Source: The New York Times
On December 30, 2000, The New York Times reported that "the arrival of Jan. 1 will...have a specific meaning within the history of Christianity, for 2001 will mark 1,700 years since the faith's establishment in Armenia," when St. Gregory the Illuminator converted the Armenian king to Christianity. According to Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, head of the Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, "for 1,700 years, enlightened by the faith St. Gregory brought to Armenia, we are able not only to survive but also to have revival." During World War I, hundreds of thousands of Armenians "were killed by government soldiers or died of starvation when forcibly removed from their villages. For more than seven decades after the war, Armenia endured as a state within the Soviet Union." Throughout all this, says the archbishop, "there was faith, and in this profound faith there was this continuing life. This is what we are celebrating." The celebration of this anniversary will focus on the lighting of torches and lanterns, "in a symbolic act of spreading St. Gregory's light -- the message of conversion and faith -- throughout the Armenian diaspora."