His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, arrived in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 5 and was was accompanied by staff bearer Very Rev. Fr. Mesrob Sarkissian.
The Catholicos was greeted on the tarmac of Los Angeles International Airport by Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian and the acting Lebanese Consul General the Honorable Madonna Aoun Ghazal, and was escorted to the Special Events Lounge of the Bradley International Terminal for a welcoming reception.
Gathered at the lounge to welcome His Holiness were Prelate of the Eastern United States Eastern Prelate Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Archbishop Yeprem Tabakian, Very Rev. Fathers Muron Aznikian and Barthev Gulumian, Consul General of Armenia Grigor Hovhannisyan, L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti, Central Executive members Khajag Dikijian and Vahe Yacoubian, Executive Council Chair Rima Boghossian and members, representatives of the ARF Central Committee and sister organizations, Pontifical Visit Committee members, and sponsors.
On behalf of the guests, Archbishop Mardirossian welcomed His Holiness, stating “It is indeed a great honor to receive Your Holiness, and our community joyfully looks forward to the coming twenty days during which You will grace us with Your paternal blessings and guidance. We are confident that Your fourth Pontifical Visit to the Western United States will be among the most memorable and historic.”
The Catholicos conveyed his appreciation for the welcome and on the occasion of his fourth Pontifical Visit to the Western Unites States, and conveyed his paternal blessings to the guests.
Welcoming remarks were also delivered by L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti, Lebanese acting Consul General Mrs. Madonna Aoun Ghazal, and Armenian Consul General Mr. Grigor Hovhannissian.
On the evening of Thursday, October 6, the community gathered at St. Garabed Church in Hollywood for the official welcoming of Catholicos Aram I, “Hrashapar” service and “Achahampouyr”.
The streets were lined with a large crowd of parishioners and scouts as the arrival ceremony began with the Homenetmen scouts marching band playing national songs.
Accompanied by the singing of the “Hrashapar” hymn, His Holiness was escorted into the Church by Archbishops Mardirossian and Choloyan. A capacity crowd was waiting inside to receive His Holiness.
Among the attendees were Archbishop Yeprem Tabakian, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Western Primate, Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, Archbishop Mor Clemis Eugene Kaplan, Prelate of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith representing H.E. Cardinal Jose Gomez, Prelacy Clergy, Very Rev. Fr. Krikor Chahinian, Rector of the Armenian Catholic Church, Armenian Consul General the Honorable Grigor Hovhannissian, Lebanese Acting Consul General the Honorable Madonna Aoun Ghazal, Central Executive and Executive Council members, representatives of sister organizations, and sponsors.
After a canonical prayer service, the Prelate welcomed His Holiness to the Western United States on his fourth Pontifical visit, stating that this is indeed a great honor and His Holiness will renew and breathe new life into our community. The Prelate also stated that by the meritorious and diligent leadership of His Holiness, the Great House of Cilicia is a strong presence not only in the lives of Armenians, but also in ecumenical and inter-religious arenas.
On behalf of Armenian children, Rose and Alex Pilibos School student Mary Manossian welcomed His Holiness and received his blessings.
The Prelate then invited His Holiness to deliver his first public message of this Pontifical visit.
His Holiness commended the Prelate, Councils, and all those who serve for the splendor of our Church and the Western Prelacy, and greeted the large crowd that had come to receive his paternal blessings and message saying, “As we have always said, the Church is the people. Therefore, being a servant of the Church means being a shepherd to the people, taking the Church to the people, being a preacher of the Bible and its teachings, and preserving and fostering our heritage”.
His Holiness subsequently stressed the three main themes of his Pontifical visit, all of which must be the priority of the Church.
Spiritual Renewal: “Spiritual life is not only reading the Bible and knowing Church history and traditions. It is active participation in the life of our Church and our faith mission. It is a life centered around the Truth of Christ, a struggle against sin, service to the needy. Spiritual life is a Christ centered life. Without morals and values, our lives would be filled with sin, our lives would lose purpose, therefore spiritual renewal is vital to our lives”, stated His Holiness
Further anchoring and continued progress of Armenian Schools: Speaking on Armenian School, His Holiness said, “The Armenian School is not just an institute of learning; it is the place where the souls, minds, and spirits of our youth are developed, where character is built, where students are taught the righteous path and national identity. The presence of Armenian Schools alongside our Churches is not a coincidence. The Armenian Church considers the Armenian Schools as an extension of its mission, and our people have the same respect and love for both the Church and School. The Armenian School is a high priority for the Catholicosate of Cilicia. Through its Dioceses, the Catholicosate built schools, prepared educators, devised curricula, and offered financial support so that the Armenian Schools could fulfill their invaluable mission. I call on all our people to offer their full support and backing of our schools, I call on our parents to send their children to Armenian schools, and on our sponsors to contribute their part. Without Armenian schools, we will lose our national values and identity”.
