WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of the Great House of Cilicia, is currently on a Pontifical visit to the Eastern United States. His Holiness’ visit, which officially began on May 7, will conclude on June 4, when he will open the Eastern Prelacy’s National Representative Assembly (NRA) in Watertown, before returning to the Holy See in Antelias.
On May 6, Catholicos Aram I left for Washington accompanied by the Catholicosate’s Ecumenical Officer Very Rev. Housig Mardirossian, and staff-bearer, Rev. Bedros Manuelian. In Washington, Catholicos Aram I joined Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Armenian Orthodox Church of the Eastern U.S.; Archbishop Mushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Armenian Orthodox Church of the Western U.S.; Bishop Meghrik Parikian, Prelate of the Canadian Prelacy; and Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Vicar General of the Eastern Prelacy.
Opening Prayers of the Senate Session in DC
On the morning of May 7, His Holiness Aram I visited Capitol Hill, where he met with U.S. Senate Democratic Party leader Harry Reid, and Senators Jack Reed and Diane Feinstein. During their meeting, they discussed the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the Armenian diaspora, and the situation in the Middle East.
Aram I then offered the opening prayers of the Senate session. He prayed for God to guide the endeavours of the Senate, and for the 1.5 million martyrs of the Armenian Genocide and their descendants.
Meetings with Representatives of Coalition in Defense of Christians, ARF, and ANCA
On May 8, Aram I met with In Defense of Christians Coalition President Toufic Baakline, and Senior Advisor Andrew Dorani. The Catholicos thanked the coalition for their advocacy on behalf of Christians in the Middle East and for their recent statement on the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. Baakline then informed Catholicos Aram I of plans to organize an international conference in Lebanon on the theme of Christian presence in the Middle East.
His Holiness Aram I also received the Prelates and members of the Executive Committee of the Eastern and Western Prelacies of the Catholicosate of Cilicia.
The same day, His Holiness met with Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Bureau member Hagop Der Khatchadourian, as well as representatives of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), who briefed him on their work.
Pontifical Liturgy Commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide in DC
The Holy Liturgy commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Genocide was celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Washington D.C. in the presence of over 2,000 Armenians and guests on May 9.
His Holiness Karekin II celebrated the liturgy, assisted by Archbishops Mardirossian and Hovnan Derderian of the Western Prelacy and Diocese. His Holiness Aram I delivered the sermon in both Armenian and English.
Catholicos Aram spoke of the importance of Christian faith. In his sermon, he said, “Through faith we live the Christ in us, turn to God and build heaven on earth. Throughout history the Christian faith shaped our Armenian identity and empowered us to overcome all attempts to destroy us in the battles of Vartanants, Sardarabad, and Karabagh.”
Aram I invited all Armenians to continue demanding justice for the victims of the genocide and the restitution of properties confiscated by the Ottoman authorities.
Visiting the Ambassador of Lebanon to the U.S.
Aram I, accompanied by his delegation, visited the Lebanese Embassy in D.C. and met with Ambassador Antoine Chedid on May 11. They discussed the situation in the Middle East and particularly in Lebanon. The Ambassador informed him of his work with the American authorities and His Holiness briefed the Ambassador on the Centennial commemorative activities of the Catholicosate. They also spoke of the role of the Armenian communities in the United States.
Aram I visits Armenian Community of Philadelphia
On May 12, Aram I visited Philadelphia’s St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church where he was greeted by the Very Rev. Nerses Marougian and members of the church’s board of trustees. Archbishop Choloyan welcomed the Catholicos and invited him to offer his message to community. In his message, the Catholicos stressed the importance of remaining loyal to the Armenian identity, values, traditions and customs. He also spoke about the importance of remembering the legacy of the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide.
Following the church service, a reception was held at the church hall, during which around 300 community members gathered and honored the Catholicos.
On May 13, Aram I joined the community in a special breakfast held at the St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church, during which community leaders had a chance to ask questions to His Holiness about the youth, the Syrian Armenian community, and the Sis court case.
Aram I Meets New Jersey Community
On May 14, Aram I visited St. Vartanants Church in New Jersey where the priests, members of the church council, scouts and the faithful received him.
After canonical prayers, Archbishop Choloyan welcomed His Holiness Aram I on behalf of the Eastern Prelacy and invited him to deliver his message. “In order to remain rooted in our Armenian identity in the Diaspora, we should organize and be renewed as community in the Church,” said Aram I. At the end of the message, His Holiness received individual greetings of the faithful and gave them his blessings.
