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YEREVAN. – The last stop of Pope Francis’ three-day visit to Armenia is Khor Virap monastery, an Armenian sacred sanctuary and a place of pilgrimage, which is located at the Armenian-Turkish border.

The Roman pontiff, Pope Francis and His Holiness Karekin II on June 26 will deliver a joint prayer in the Monastery of Khor Virap, after which Pope Francis will release pigeons towards the biblical Mount Ararat.

It not accidental that Pope Francis considers his visit to Armenia as a pilgrimage. Armenians were the first nation to adopt the Christianity in 301 AD as a state religion . The first high priest St. Gregory the Illuminator had to go through terrible sufferings for the sake of the faith, until the court adopted the Christianity.

The Armenian king Trdat who persecuted the Christians in Armenia, after having subjected the Saint Gregory the Illuminator to durable

sufferings, sent him to the death pit of the royal prison in Artashat, known as Virap Artashat. The Saint Gregory remained in the pit for almost 14 years. It is believed that he survived thanks to a woman who every day secretly threw a loaf of bread into the pit. St. Gregory was released from the dungeon 9 days after Hripsime virgins’ martyr. Every year in June, the Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates one of the Armenian prominent feasts "St. Gregory the Illuminator’s release from the Dungeon ."

Virap monastery was founded in the seventh century. In 642 His Holiness Nerses Tayetsi III built St. George Church on the pit. Khor Virap has been and remains a place of pilgrimage for centuries . Today, and every day people visit the monastery . Among them there are many tourists and also many Armenians from Diaspora.

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