COLLEGE VILLE, Minn.–During a special ceremony Wednesday, Saint John’s Abbey and University presented its highest honor, the Pax Christi Award, to His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia. The event began with an evening prayer at the Abbey Church, which was open to the public. That was followed by an invitation-only reception and dinner. The award ceremony and public address, "Challenges Facing Christianity in the Middle East," took place at the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater. Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Eastern Prelate Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan and the director of the Cilician See Monastery Right Rev. Shahe Panossian were among the 150 individuals attending the special ceremony. His Holiness’ relationship with Saint John’s came about because of "his leadership in opening the man’script collection of the Catholicosate to the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library," said the Rev. Columba Stewart, executive director of the HM&ML. "He was our first Armenian partner in the Middle East." His Holiness is also being recognized for his leadership in ecumen’sm as the founding member of the Middle East Council of Churches and moderator of the World Council of Churches since 1991. His Holiness was ordained a celibate priest in 1968 and obtained the title of Vartabed (Doctor of the Armenian Church) in 1970. In 1979, after serving one year as Locum Tenens, he was elected Primate of the Armenian Orthodox community in Lebanon. His tenure coincided with the Lebanese Civil War. His Holiness has been active in inter-church dialogue, relations and collaboration since 1972, when he was appointed as the Catholicosate’s representative for ecumenical relations. He served in this position until 1995, and represented the Armenian Church at major theological and ecumenical conferences, assemblies and consultations in different parts of the world. In June 1995, His Holiness was elected Catholicos (the head of the church) by the Electoral Assembly of the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia (35 clergy and 115 lay representatives). He was consecrated and installed on July 1, 1995. HM&ML was founded 40 years ago in response to the devastating loss of man’scripts and books during two World Wars. It is the only institution in the world exclusively dedicated to the photographic preservation and study of man’scripts, particularly in locations where war, theft or physical conditions pose a threat. Since its inception, HM&ML has built the world’s largest collection of man’script images, having photographed almost 100,000 man’scripts totaling more than 30 million pages. As the highest honor awarded by Saint John’s, the Pax Christi Award recognizes those who have devoted themselves to God by working in ways akin to the tradition of Benedictine monasticism to serve others and to build a heritage of faith in the world. The award has been presented to 53 individuals, including Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens of Belgium; Archbishop Jean Jadot, the former representative of the Holy See in the United States; Eugene McCarthy, the former senator, presidential candidate and SJU graduate; Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of the Chicago Archdiocese; and His Beatitude Ignatius IV Hazim, Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch.