Catholicosate of Cilicia
Antelias - Lebanon
On the evening of Saturday, October 1, 2016, the official celebration of the 20th anniversary of the election and consecration of His Holiness Aram I as Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia was held at Glendale High School Auditorium. Among the guests in attendance were leaders of Armenian Apostolic, Evangelical and Coptic churches, elected officials, and organizational leaders and members. The event featured keynote speeches, a rich cultural program, and a moving bestowal ceremony during which four community members, Mr. Sarkis Mahserejian, Dr. Viken Yacoubian, Mr. Vazken Madenlian, and Mr. John Kossakian, were awarded the “St. Mesrob Mashdots” medal by His Holiness for their contributions to Armenian culture.
The program began with a beautiful rendition of the Lord’s Prayer by the 160-member Pilibos School choir, followed by the American and Armenian national anthems by students from Chamlian, Mesrobian, and Ferrahian Schools.
Dr. Alina Dorian, Principal of Rose and Alex Pilibos School, served as the M.C. In her welcoming and congratulatory remarks, Dr. Dorian aptly stated, “Your Holiness, you lead us, you transform us, you illuminate us, and call us each to action. As you have taught us, service is a way of life and the duty of every Armenian. We will continue to move forward, guided by your words, but above all, led by your actions.”
The first keynote speaker, former Prelate of the Western Prelacy, H.E. Archbishop Yeprem Tabakian, presented an overview of His Holiness’ major accomplishment of the past twenty years, stating, “Your service, in national and international arenas alike, is so vast and varied, your presence so commanding, your reputation so resplendent, that it is truly impossible to effectively and appropriately present the scope and magnitude of your service in this limited time.” Thus, Archbishop Tabakian focused on the legacy of His Holiness as a builder, a leader in ecumenism, a champion of the Armenian Cause, a bridge with our homeland, and a servant of the people. “Your presence here within the Western Prelacy brings us tremendous joy. Your legacy of service inspires us, and we take pride in you. We wish you a long and healthy life so that you may continue to serve for the glory of God and for the prospering of our people,” concluded Archbishop Tabakian.
The second keynote speaker, Mesrobian Armenian School Principal Mr. David Ghoogasian, lauded the service and leadership of His Holiness and the pivotal role of the Catholicosate of Cilicia in the life of the Diaspora. “In the person of His Holiness, we have a spiritual, wise, learned, intellectual, and practical leader, who is respected in the international community…Today, he is both figuratively and literally the most powerful voice for the rights of and for the demand of justice for the Armenian Cause…He is a servant and leader for our times, and one whose service and leadership transcends the barriers of time. Although we share him with the world, we are blessed and honored to call him our own,” were some of the highlights of Mr. Ghoogasian’s speech.
H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate, began his message by thanking God for the historic and blessed occasion to collectively celebrate the 20th anniversary of the enthronement of our beloved Pontiff. On behalf of the Western Prelacy clergy, delegates, Religious and Executive Councils, and family of parishes, schools, and faithful, the Prelate welcomed what was the sixth visit of His Holiness to the region, a visit “will undoubtedly inspire and impel us in our mission, today and tomorrow,” stated the Prelate.
The Prelate thereafter announced that His Holiness was honoring four community members with the “St. Mesrob Mashdots” medal, and proceeded to give a brief synopsis of the realm of the honorees’ service: Mr. Sarkis Mahserejian – former teacher, former editor of “Aztag” Daily in Lebanon, currently the Western Prelacy Chancellor, creator of a series of children’s books, and service in cultural organizations. Dr. Viken Yacoubian – long-time educator, former Principal of Pilibos Schools, ARF Bureau and Hamazkayin Central Executive member, and Armenian Cause activist. Mr. Vazken Madenlian: long-time educator and former Principal of Chamlian School, community activist, and in recent years has served diligently within the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund. Finally, Mr. John Kossakian: Former Principal of Ferrahian High School and current Principal of Marie Cabayan Elementary School, former administrator for ARS Central Executive, former editor of “Asbarez” Daily and “Horizon TV” director, community activist. One by one, the Prelate invited the honorees to the stage to receive the medal from His Holiness.
The Prelate thanked His Holiness for honoring our community members, and continued his message. “Throughout your life, and especially in the past two decades, the Armenian people have witnessed your most valuable input and tremendous contributions to the expansion of the Holy See of Cilicia and the advancement of our nation. You have brought revival to the Catholicosate, established new arenas of service, initiated massive construction projects, guided the growth of Prelacies worldwide, built bridges of collaboration with our motherland and the Holy See of Etchmiadzin, and so much more. Alongside these remarkable achievements, you gave our cause a voice on the international stage. For all this and more, we are indebted to Your Holiness, to your visionary, diligent, and devoted leadership. You have dedicated yourself to ensuring a brighter future for us all, and you have inspired and encouraged us to follow in your ideal example,” stated the Prelate.
His Holiness Catholicos Aram I delivered his Pontifical message, beginning by conveying his gratitude for the celebration, however, clarifying that is not a celebration of him personally, rather a celebration of the advancement of the Holy See of Cilicia in the past twenty years. His Holiness stressed that the Church is a means through which clergy serve for the people, selflessly and with utmost commitment and devotion. Through a clergyman’s service, it is the church and nation that is glorified, not the individual. It is this spirit that we impart to the young students at the Holy See of Cilicia Seminary, that service to church and nation must become the essence and purpose of their lives, emphasized His Holiness.
The Pontiff next highlighted the role of the Catholicosate of the Holy See of Cilicia in Antelias in the rebuilding of the life of the Armenian people following the Armenian Genocide, referring to it as nothing short of a miracle. Following mass death, destruction, and exile, the Catholicosate was able to reorganize its flock, to give hope of rebirth and revival. Today, in the Diaspora, we continue that same mission, for the flourishing of our church, the strengthening of our homeland, and the furthering of our cause, stressed His Holiness. Finally, His Holiness commended the Prelacy, clergy, councils, and all those who serve within the Western Prelacy for the progress of our church and nation, and concluded by instructing the gathering that “anniversaries are not mere celebrations, they are and must be opportunities to reflect on the past years, to learn from our mistakes and built a better and brighter future.”
The cultural program was comprised of a musical performance by LARK Musical Society students, a solo by soprano Shoushig Barsoumian, and poetry recitations by Pilibos and Mesrobian Schools’ students. Guests also viewed a video presentation of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I’s life of service, from his consecration to the present day.
The celebration concluded with the blessings of His Holiness, followed by the “Cilicia” and Pontifical anthems presented by the Pilibos School choir.