the state for church use and a range of new shrines constructed, including the cathedral of St Gregory the Illuminator, consecrated in 2001 in the presence of Pope John Paul II by Catholicos Garegin II Nersisyan (1999-) on the 1700th anniversary of the conversion of Armenia.

The constitution ratified in 1995 maintains freedom of religion, conscience and expression, and, while recognising a special relation with the Apostolic Church historically, rejects an established church. In keeping with this more enlightened climate, the Armenian Catholic Church created a new diocese of Armenia, Georgia and eastern Europe in 1991, centred in Gyumri and supported by the Mxit'arist order. Similarly, the Evangelicals received official recognition on 1 July 1994 and the next year formed the Union of Evangelical Churches of Armenia with over thirty churches.

Contemporary concerns

Political and economic upheavals in the Middle East, such as the Lebanese War (1975) and the Iranian Revolution (1979), have led to further demographic dislocation in the diaspora communities, while Armenian pilgrimage to Jerusalem has declined along with the resident Armenian population of the Holy Land as a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indian independence in 1947 effected a major relocation of the Armenian population to Australia, which is now the centre of the diocese encompassing the Indian subcontinent, once under the jurisdiction of NewJulfa in Iran. The most recent wave of emigration, however, has been from the Armenian Republic, provoked by the destruction of the infrastructure, economic stagnation and unemployment. This has resulted in Moscow and Los Angeles currently having the largest concentrations of Armenians worldwide after the capital Erevan.

In ministering to a nation so widely scattered over the planet, the Armenian Church faces a series of complex issues: relations between homeland and diaspora, identity questions posed by the second and subsequent generations of immigrants, the impact of mixed marriages, and so on. Like other Orthodox

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