Catholicosate General Assembly Concludes


On Wednesday June 12, 2013, the General Assembly began its deliberations under the presidency of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I.  One hundred delegates and official guests representing the Dioceses in the Diaspora took part in the Assembly.  H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate, headed the Western Prelacy delegation, which was comprised of fifteen delegates.

During the three-day meeting, the representatives received the reports of the Executive Council and the Religious and Laity Councils. The agenda included the following issues: Christian Education, Armenian language and culture, youth concerns, ecumenical and interfaith relations and the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Genocide.

Following the elections of the officers of the Assembly, His Holiness Aram I addressed the session, stating that the Church must respond to the high expectations of its members. The Catholicos said that the Church faces three challenges in particular: it must reorganize the Diaspora, educate the youth according to the spiritual values of the Church and the ethical and cultural values of the nation, pursue justice by seeking to restore the rights of the Genocide survivors. The Catholicos pointed out that the Catholicosate “has inherited these legacies from Catholicos Sahak, who was deported from the See of Cilicia by the Ottomans, and his successors.” The Catholicosate stated that “we must renew these legacies with vision and commitment.”

Starting the second session, the delegates received the reports of the Central Committee and its Councils. The report of the Executive Council was followed by the report of the Religious Council. The Assembly welcomed proposals regarding Christian education and youth formation. The members were then briefed on the forthcoming meeting of the Bishops of the Armenian Church, to be presided over by His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians, Holy See of Etchmiadzin, and His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, Holy See of Cilicia. One of the major issues on the agenda will be the reformation of the Armenian Church. After hearing reports on the ecumenical and interfaith activities of the Church, the Assembly affirmed the important role of the Catholicosate of Cilicia in making the Church known internationally.

Sessions on the second day began with the Lord’s Prayer and the blessings of His Holiness Aram I. The delegates received the report and recommendations of the Executive Council. The delegates thanked His Holiness for his guidance concerning their programs and projects, which have been quite successful despite limited human and financial resources. The work of the Council was summarized under following eight headings:

1. Establishment of a Committee of Experts to work on the purification of Western Armenian and its application in Armenian schools. The participants also discussed the teaching of religion in Church-related schools.

2. Creation of an Endowment Fund. His Holiness explained that only by establishing such a fund will the Catholicosate be able to become self-reliant and fulfill its mission.

3. Pursuit of the Armenian Cause. Report on the international meetings initiated by His Holiness Aram I in Antelias, to pursue professionally the issues of compensation and restitution. The members also took note of the joint statement of 24 April 2013, regarding the 100th anniversary of the Genocide, signed by Catholicos Karekin II and Catholicos Aram I.

4. The situation of Armenians in Syria. His Holiness Aram I described the difficulties, presented the priority needs of the community, and reported on the Special Fund created by the Catholicosate and the contributions of the Dioceses to the Prelacy of Peria (Syria).

5. The economic situation in Greece and the difficulties of the Prelacy. A member of the delegation of the Diocese reported on the situation.

6. Antelias-Etchmiadzin Relations. The Assembly reconfirmed its commitment to work with Etchmiadzin to safeguard the unity of the church.

7. Relations with the government of Armenia. The Assembly affirmed the friendly and cordial relations with the government and took note of the Armenia’s response to the achievements of the Catholicosate of Cilicia internationally.

8. Update on the construction projects of the Catholicosate with the support of Dioceses and individual philanthropists. The Assembly received an updated report on the construction of the “New Cilicia” housing project in Karabagh. The plenary then received information on the following construction projects in Antelias: Renovation of the Martyrs’ Chapel in Antelias, construction of a new residence for the clergy in Bikfaya, construction of a new altar and re-designing of the surroundings of the Martyr’s Monument in Bikafaya, renovation and transformation of the historical building of Birds’ Nest in Byblos to house the Genocide museum.

After hearing the report, the Assembly thanked His Holiness Aram I once more for realizing all these activities with limited human and financial resources.

 In response, His Holiness said, “What we have done is an expression of our vision and mission. We want you to assess our work and help us continue the work.”  He thanked the delegates for their contributions to the discussions on the proposed framework for the preparations of the 100th anniversary of the Commemoration of the Genocide and for their positive response to the recommendations concerning the work of the Prelacy of Aleppo and the Christian Education Department.

On Thursday evening, Assembly participants attended a concert in Bikfaya presented by the “Shenorhali” Choir and conducted by Rev. Torkom Donayan dedicated to the “Year of the Armenian Mother.” The commencement ceremony of the Seminary followed. Seminary Dean H.E. Archbishop Nareg Alemezian welcomed the participants of the General Assembly, thanked His Holiness Aram I for his supervision of the seminary, and congratulated the four new graduates.

His Holiness Aram I concluded the evening. He praised the concert dedicated to the Armenian mother. He highlighted the important role of the Armenian mother during the upheavals of Armenian history and the challenging role of the Armenian woman today. He thanked Rev. Torkom Donoyan, the pianist and members of the Choir, saying that they had not only offered an artistic evening but had also inspired the audience to safeguard the Armenian music as a valuable inherited art form. Turning his attention to the Seminary, the Catholicos stated, “The Seminary is the heart of our Catholicosate; its specific mission is to educate people who may lead the community to fulfill express spiritual and human values.” Addressing the graduates, His Holiness stated, “Dear graduates, you were not only educated in this institution, the Seminary gave you a vision and a mission that you should fulfill through your service in the church. Finally, he reminded the audience once more that the goal of the Catholicosate is to prepare committed individuals to reflect the vision and mission imparted to them during the eight years of study in the seminary through service to the church, the nation and humanity. He then blessed the audience.

Friday’s sessions focused on youth concerns, Armenian language and culture instruction, and ecumenical and interfaith relations.  Suggestions and ideas were presented by each Diocese.  The session concluded with the election of members to the Religious and Laity Councils for the coming four-year term.  The Prelate was re-elected to the Religious Council, and Mr. Khajag Dikijian and Mr. Vahe Yacoubian were re-elected to the Laity Council.  The day concluded with a banquet presided over by His Holiness.

On the morning of Saturday June 15, a delegation of Diocesan Bishops of the Catholicosate of Cilicia and 30 persons representing the General Assembly accompanied His Holiness to meet with H.E. Michel Sleiman, President of Lebanon.  The Prelate was among the delegation.

Catholicos Aram I first thanked the President for putting the case of Lebanon on the international agenda and for his efforts to strengthen relations between Lebanon and the Lebanese Diaspora. The Catholicos then introduced the members of the delegation to the President and briefed him on the purpose of the meeting of the Church’s General Assembly.

The President thanked the Catholicos for his introduction and stressed the importance of international relations for Lebanon and the urgency of preserving the internal unity of the country.

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