Reasserting our spirit of national aspirations: “The Armenian Cause is a daily struggle. As one nation, we must not only continue our struggle rather reassert and reinvigorate our spirit of national aspirations especially now as we near the 100th anniversary of the Genocide. As the times change, so must our approach, and with united efforts our Cause must be known in the international arena”, stated His Holiness.
At the conclusion of his Pontifical message, His Holiness saluted the 20th anniversary of the independence of Armenia and stressed that we must all stand behind our beloved homeland and contribute to our nation’s progress for a strong Armenia and Artsakh is a strong Diaspora. “We are one people, one nation, one fatherland, one cause, one faith, with one past and one history.”
The service concluded with the singing of the Pontifical and Cilician anthems, after which the faithful approached the Pontiff to receive his blessings.
The fourth Pontifical Visit of Catholicos Aram I to the Western Prelacy officially began on Thursday, October 6 with a visit to the Western Prelacy headquarters where he was greeted by over a hundred guests including Clergy, Executive Council, Ladies Auxiliary, Principals, Directors and Board of Regents members, representatives of sister organizations, and members of the various Pontifical Visit committees.
Upon his arrival, the Catholicos was escorted to the “St. Dertad and St. Ashkhen” Chapel by Archbishops Mardirossian and Choloyan.
Following a canonical prayer service at the Chapel, His Holiness was familiarized with the various departments of the Prelacy and was led to the “Sulahian” Reception Hall for meetings with the Religious and Executive Councils. Central Executive members Khajag Dikijian, Vahe Yacoubian, and Dr. Dertad Mangikian (Eastern Prelacy) participated in the meetings.
During a discussion on challenges and concerns faced by the Church and Prelacies, His Holiness stressed that the primary focuses of his Pontifical visit are spiritual renewal, strengthening of Armenian Schools, and reinvigoration of the Armenian Cause, and emphasized the unique role of Clergy and Councils in these regards.
At the conclusion of the meetings, His Holiness was led by a procession of clergy to the “Dikran and Zarouhie Der Ghazarian” Hall where the guests had gathered for a luncheon organized by the Prelacy Ladies Auxiliary.
Following the invocation by the Catholicos, welcoming remarks were delivered by the Prelate, Khajag Dikijian, and Executive Council Chair Rima Boghossian.
Prior to inviting His Holiness to deliver his message and blessings, the Prelate addressed the guests stating that the Prelacy is the People’s Home and as the “landlord of our home,” His Holiness is beginning his Pontifical Visit with the Prelacy family. The Prelate then presented His Holiness with a hand-made glass painting by Canadian-Armenian artist Vatche Arakelian.
His Holiness greeted the guests, after which he invited the Prelate to present him with a gift, a beautiful reproduction of one of the pages of the ancient “Partser Pert” Gospel, which embodies the spirit of the Antelias. His Holiness continued, “Antelias is not just a city in Lebanon, it is a mission of faith and service which extends far beyond its physical walls. You are all children of the Antelias family, and with your service, you demonstrate your allegiance to the Holy See and its mission”.
His Holiness stated that the Church has been and always will be the people’s Church, and as such, we must not only bring people to the Church, we must bring the Church to the people. “Our Church is our people. Without the people there is no purpose, and that is why the active involvement of all our faithful, from the elderly to the young, women and children, is so vital.” His Holiness also stated that it is crucial to hear the people, to listen attentively to the people and their needs and expectation and serve accordingly as Antelias does with its Brotherhood and Prelacies. Speaking of the Brotherhood members, His Holiness iterated that each member spreads the light of the Catholicosate within his community and surroundings.
His Holiness once again reminded the guests of the primary focus of the Pontifical Visit which is spiritual renewal, strengthening of Schools, and reinvigoration of the Armenian Cause, and concluded by commending the Prelate, Councils, and affiliated bodies for their service, urging them to continue with renewed faith and vigor.
