YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The President of Armenia issued a decree Wednesday assigning a state commission to oversee preparations for the funeral of Catholicos of All Armenia’s His Holiness Karekin I. The commission will be headed by the president himself.
The commission includes National Assembly Chairman Karen Demirchian–Prime Minister Vazgen Sargssian–Constitutional Court Chairman Gagik Haroutiunian–National Security Minister Serge Sargssian–Interior Minister Souren Abrahamian–Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian–Minister of Territorial Governance Khosrov Haroutiunian–Chief of Government Staff Shahen Karamanoukian–Public Health Minister Hayk Nikoghossian–President of the National Academy of Sciences Fadei Sargssian–Chairman of the State Council for Religious Affairs Lazr Sujian–members of the Supreme Ecclesiastic Council of the Mother See of St. Etchmiadzin Vladimir Barkhudarian–Grigor Khanjian–Pion Hakobian and Rafael Papayan.
Funeral rites will be held from July 5 through July 8 during a period of nationwide mourning as declared by the presidential decree.
Mother See Chancery announced plans for funeral events.
On Monday–July 5–at 10 a.m.–the body of His Holiness Catholicos Karekin I will be transported to St. Sargis Church in Yerevan–where at 6 p.m. funeral rites will be held.
On Tuesday–July 6–at 10:30 a.m. the body of the Catholicos will be escorted to St. Etchmiadzin.
The public may attend civil funeral rites at the Yerevan Church of St. Sargis on Monday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and at St. Etchmiadzin Cathedral on Tuesday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.–and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Catholicos of All Armenia’s Karekin I will be buried on Thursday–July 8–at 10 a.m. A divine liturgy with the last communion and funeral rites will be held.
Official condolences are accepted at the St. Etchmiadzin Mother See every day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Pope John Paul on Wednesday mourned the death of His Holiness Karekin I.
Speaking to pilgrims at his weekly audience–the Pope praised the "spiritual stature" of Karekin I–and spoke of their common desire for Christian unity.
"I so much wanted to pay him a visit of fraternal friendship but circumstances did not permit me to do so," the Pope said.
The Catholicos’ illness was the official reason for the postponement of the Pope’s planned visit to Armenia–which originally was to have taken place July 2-4.
The Pope then planned to make a day trip to Armenia at the end of his trip to Poland earlier this month but it too was put off after the Pope came down with flu.
Due to the preparations of these events–President of Armenia Robert Kocharian has canceled his visit to Salzburg–Austria–scheduled for June 30-July 2–a presidential source said. The president was to attend the 4th forum of Central and Eastern European countries in Salzburg.
President of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Arkady Ghoukassian sent a message to the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Armenian Apostolic Church regarding the death of the Catholicos. The message read–in particular:
"The leadership and people of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic learned about the death of Catholicos of All Armenia’s Karekin I with deep sorrow.
"Together with Armenia’s all over the world we mourn the death of the Spiritual Patriarch.
"We express our condolences to the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Armenian Apostolic Church and relatives of the Catholicos."