SYDNEY–November 21 marked the beginning of His Holiness Karekin II’s official visit to Australia where he met with government officials and religious and community leaders in both Sydney and Melbourne.
On Thursday–His Holiness met with the Prime Minister of Australia The Honorable John Howard. Senior minister Phillip Ruddock–Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs was also present.
His Holiness later visited the Parliament House of New South Wales where he visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial Monument situated on the rooftop garden; saying a prayer–he placed a floral wreath at the memorial.
He then attended a session of Parliament–during which–the Speaker of the House John Murray MP–formally welcomed him. Murray then hosted an informal reception for His Holiness in his chambers.
In the late afternoon–the Mayor of the City of Willoughby–His Worship Cr. Patrick Reilly met with His Holiness Karekin II in a private meeting–followed by a cocktail reception. Representatives of various Armenian organizations–the media–community groups and City Councilors greeted His Holiness at the reception. In his address–the Mayor acknowledged the privilege of meeting His Holiness and presented him with the Key to the City; His Holiness is only the third person to have received this honor. His Holiness expressed his appreciation–noting that the Mayor was so devoted to the Armenian people that he could be given the honorary title "Mayor of the Armenia’s".
With the Sydney leg of the Pontifical Visit closing–His Holiness gathered the community for a farewell dinner at the Armenian Community Centre in Frenchs Forest.
Arriving in Melbourne on Saturday–November 23–His Holiness performed Thanksgiving Service (Hrashapar) at St. Mary’s Armenian Church in Surrey Hills Melbourne. He later visited the two area Armenian Saturday Schools–Aginian School and Hamazkaine Mesrob Mashdots School–and met with representatives of Armenian organizations.
A Pontifical Mass was celebrated on Sunday at St. Dominic’s Church in Camberwell. The Hon. John Pandazopoulos Minister Assisting the Premier in Multicultural Affairs representing the Premier of Victoria–Church Leaders and representatives from community organizations were present. Following the Divine Liturgy–His Holiness met the dignitaries at a reception and later in the evening attended the Official Dinner Reception at Princes Court Reception.
On Monday morning–the Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria–Lady Southey AM received the call of His Holiness Karekin II at Government House in Melbourne.
In the afternoon–a private meeting was held between His Holiness Karekin II and His Holiness Pope Shenouda III–the spiritual leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church; Pope Shenouda III is currently on a Pontifical tour of Australia. Later that evening–an Ecumenical Service was held at St. Michael’s Uniting Church; the service–attended by a great number of Church leaders–was by the Victorian Council of Churches.
His Holiness is scheduled to meet with the Governor-General of Australia–His Excellency the Rt. Rev. Dr. Peter Hollingworth SE OBE at his chambers in Melbourne–followed by a day of meetings with Diocesan Assembly Members and Church Councilors.
The last scheduled function of the Pontifical Visit to Australia is a farewell evening with the Melbourne Church family.
His Holiness Karekin II and his delegation will depart Melbourne tomorrow morning and travel to Singapore where he will be met by a group of Armenian businessmen and community members. His Eminence Archbishop Aghan Baliozian Primate of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand will accompany the delegation to Singapore. The visit will include a celebration of the Divine Liturgy at St. Gregory the Illuminator Church on Thursday morning.