Celebratory Dinner in Honor of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I



On the evening of Sunday, October 2, 2016, the official Western Prelacy celebration of the 20th anniversary of the enthronement of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I culminated with a celebratory dinner in honor of our Pontiff. The dinner, hosted by long-time community benefactors and supporters Mr. and Mrs. Harry and Cheryl Nadjarian, was held at the “California Club” in Downtown Los Angeles. His Holiness was joined at the head table by H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate, H.E. Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate, H.E. Archbishop Yeprem Tabakian, H.E. Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian, Ambassador of Armenia Grigor Hovhannissian, Consul General of Lebanon Johnny Ibrahim, ARF Bureau, ARF Central committee, Central Executive, and Executive Council representatives. Honored guests included Consulate General of Armenia Counsellor Razmik Stepanyan, L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, L.A. City Councilmember Paul Krekorian, benefactors, and sponsors.

The program began with welcoming remarks by Central Executive member Mr. Vahe Yacoubian, who also served as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies. Mr. Yacoubian introduced the head table and thanked all the guests for their attendance and support. The national anthems of Armenia, the U.S., and Lebanon were presented by tenor Raffi Kerbabian, accompanied on the piano by Hovsep Torossian. His Holiness delivered the invocation and blessed the tables. On behalf of the Executive Council, Chairman Vahe Hovaguimian congratulated His Holiness, lauded his exemplary leadership, and wished continued growth and prosperity to the Holy See of Cilicia.

The evening’s host, Mr. Harry Nadjarian welcomed and congratulated His Holiness on his 20th anniversary, thanked the Prelate and Executive Council for the joy and privilege of hosting the event, and wished a long and healthy life to His Holiness. During the dinner, guests enjoyed a musical interlude by pianist Hovsep Torossian.

Remarks were then delivered by Ambassador Grigor Hovhannisian and Consul General Johnny Ibrahim. Ambassador Grigoryan noted that the past twenty years have been marked by numerous challenges for our people and for the Armenian nation, adding that throughout this time His Holiness was a true leader, especially to our brothers and sisters in Syria and elsewhere. “As a foreign policy professional, I personally appreciate his international leadership in ecumenism, and obviously his support and advocacy for Syrian Armenians, and his actual visit to Syria left a mark on our hearts,” concluded the Ambassador. Consul General Ibrahim highlighted His Holiness’ important role in the preservation of diversity and promotion of harmony and stability in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East, and wished him a pleasant trip from here on out.

Prior to the bestowing of medals, the Prelate thanked God for the visit of His Holiness, stating, “It is a great honor and privilege for our Prelacy to welcome our beloved Pontiff and to personally convey our congratulations and felicitations on the 20th anniversary of his enthronement.” His Eminence thanked the guests for their presence and support, and especially the gracious hosts Mr. and Mrs. Harry and Cheryl Nadjarian, and announced that since Mr. Nadjarian has already been awarded the “Prince of Cilicia” medal, the highest honor granted by the Catholicosate of the Holy See of Cilicia, he would receive from His Holiness the latest publication, an album titled “The Catholicosate of Cilicia: History, Treasures, Mission,” as well as a plaque by the Prelacy for their dedicated support and generosity.

The Prelate thereafter announced that in response to his request and that of the Councils, and on the occasion of the “Year of Service,” His Holiness would be honoring five community members with the “Prince of Cilicia” and “Knight of Cilicia” medals for their contributions to our churches, schools, and communities. One by one the Prelate announced the honorees and gave a brief overview of their contributions as His Holiness bestowed the medals upon them. The “Prince of Cilicia” recipients were Mr. and Mrs. Varant & Hoori Melkonian and Mr. and Mrs. Hacop and Hilda Baghdassarian, and the “Knight of Cilicia” recipients, Mr.and Mrs. Charlie & Julia Ghailian, Dr. and Mrs. Vatche & Shoushig Cabayan, and Dr. and Mrs. Hagop & Lucy Dikranian.

The bestowing of medals was followed by a solo vocal performance by soprano Talar Dekrmanjian, who had come from Brussels especially for this occasion. Victoria Simonian accompanied on the piano.

The Prelate then delivered his congratulatory remarks, in which he extolled the exemplary service and leadership of His Holiness, affirming that service has been the driving force of His Holiness’ life from the moment he took his vows to become a member of our Brotherhood nearly half a century ago, to the present day. “Throughout this time, you have been a faithful disciple of Christ and of our heritage, personifying the true meaning of service, and you have created a legacy that is vast and far-reaching,” stated the Prelate, adding that the powerful and rousing messages of His Holiness are a beacon of hope and faith for our people and for our youth especially.

Reflecting on the vast and worthy accomplishments of His Holiness in the arenas of construction, homeland, ecumenism, and the Armenian Cause, the Prelate asserted, “With your blessings, guidance, and encouragement, new churches have been built across the globe, as well as residences and worthy national institutions…You have instructed and guided the Armenian people to stand behind our motherland, and cautioned us against any path that would be detrimental to our homeland…Your diligence and foresight has brought recognition to our Holy See on an international level and your discourse on harmony among religions, in the Middle East particularly, has earned you and the Armenian people a great deal of respect…Furthermore, in the past twenty years you have become the greatest champion and most influential voice for the defense of our rights. Thus, the Prelate once again congratulated His Holiness and prayed for the Lord to bless our Pontiff with many healthy years to come and a long Pontificate, and added that alongside our allegiance, the Western Prelacy family was lending it generous financial support to the “Catholicos Aram I” Fund benefitting the Seminary. “Your visit has once again revitalized us all, and we are confident that your example, leadership, and lifelong legacy of service will continue to be our guiding force,” concluded the Prelate.

His Eminence thereafter made a special announcement. Throughout the years, His Holiness is inundated with requests for letters of blessings, letters of commendation, and requests for medals. Tonight, with the permission of His Holiness, we would like to reciprocate and present a gift to our Pontiff, a medal, a symbol of the “apostle of faith,” provided by Mr. and Mrs. Vagharshak and Narine Grigoryan, announced His Eminence, who proceeded to present a second gift also, diamond jewelry engraved with the Holy See of Cilicia emblem provided by Mr. and Mrs. Haig and Gilda Tacorian as a completion of the set which included a ring they had gifted five years prior. During the cocktail hour, His Holiness commended the support of benefactors and “Prince of Cilicia” medal bearers Mr. and Mrs. Vahan and Anoush Chamlian and Mr. and Mrs. Vahe and Veronique Karapetian by gifting them the “The Catholicosate of Cilicia: History, Treasures, Mission” volume, while Mrs. Naz Atikian presented an engraving of the Lord’s Prayer on crystal on behalf of Prelacy.

With a standing ovation, His Holiness was then invited to deliver his message and blessings. His Holiness first noted that though this year officially marks the 21st anniversary of his enthronement, that it does however mark the 20th anniversary of the election of Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian as Prelate. His Holiness commended the Prelate’s devoted and faithful service during his tenure, and on this occasion, gifted him the ornate panagia of His Holiness Karekin II (Sarkissian) of the Holy See of Cilicia.

The Pontiff’s message highlighted the absolute importance of service as the driving force, sustaining power, and vision of one’s life, of giving as a source of joy and greatness. “Our Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself on the Cross for the salvation of humanity. He is the role model of what it means to serve,” emphasized His Holiness. Noting the presence of members not only of our Prelacy, but of representatives of sister churches and organizations, His Holiness greeted the gathering, which he referred to as a reflection of our diversity but also of our unity, and stressed that “diversity should be a source of enrichment and strength, a transforming and continuous power in the life of our community in all levels, in all spheres in our church and community life. The sense of togetherness, the sense of belonging should remain at the heart of our reflection and action as individuals, families, organizations and as churches.”

Speaking on the anniversary of his consecration, His Holiness noted that anniversaries are occasions for thanksgiving and celebration, but more importantly, they are occasions for critical and realistic self-reflection of who we are as individuals, as organizations, as a church and community, with the profound sense that we belong to one another; that they are an invitation and reminder to identify our failures as well as our successes, and to look forward to the future with clear vision. “Any life, as an individual, family, or organization that is not driven by purpose, is a life that becomes self-centralized. We need to live in a way that strengthens our interconnectedness as neighbors, partners, coworkers, and families,” emphasized His Holiness.

On mission of the church, His Holiness iterated that the church is not a place we go to, rather it is a community of people, a community of faith. “Being a clergyman means being a servant of our church, nation, and community, in the exemplary example of our Lord Jesus Christ. Spirituality, evangelism, humanitarianism, taking the church to the people, preparing good ambassadors of Christ, people who are dedicated, committed, visionary people who are ready to give themselves to our church, community, and homeland, these should be the priorities, values, and concerns of the church,” said His Holiness, and affirmed as he will continue as Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia to keep spirituality, unity, the Armenian Cause, and preparing human resources his main concerns and priorities. Finally, His Holiness expressed thanks to the Prelate for organizing the celebrations and his appreciation to the Primate.

On this occasion, generous donations were made by community benefactors and sponsors to the “Catholicos Aram I Fund” benefitting the Seminary.

The celebration concluded with the benediction and “Cilicia.”

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