Garegin II

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Garegin II (with large medallion)

Garegin began his church career in the 1960s as a seminary student in Echmiadzin. He later became a monk and studied in Germany and Russia before returning to Armenia in 1980. He became a bishop in 1983 and an archbishop in 1992.

Garegin Nersesian was elected by representatives of the church's 456 dioceses worldwide on Oct. 27, the day nationalist gunmen burst into the Armenian parliament and killed Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan, parliamentary speaker Karen Demirchian and six other politicians.

The Armenian Apostolic Church enthroned its new spiritual leader, Catholicos Garegin II, on Nov. 11, 1999 at a solemn ceremony attended by the country's top leadership.

Twelve archbishops conducted the ceremony in the Cathedral in Echmiadzin, the historic center of the Armenian Apostolic Church about 20 miles northwest of the capital, Yerevan.

The 48-year-old Garegin, who succeeded the late Catholicos Karekin I, takes over leadership of the church at a time of turmoil for Armenia.

The country's new prime minister, Aram Sarkisian - who was appointed to succeed his slain brother - attended Garegin's inauguration along with President Robert Kocharian. Thousands of people came to the cathedral to watch the ceremony, which was nationally televised.