Catholicosate of Cilicia
Antelias - Lebanon
On Friday, September 30, 2016, the Pontifical visit program on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of enthronement of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I commenced with a youth gathering held at Glendale Civic Auditorium under the auspices of the Western Prelacy and organized by Homenetmen Western US Regional Executive Committee. Over 1,400 youth participated in the meeting with His Holiness, including Homenetmen scouts, Prelacy Schools’ and Sunday Schools’ students, and parishes’ youth group members. Clergy, Central Executive and Executive Council members, representatives of sister organizations, parents, and community members were among the guests in attendance.
The event began with the entrance of His Holiness in a procession guided by scouts. Following the flag ceremony by the marching band and scouts and the flag ceremony, the scouts’ choir sang the Pontifical anthem. Welcoming remarks were delivered by MC Moushegh Bedevian, after which remarks were delivered by representatives of Prelacy Armenian Schools, parish youth groups, Sunday Schools, and Homenetmen, all of whom welcomed His Holiness and touched upon the legacy of His Holiness as a prominent leader of our church, of ecumenical affairs, in the Armenian culture and the Armenian cause.
H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate, welcomed His Holiness and stated how pleased and proud he must feel to see the large gathering of youth and to hear them pledge their faithfulness to our faith and heritage. He then invited His Holiness to address the youth and guests.
His Holiness spoke in general on the absolute importance of preserving and fostering our religious and national values, in a Diaspora situation especially, emphasizing that “preserving the Armenian language is crucial to preserving and manifesting our Armenian identity, our particularity.” Addressing the youth representatives who earlier had delivered their remarks, His Holiness commended their self-understanding, self-perception, self-articulation, and self-expression as Armenians, of their sentiment that they are proud to be Armenians, stating that they are role models and exemplary examples of what it means to be Armenian. His Holiness spoke also on the pivotal role of the family in our identity and existence, stating that after the Genocide, when everything was lost, the family became a small Armenia. “Through our families, we not only preserved our Armenian identity, we also deepened our faith,” stressed His Holiness.
A question and answer session followed. His Holiness engaged closely with the youth, answering their questions in a serious yet witty manner on topics such as how the church can attract youth, the use of modern technology by the church, the role of the church in community life, the Sis lawsuit, and more. His Holiness iterated the importance of the church, school, and family triune; spoke on the vocation of the church to be with the people - to identity itself with the suffering, joy, concerns, expectations, and needs of the people; on the need for our schools to focus not only on education but on the Christian, moral, spiritual, and Armenian formation of our youth so that our youth comprehend the significance of our church in our history and today as our spiritual home. Speaking on the Sis lawsuit, His Holiness stated that the Catholicosate is committed to continuing the process, even though it is not a rosy one, for recognition and reparations are closely interconnected and it is high time to move our cause to the legal sphere.
The program concluded with the benediction by His Holiness and the Cilician anthem sung by the Homenetmen scouts’ choir.