Celebration of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I’s 50th Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood

On Sunday, October 21st, 2018, the 50th anniversary of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I’s ordination to the priesthood was ceremoniously celebrated with Pontifical Divine Liturgy and a banquet. In the morning, His Holiness celebrated Divine Liturgy and delivered his message at St. Gregory the Illuminator Mother Cathedral in Antelias, in the presence of Lebanese and Armenian dignitaries including the acting Prime Minister of Armenia, Mr. Nikol Pashinyan and his wife, representatives of the Lebanese President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of the Parliament, of His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, His Holiness Pope Francis, and Christian heads of churches, governmental ministers, members of Parliament, diplomats, national benefactors, and faithful.

H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate, and H.G. Bishop Torkom Donoyan, Vicar General, participated in the service. Mr. Vahe Yacoubian and Mr. Gaidzag Zetlian, Western Prelacy members of the Catholicosate Central Executive, attended the service.

The theme of His Holiness’ message was the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He “did not come to be served, but to serve.” His Holiness spoke on the meaning of service from a Christian perspective, stating that the church becomes its authentic self through service, for the church is not a stationary structure but rather a mission of service geared toward the people. Reflecting on his own life of service, His Holiness stated that throughout the past fifty years he has strived to remain faithful to the aforementioned words of Christ as Prelate of Lebanon and later Catholicos. He noted also that he is a child of Armenian Genocide survivors and the first Lebanese-born Pontiff. Touching on the assistance offered by Lebanon following the Armenian Genocide, His Holiness stated that not only did the Armenian community promptly reorganize itself in Lebanon, but it became the forerunner of the rebirth of the Armenian people and the heart of the Diaspora, and emphasized that as one of the country’s seven main factions, the Armenian community of Lebanon is in charge of its duties and rights.

After expressing appreciation to Lebanon’s President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of Parliament, His Holiness greeted Armenia’s acting Prime Minister, Mr. Nikol Pashinyan, and underscored that he opened a new page in Armenia’s modern history as the embodiment of the people’s will and hopes. He assured that the Great House of Cilicia will continue to participate in Armenian’s strengthening and prosperity with renewed faith, and concluded by calling for the reinforcement of brotherly bonds of love and collaboration between Lebanon and Armenia.

A reception was held after Divine Liturgy, during which representatives of His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, His Holiness Pope Francis, and the President of the Republic of Lebanon, as well as the acting Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia delivered their speeches. Mr. Stepan Der Bedrossian, Catholicosate Central Executive Chair, acclaimed His Holiness’ 50 years of service and invited the representatives to offer their remarks.

H.E. Archbishop Natan Hovhannisyan read the message of Catholicos Karekin II, which highlighted the critical stages of Catholicos Aram I’s service in the past half century in the spiritual and national life of our church and ecumenical affairs. He added that as a result of the Great House of Cilicia’s expansive endeavors, new horizons opened before the Armenian Church, illuminating the spiritual life of Diasporan Armenians and reinforcing its unity.

H.E. Archbishop Joseph Spiteri, Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, read the message of His Holiness Pope Francis congratulating Catholicos Aram I and praying for good health and long life.

On behalf of Lebanon’s President, MP Ibrahim Kanaan stated “this moment exemplifies the sentiments of freedom, conviction, and harmonious coexistence.” He added that the Lebanese people are one and will always stand as one for the prosperity of Lebanon, and stressed that His Holiness and the Armenian community form one of the most important elements of the Lebanese homeland.

Acting Prime Minister of Armenia, Mr. Nikol Pashinyan, highlighted His Holiness’ service to our church and nation as well as the role of the Holy See of Cilicia in the reorganization of Armenians following the Armenian Genocide. “The Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia is the spiritual center and bastion of the preservation and enrichment of our ecclesiastic and religious heritage for a large part of the Diaspora’s apostolic Armenians. Antelias is in the heart of thousands of Armenians, and we are thankful that, for years on, within these walls are upheld our national identity and cultural treasures, and the advancement of our nation encouraged,” stated Mr. Pashinyan. The acting PM underscored His Holiness’ efforts relating to reparations for the Armenian Genocide, adding that His Holiness’ influence in our national life is irrefutable. Mr. Pashinyan concluded by lauding His Holiness’ service and reputation in the ecumenical and international arenas.

At the conclusion of the speeches, attendees conveyed their congratulations to His Holiness.

PRIVATE MEETING BETWEEN HIS HOLINESS AND NIKOL PASHINYAN
In the afternoon, a private meeting took place between His Holiness and Mr. Nikol Pashinyan, during which a number of timely issues pertaining to the internal situation in Armenia and Armenia-Diaspora relations were discussed. Both His Holiness and Mr. Pashinyan stressed the vital importance of deepening the unity of our people and supporting all initiatives and actions aimed at strengthening the Republic of Armenia.

BANQUET IN HONOR OF HIS HOLINESS
In the evening, an official banquet in honor of His Holiness’ 50th anniversary of ordination took place at Le Royal Hotel with the presence of Mr. Nikol Pashinyan and high ranking officials.

In his message, Mr. Krikor Mahserejian, Central Executive Co-Chair, extolled His Holiness’ predominant character traits, his pan-Armenian thinking, hard-working nature, and compability to expand the church beyond its walls. Mr. Bedo Demirjian read Artsakh’s President Bako Sahakyan’s message, in which His Excellency noted that His Holiness’ 50th anniversary of ordination is a significant occasion not just for the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia but for the Armenian Apostolic Church, Armenia, and the Diaspora. He congratulated His Holiness and added that Artsakh highly commends his vast endeavors in various realms including educational-Armenology, ecumenical and interfaith relations, and concluded by stating that His Holiness has always been by the side of the people both in turbulent and triumphant times.

Mr. Pashinyan congratulated His Holiness and wished many long and healthy years to come. He spoke highly about His Holiness’ love of service, stating that his 50 years of service has been characterized by “dialogue” with God and the people, thus it is only natural that such a devoted individual has widespread trust and respect on a national and international level.

His Holiness delivered the closing message, first expressing thanks for the warm reception and well wishes. He outlined that the meaning and purpose of our lives cannot be anything but service, and noted that he himself has been influenced by the three preceding Pontiffs and shaped by their indelible legacy in his service. Addressing the acting PM, His Holiness stated that he was in contact with Mr. Pashinyan from the onset of the velvet revolution, during which he stressed that the revolution must serve one purpose, the strengthening of Armenia. His Holiness noted that the Diaspora has compulsorily lived away from Armenia, it has shared its pains and rejoiced in its re-independence, however our people don’t just want to see an independent Armenia, but Armenia with Ararat. “At this stage, we must strengthen Armenia for the sake of Greater Armenia; strengthen the Diaspora to further strengthen Armenia; strengthen Armenia so that the through the Diaspora-Armenia-Artsakh trinity, with mutual understanding, full cooperation, defined roles, and division of responsibilities, however as one nation, one homeland, and one future, we can proceed to a brighter future for our people. Thus, it is my expectation, that the velvet revolution in Armenia, advanced by the people’s participation, strengthen our homeland with this awareness and faith. I assure you, that the Diaspora and the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia is with you, with Armenia, and with Artsakh,” concluded His Holiness.

During the evening, H.E. Archbishop Natan Hovannisyan presented a memento on behalf of His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, and His Holiness gifted a “Partser Pert” gospel to Mr. Pashinyan.

Prior to the banquet, Mr. Pashinyan visited the Martyrs’ Chapel in Antelias and lay a wreath in the presence of His Holiness and Brotherhood members.

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