Aram I Meets the Youth in New York
On May 16, Aram I attended a youth seminar at the St. Gregory the Illuminator Church in New York. He was met by Archbishop Choloyan, Vicar Tanielian, priests and members of the Church Council.
Tamar Haroutyunian and Christine Santrian welcomed the Catholicos on behalf of the participants and made a presentation on the vocation of the Armenian Church throughout history and its new challenges. Bishop Tanielian explained the process of sanctification and the preparation of the service for sanctification of the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide. The last two topics covered the historical and political causes for the Genocide presented by Knar Mesrobian and a family story of survival told by Naz Markarian.
Aram I then addressed the youth. He first invited them to consider the relationship between their specific Armenian Christian identity and globalization. He then spoke of the commitment of the Catholicosate of Cilicia to the Armenian cause and the rightful demand for justice for the Ottoman atrocities. Speaking of the recent lawsuit presented to the Constitutional Court in Turkey asking for the return of the historic headquarter of the Catholicosate in Sis, His Holiness explained that the purpose of his initiative was twofold: first, to continue the legacy of his predecessors by presenting a new challenge for accountability by Turkey, and second, to set a precedent for future suits demanding the return of other Church, community, and individual properties.
Visit to the Hovnanian School and the Emerson Armenian Center
On May 15, The faculty, board members, parents, and students of the Hovnanian School in New Milfolrd, N.J., welcomed His Holiness and the accompanying delegation. After the blessing of the bread and salt ritual, Silva Mesrobian, the principal, and Greg Simonian, president of the Board, welcomed His Holiness and his delegation. The students recited poetry, and sang songs and hymns, and the Cilicia anthem.
His Holiness then spoke about the importance of the Armenian school in sustaining identity and pursuing the demand for justice on behalf of the victims of the genocide and their descendants. Aram I then invited the students to ask questions.
Aram I then headed to the Emerson Home for the Elderly. The members of the Board and the residents of the home welcomed His Holiness. Aram I greeted everyone and spoke of the Church as a serving and caring community.
Holy Liturgy at St. Gregory Illuminator Cathedral in New York
On the morning of May 17, His Holiness celebrated the Holy Liturgy, while Archbishop Choloyan and Bishop Meghrik Parikian served the Catholicos on the altar. Zohrab Menatsakanian, the Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the United Nations, was also among the faithful.
After the Holy Liturgy, His Holiness met the community in the main Hall of the Cathedral and received their greetings. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the church choir sang national and spiritual songs.
Aram I Recognizes Benefactors and ‘Servants of the Church’
During a banquet at the New York Palace Hotel, Aram I decorated George Bournutian, Vazken Ghougassian, and Hratch Zadoyan with the insignia of St. Mesrob Mashdots in appreciation for their services to the Church and Armenian culture. Archbishop Choloyan presented a letter of recognition to Viken Minassian, president of the Board of St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, and read the 2015 Pontifical Encyclical marking the Centennial of the genocide.
Following dinner, Aram I thanked the community and offered Archbishop Choloyan a Banakeh commemorating the 100th anniversary and in recognition of his services to the Church. He explained the unprecedented act of the Catholicosate of Cilicia’s lawsuit filed with the Constitutional Court of Turkey and its implications.
There can be no doubt of the outstanding leadership of His Holiness Aram I. I am a bit saddened by the apparent reverting to the “old ways”. His Holiness is a treasure of the entire Armenian nation. He should have been formally welcomed by our entire church. The Holy See of Cilicia has been a center of our faith and heritage for centuries.
We just concluded a remarkable period of unity and we are all aware of the outstanding results. We received the Eucharist together……yet he visits and is received by only Prelacy affiliates.
Was the diocese and affiliates invited? Would they attend? I am not speaking about a few who would attend on their own but a community effort.
We always seem to view church unity from an administrative perspective. How about res
The last line should read “about respect. Aram I is an outstanding clergyman and should be welcomed by the entire community.”
I had the honor to see the Catolicos ARAM I yesterday 5/19/2015 at
St Sarkis Church in Douglaston, NY.and admire his speach and enthusiasm for Armenian issues. He is a charming leader and personality.
I agree with Stepan, especially after the two sermons that His Holiness Aram I presented in Washington, D.C., on May 7 & May 9. He spoke for all Armenians when he stated that cheap recognition is a continuation of genocide. That justice not provided is a sin. That recogniton and reparations are what can triger forgiveness. While these services were for the entire Armenian community and specifically for united prelacy/diocese participation, it seems that that dynamic and traction is already slowly down to the old creeping speed.