His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia began His Pontifical visit of Toronto following the end of the Interfaith Summit in Winnipeg and was accompanied by His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Hagopian, Prelate of the Armenian Prelacy of Canada, His Eminence Sebouh Sarkissian, Prelate of the Armenian Prelacy of Tehran and Very Rev. Fr. Krikor Chiftjian, the Catholicosate’s Communications Officer, on June 24, 2010.
His Holiness began His visit with a meeting with the Armenian community at Toronto’s St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church on the same evening of His arrival, where the traditional “kissing of the ring” took place and parishioners personally greeted His Holiness Aram I and in turn received His blessing.
In His speech to the community, His Holiness emphasized the importance of all Armenian establishments like the Armenian Church and school, “which are the treasures of our lives. Without our churches, schools and all our establishments, our identity will be lost and our faith and spirit will grow weak. We have to keep these pillars strong by continuously being involved and contributing to our community establishments.”
Following the church ceremony, His Holiness Aram I, met with the representatives and members of St. Mary’s church organizations over dinner at Toronto’s Armenian Community Centre’s Hovnanian Hall.
At the onset of the intimate get-together, Very Rev. Fr. Meghrig Parikian, St Mary’s Church Pastor, and Archpriest Gomidas Panossian, the Church Pastor of Cambridge’s Sourp Nishan Armenian Apostolic Church, took turns expressing a few words of welcome to His Holiness.
As the evening progressed, attendants asked His Holiness questions they felt were pertinent, and for close to an hour, an open discussion with His Holiness took place about a variety of topics.
The next day, His Holiness met with the Toronto representatives of the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation and the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party, where they discussed current affairs affecting the Armenian Diaspora and Armenia.
During the meeting, His Holiness noted the importance of continuing the joint collaboration between the three parties and in turn, each party representative reinforced their willingness to continue working together in the future.
His Holiness then greeted the representatives and members of local organizations from the Armenian communities of Cambridge, St. Catharines and Hamilton.
Meeting with Youth and Representatives of Sister Organizations
His Holiness continued His special meetings with the Armenian community, and this time met with members of Toronto’s Armenian youth on the evening of June 25, 2010.
As His Holiness greatly values dialogue, particularly with members of the youth, He took particular attention to them and intently listened to their concerns regarding many aspects of their lives and shared His fatherly advice and wisdom with them.
The following morning, His Holiness Aram I, met with the representatives and members of sister organizations over breakfast, where they discussed the importance of the different activities all of the organizations take on.
Historic Designation of Georgetown Boys Farm as Heritage Site
Under the Auspices of His Holiness Aram I, the unveiling of the official municipal plaque designating the Georgetown Armenian Boys Farmhouse, presently known as the Cedarvale Community Centre, as a protected historic and cultural site took place on the afternoon of June 26, 2010.
The memory of the Georgetown Boys will be preserved through this designation, as the site will serve as a permanent memorial site commemorating the Armenian Genocide and Canada’s role in saving Armenian lives.
For the past two years, the Armenian National Committee of Toronto (ANCT) has been working to have the Georgetown Armenian Boys Farmhouse, presently known as the Cedarvale Community Centre, designated as a protected historic and cultural site.
Between 1923 and 1927, 109 Armenian boys and 29 Armenian girls who were orphaned during the Ottoman Empire’s systematic genocide against the Armenians, were brought to Canada by the Armenian Relief Association and raised in the farmhouse.
The son of a Georgetown Boy and Georgetown Girl, and the grandson of a Georgetown Boy, as well as local politicians from the municipal, provincial and federal levels were present for this historic event, whereas His Holiness opened the ceremony with our Lord’s prayer.
An official banquet in honour of the 15-year anniversary of the appointment of His Holiness Aram I as Catholicos also took place the same night, where more than 500 people attended the celebration, which featured a diverse cultural program and was held at the Inn of the Park Hotel.