The luncheon came to a close with the benediction by His Holiness and the collective singing of the Cilician anthem
Catholicos Visits Glendale Memorial Hospital
On Friday, October 7 the Catholicos Aram I visited Glendale Memorial Hospital where he met with the administration and blessed the patients.
His Holiness was greeted at the entrance of the hospital by Mark Meyers, President of Glendale Memorial and Board members. Among those participating in the visit were Clergy members, Executive Council members, hospital board and staff members, Glendale Police Chief, Pontifical Visit committee members, and community members.
His Holiness and entourage first visited a number of rooms in the children’s wing and blessed the young patients. A welcoming reception followed.
The reception began with President Meyers welcoming His Holiness. He stated that the Armenian residents of Glendale have always supported Memorial Hospital, and this visit by His Holiness attests to that support.
Pontifical Visit Public Relations Committee Co-Chair Steve Artinian, who noted that His Holiness has proclaimed 2011 as the “Year of the Armenian Child,” and the Pontiff visiting and blessing the young patients today is an indication of how much of a priority our children are. He then invited the Prelate to introduce His Holiness.
The Prelate noted that he closely follows the endeavors of Glendale Memorial Hospital and highly commends the administration and staff for their service. He also stated that visiting the hospital and blessing the patients was a priory for His Holiness during this Pontifical Visit, and invited the Pontiff to deliver his message.
His Holiness began his message by stating that the purpose of the day’s visit was to commend the service of the hospital, saying that “medicine is a mission and a calling” just as it is for clergy members. “You meet people’s needs, you meet their expectations, care for them physically and mentally; that is a calling, something that comes from within. In conclusion, His Holiness expressed appreciation for the warm welcome, wished them success in their mission, and prayed for God to bless the hospital, its administration and staff.
After an exchange of gifts between His Holiness and Meyers, the Pontiff and entourage were hosted to lunch by the administration.
Holy Translators Feast Service At St. Sarkis Church In Pasadena
On the evening of Friday, October 7, the Catholicos presided over eve of the Feast of the Holy Translators services at St. Sarkis Church in Pasadena.
His Holiness was welcomed by H.E. Archbishop Yeprem Tabakian, H.E. Archbishop Gorun Babian, Central Executive and Executive Council members, members of sister organizations, California State Assembly member Anthony Portantino, Pasadena Police Chief Philip Sanchez and his wife, Pasadena City Council member Gene Masuda and hundreds of enthusiastic faithful.
With the singing of the “Hrashapar” hymn by the choir, His Holiness entered the Church, the aisles of which were lined by Homenetmen scouts. St. Sarkis Church Sunday School students were also part of the procession.
Eve of the Feast of the Holy Translators services then began, presided over by His Holiness and with the participation of Clergy members. At the conclusion of the service, His Holiness delivered his message to the faithful.
The service came to a close with the benediction by His Holiness and the singing of the Pontifical and Cilician anthems, after which the faithful approached His Holiness to receive his blessings.
Catholicosate Seminary Banquet
After the services, a banquet in honor of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I and dedicated to the Catholicosate Seminary was held at the Pasadena Armenian Center. The banquet was organized by the Seminary Alumni Committee and hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Sarkis and Noune Sepetjian.
With the singing of the American and Armenian national anthems, His Holiness entered the hall where more than 600 community members awaited his arrival.
Guests remained standing for the singing of the “Vork Zartaretsin” hymn and the Seminary anthem, after which His Holiness blessed the tables.
The evening’s Master of Ceremonies, Rev. Fr. Vazken Atmajian, welcomed His Holiness on behalf of the organizing committee and guests, and stated that “today we renew our allegiance and service to the Armenian Church and our Seminary and we promise to continue our path of service to our Church, nation, and people”.
The cultural program was comprised of performances by “St. Mesrob Mashdots” medal recipient singer Levon Katerjian, and singers Adiss Harmandian and Harout Pamboukjian.
The Catholicos surprised popular singer Harout Pamboukjian by awarding him a “St. Mesrob Mashdots” medal in honor of his forty year long career which began in Lebanon.
A slideshow chronicling Seminary life and the message of Seminary Dean H.E. Archbishop Nareg Alemezian was then shown to the guests. A performance by the Prelacy “Lousavorich” youth choir led by Very Rev. Fr. Barthev Gulumian followed.
More surprises followed as Martha Titizian, widow of Giragos Titizian, who was a long time devotee of the Seminary, was invited to the stage where His Holiness awarded her the “St. Mesrob Mashdots” medal.
