On Sunday, December 18, the Armenian community of Pazardzhik, Bulgaria, participated in the celebration of the first Divine Liturgy at the city’s newly built St. Stepanos Armenian Church. The Divine Liturgy was celebrated by the Very Rev. Fr. Abgar Hovakimian, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Bulgaria.

Construction of the new house of worship began in 2005, and was completed thanks to the support of local and diasporan Armenians. Previously the city was home to an Armenian church which was destroyed by the Communist regime in 1969.

Also taking part in Sunday’s celebration was Armenia’s Ambassador to Bulgaria Arsen Shoyan, Mayor of Pazardzhik Todor Popov, and other government officials. A blessing of madagh and a musical program and celebration followed services.

Armenians have been living in what is now Bulgaria since the Byzantine era. The present-day community is estimated at 20,000 people.