Ancient church was ruined by communism; now Armenia's diaspora funds a religious revival

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LAKE SEVAN, Armenia -- On a windswept peninsula that juts out into the blue-black waters of Lake Sevan, the ancient meets modern. Cassock-clad young seminarians wander through a sparkling new building wired for the 21st century and outfitted with a contemporary gym.

But the traditions here are among Christianity's oldest. In the corridor, between classes at Vaskenian Theological Academy, two students stop and bow to a bearded man with a large silver cross around his neck.

"Father, bless us," they say, each putting a hand to their hearts.

"God will bless you," replies Father Minas Martirossian, the school's deputy dean, who is helping to train a new generation of Armenian priests to repopulate the country's depleted ranks.

Just a decade ago, the Armenian Apostolic Church was struggling to survive at home after decades of communist oppression. Today, the Church is undergoing a rebirth fueled by tens of millions of dollars from the global Armenian diaspora.

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