Amid great applause from the guests, Mr. and Mrs. Sarkis and Noune Sepetjian were invited up to receive the “Knight of Cilicia” medal from His Holiness for their years-long support and generosity. Alongside sponsoring the banquet, the Sepetjians donated $81,000 on the occasion of the 81st anniversary of the Seminary. With this donation, a total of $350,000 was collected throughout the evening to be allocated to the Seminary.
His Holiness was then invited to deliver his message. His Holiness stated that the Seminary, with its mission, vision, and service, is an omnipresent spirit, and is ready to serve the manifold spiritual, religious, and cultural needs of our people. The Seminary is the foremost institution in building character and national identity, the place where young minds are enriched and hearts and souls are nourished, where young adults are transformed by the teachings and principles of the Bible and the spirit of our Church forefathers. What we learned and received at the Seminary we then took to the people, said His Holiness. When we look at our Brotherhood, we see in them the calling and mission of the Seminary, faith, love, and service. The needs of our people are great, and require more servants and supporters. We pay our respects to the mission of the Seminary and to all past and present devotees, praying for Almighty God to bless us with new servants to quench the spiritual thirst of our people, said His Holiness, and concluded by stressing that “the Catholicosate and the Seminary is faith, it is a vision, it is devotion, it is a mission of faith. Let us stand behind that faith mission.”
Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument In Montebello
On the morning of Saturday, October 8, the Catholicos visited the Armenian Genocide Martyrs Monument in Montebello where he led a requiem service in memory of the 1.5 million martyrs of the Genocide.
Joining Aram I’s entourage in Montebello were Montebello Mayor Art Barajas and Council members William Molinari and Alberto Perez also participated in the service. A delegation comprised of Clergy, Central Executive and Executive Council members, ARF Central Committee Chair Avedik Izmirlian, former Bureau member Dr. Viken Hovsepian, ANC and Prelacy Committees’ members, Holy Cross Cathedral Board and Delegates, representatives of sister organizations, and media were also in attendance.
His Holiness led a requiem service at the foot of the Monument and lay a wreath in memory of the martyrs.
On behalf of the Holy Cross community, remarks were delivered by Nazareth Sadorian who stated that it was a great honor to receive His Holiness at the Monument, and that the visit serves to renew and reinvigorate in all those present their pursuit of the Armenian Cause.
Mayor Brajas also welcomed His Holiness to the community, stating that his presence among them was a great honor.
In his message, His Holiness announced that their presence at the Monument is an affirmation that we will never forget our martyrs and we will never forget our cause and our rights. Remembering means remaining faithful to the legacy of our martyrs, demanding justice for the loss of life and land, said His Holiness, and continuing said that it is our expectation that all the free nations of the world, among them the United States of America, stay true to their principles of human rights and justice for all by standing behind the Armenian Cause for truth, justice, and rights. His Holiness also stated that remembering and raising awareness of the Genocide and injustices committed 97 years ago forms a large part of the mission of the Catholicosate, as does standing up for our rights to Turkey and the world. His Holiness highly commended the work of the ANCA in raising awareness and bringing recognition to our cause, and in conclusion stressed that the day’s pilgrimage to the Monument should serve as an opportunity to renew our pledge to remain allegiant to the legacy of our martyrs and our cause. His Holiness then blessed the attendees and the United States of America.
The day came to a close with the singing of the Cilician and Armenian national anthems.
Lebanese Consul General Hosts Luncheon
On the afternoon of Saturday, October 8, 2011 Lebanese acting Consul General Madonna Aoun Ghazal and her husband Dr. Joseph Ghazal hosted a luncheon at their residence in honor of the Catholicos
In her welcoming remarks, Mrs. Ghazal asked for the blessings of His Holiness and stated that she shares the enthusiasm of the community on the occasion of the Pontifical Visit. The Prelate conveyed his thanks for the luncheon, and also expressed his wish for peace and stability in Lebanon. In his remarks, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge the Honorable Judge James Kaddo affirmed that the Pontifical Visit of His Holiness is a great source of inspiration for the Lebanese-Armenian community of Los Angeles.
The Pontiff emphasized the importance of safeguarding Lebanon’s sovereignty and the commitment of the Armenian community in this regard. His Holiness also stated that the local Lebanese-Armenian community feels a strong bond with Lebanon and is committed to the nation’s safety, stability, and splendor.
At the conclusion of the luncheon His Holiness presented Mrs. Ghazal with a memento.