NEW YORK–His Holiness Karekin II–Catholicos of All Armenia’s–Wednesday visited the headquarters of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America–where he was greeted at the gate of St. Vartan Cathedral by Eastern US Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and around forty clergymen.
Singing the "Hrashapar" hymn–the clergy led the Catholicos of All Armenia’s into the cathedral–where after an exchange of greetings–the sunrise service was conducted.
His Holiness arrived in New York City on Saturday–August 19–to participate as an honorary guest in the "Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders," held at the United Nations from August 28 to 31.
More than 1000 religious leaders are taking part in the summit–and the Primates of the Eastern and Western American Dioceses–Archbishop Khajag Barsamian and Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian–as well as Archbishop Zaven Chinchinian–Primate of Egypt–have also been officially invited to the summit.
During his sojourn in New York–His Holiness Karekin II has been accompanied by His Grace Bishop Navassard Kjoyan–Vicar of the Araratian Pontifical Diocese–and the Very Rev. Fr. Arshak Khachatryan–His Holiness’ staff-bearer.
In his welcoming speech–Archbishop Barsamian welcomed the 132nd Catholicos of All Armenia’s on behalf of the clergy–Diocesan Council and faithful of the Eastern Diocese of America. "We heartily welcome you to this holy cathedral–which was consecrated by your predecessor–Catholicos Vasken I–of blessed memory–and which is the spiritual center of the Eastern Diocese," he said.
Archbishop Barsamian continued: "We are aware that you are in New York as the Supreme Patriarch of the Armenian Church–to take part in an inter-religious summit at the United Nations. It should be noted that pontifical visits–whether official or unofficial–have had a deep influence on our clergy and people. We are sure that next year–when Your Holiness visits our Diocese for the first time in an official capacity–our youth will be greatly inspired by their young and energetic Hayrabed.
"Vehapar Der–we are thankful that among your many duties–you have found time to travel to the United States for matters concerning the whole of humanity. Our desire is that the Armenian Church and nation won’t be isolated–but will become part of the greater family of the Christian churches and the world.
"Your predecessors–George VI–Vasken I and Karekin I–all Catholicoi of blessed memory–initiated the Armenian Church’s presence in the ecumenical movement. We are proud today that Your Holiness has taken a further step to introduce our Church to a wider circle. We pray that the Lord will give you a long and healthy life–to hold St. Gregory the Illuminators’ torch high among the nations of the world–for the glory of God and for the benefit of the faithful and our Armenian nation.
"Ten months have elapsed since your election–and during this time your ceaseless work promoting a good relationship between our Church and state–alongside the international relations created by Your Holiness–give us confidence that the Armenian Church is advancing.
"Soon–the eyes of all the world’s Armenia’s will look to their single–pre-eminent spiritual center–the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. As I have mentioned often in the past and assure you today–the Eastern Diocese of America has always been and will always be a supporter of Holy Etchmiadzin and its patriarch–to fulfill all its plans for the greater glory of God.
"Today–we pray for the health of Your Holiness–and for the continuing strength of our 1,700-year-old church. Above all–we welcome Your Holiness and look forward to meeting you next year as the official guest of the Eastern Diocese of America."
In answer to Archbishop Barsamian ’s speech–His Holiness first thanked God for allowing him to stand once more before the altar of New York’s magnificent St. Vartan Cathedral. In 1998–as an archbishop–he had celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the cathedral during the Diocese’s centennial celebration–but this occasion marked his first visit as Catholicos of All Armenia’s. Catholicos Karekin remarked that he had come to pray for world peace–and for the good of the motherland and the Armenian people. He said that wherever immigrant Armenia’s find themselves–they always keep the torch of St. Gregory alive. This faith has allowed them to survive all manner of hardships. His Holiness expressed gratitude to Archbishop Barsamian and the clergy who–though far removed from the motherland–nevertheless make the religious and national life of our people bright–through their dedication–ceaseless service and a keen knowledge of their mission–no less than through the love and respect they show towards the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.
His Holiness also expressed delight that in the motherland and abroad–Armenia’s are preparing to celebrate the glorious 1,700th anniversary of Armenia’s conversion to Christianity. Catholicos Karekin concluded that the motherland and the Diaspora should work together to overcome any problem or difficulty–and should build the country they have dreamt of–for which our ancestors have fought for centuries.
Following the church service–the Catholicos of All Armenia’s and the clergy left for the formal reception room of the Diocesan Center–where after singing "Hayabedagan maghterk" a luncheon meeting ensued. The Catholicos explained his mission and described the works done in Holy Etchmiadzin for the 1,700th anniversary celebration. There followed a question and answer session with the attending clergy and their Vehapar. In the late afternoon–the Catholicos of All Armenia’s bid farewell to the Primate and clergy.
While in New York–His Holiness will hold meetings with the Diocesan Council of the Eastern Diocese–and with board members of the Fund for Armenian Relief (the humanitarian aid and development arm of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America). He will also meet with the Primates of the three North American dioceses–Archbishop Barsamian of the Eastern US–Archbishop Hovsepian of the Western US–and Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of Canada–as well as the chairmen of their respective Diocesan Councils.
Catholicos Karekin II will depart from New York City on August 31. He will then stop in Germany to participate in the "Armenia 2000" World Conference–organized by the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg–before returning to Holy Etchmiadzin in early September.
His Holiness Karekin II is the third Catholicos of All Armenia’s to visit the United States. His Holiness Vasken I was the first to set foot on American soil–in 1960; he made subsequent trips in 1968–1987 and 1989. His Holiness Karekin I made his first trip as Catholicos of All Armenia’s in 1996–returned in 1998–and stayed in New York for several months in 1998-99 to receive medical treatment. One other Catholicos of All Armenia’s–His Holiness Khoren Mouredbegian–actually visited America during his lifetime–but many years before ascending to the pontifical throne.
His Holiness Karekin II has agreed to return to the United States in May of 2001–in conjunction with the celebration of the 1,700th anniversary of Armenia’s conversion to Christianity.