2019 Ecumenical Service of Thanksgiving
on the occasion of the Elevation of His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate
IN HONOR OF ARCHBISHOP ANOUSHAVAN BY FLORENCE AVAKIAN
The Christian leaders present included Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan; Most Reverend Metropolitan Joseph of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America; Eparch of the Maronite Church of Eastern USA Bishop Gregory Mansour; Very Rev. Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan, representing Eastern Diocesan Primate Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan.
Among other clerics attending were Vicar General of the Antiochan Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America Very Rev. Fr. Thomas Zain; Vicar of St. Mary Malankara Orthodox Church Rev. Fr. John Thomas; Pastor of the Sacred Heart Armenian Catholic Church of New Jersey; Rev. Fr. Richard Shakil; Pastor of the NY Armenian Congregational Church Rev. Haig Kherlopian; Priest-Secretary of Cardinal Dolan Rev. Fr. James Ferreira; and Rev. Dr. Barrington Lynch. Several priests of Prelacy parishes were also present including Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian, vicar of the Prelacy and pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Worcester, Massachusetts; Rev. Fr. Mesrob Lakissian, pastor of St. Illuminator Cathedral; Rev. Fr. Nareg Terterian, pastor of St. Sarkis Church in Douglaston, New York; and Rev. Fr. Dr. Vahan Kouyoumdjian, Outreach Priest.
Dignitaries attending included Ambassador of Armenia to the United States Varuzhan Nersesyan; Ambassador of Armenia to the UN Mher Margaryan; Consul General of the Lebanese Consulate Majdi Ramadan; NYC Councilwoman Carlina Rivera; President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York Dr. Vartan Gregorian; and Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) representative Seta Nalbandian.MAJESTIC HRASHAPAR
The impressive church service began with the clerical leaders leading the Prelate down the Cathedral’s center aisle to the majestic hymn Hrashapar, sung by the church choir.
In his eloquent message, the Prelate recounted the St. Illuminator’s church sanctuary as a “beacon of hope, endurance and positive creativity” for thousands of Armenians before and after the Armenian Genocide, as well as for those who fought in World War I, and the countless Armenian families who came to the United States during the 1950s to the 1970s from the former Soviet Union and the Middle East.
It was also “in this sanctuary that Catholicos of All Armenians Vasken I and Catholicos Karekin II of the Great House of Cilicia met and prayed of Armenia’s disastrous earthquake,” he stated. And in the year 2000, “for the first time the relics of the Genocide martyrs were placed on the Martyr’s Altar.”
Reflecting on his new position, Archbishop Anoushavan reflected upon his new responsibility “overseeing a flock” spread from the Midwest to New England, from the tri-state down to Virginia and beyond.
With Christianity “under fire by evil powers today more than ever in a materialistic world,” the Prelate continued, “the celebration of the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople which took place in 381 A.D., “is not just the remembrance of a past historical event, but a reminder that the Universal Church through God’s mercy will help us navigate in peace in a turbulent world, see our oneness in our diversity, and season our thoughts and deeds to transform the Paradise lost.”
Following the church service, the clerics, to the joyous chant Oorakh Ler led the faithful to the church hall, where a short program and fellowship were accompanied by a sumptuous lunch hosted by the Cathedral’s Ladies Guild.
Cardinal Dolan, with his ever-present cheerfulness, welcomed the large crowd seated at flower-bedecked tables. “I am grateful for your and our new church leader,” he stated. “He has demonstrated a splendid emphasis of Christian values and solidarity and I have put my NY students in touch with him.”
In his role as MC, Chairman of the Prelacy Executive Council Jack Mardoian, Esq., noted that Archbishop Anoushavan since his election has “tirelessly made it to every parish to increase our visibility and contacts. We have many challenges by sharing our similarities and venting our differences.”
He then introduced two well-known singers of the Armenian community. Baritone Vagharshag Ohanian delivered a passionate rendition of Alessandro Stradella’s “Pieta Signore,” and soprano Anahit Zakaryan, who also serves as choir director of St. Illuminator’s, sang a heartfelt “You are like an Incense Tree.” To the delight of the audience, the two musicians then performed Schubert’s beloved “Ave Maria,” innovatively arranged as a duet by Ohanian.
Ambassador to the United States Varujhan Nersesyan in his remarks paid tribute to Archbishop Anoushavan, calling him “humble, principled and a dedicated servant of the Armenian Apostolic Church.”
He recalled that when Pope Francis traveled to Armenia in 2016, he titled it as a “Visit to the first Christian Nation.” But he pointed out that being the first Christian nation has not only been a source of inspiration and honor, but also of great responsibility. Throughout all the hardships through the centuries – forced migration and persecution, the Church has consistently been a place of refuge and consolidation, intertwined with Armenian tradition and culture.”
Recalling both the glorious periods of Armenian history, including the Cilician period, and the tragedy of the Genocide, “it is impossible to overestimate the critical role of the Church in saving and preserving Armenians.” The Armenian Ambassador praised both Etchmiadzin and the Cilician Catholicosate in “firmly supporting Armenian statehood and the rightful struggle of the people of Artzakh.
Again congratulating Srpazan, the Armenian diplomat closed his message with a quote by the legendary Lebanese poet-philosopher Khalil Gibran who “is deeply admired” by the Prelate. “Your daily life is your temple, your religion. Whenever you enter into it, take with you – your all.”
Maronite Church Eparch Bishop Gregory Mansour, in his brief prayerful message, said that as with Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, “I look forward to a continued ecumenical effort with Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian. May the Holy Spirit guide you so that we may fulfill the desire of our Lord.”
To thunderous applause, Archbishop Anoushavan noted in his typically humble remarks of appreciation that “my most noble experience is when I have brought change in someone’s life. We feel our oneness in our diversity.”
His Eminence spoke about the Holy Council of Constantinople, whose Feast Day coincided with this ecumenical service, noting that the “celebration of the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople is not just the remembrance of a past historical event, but a reminder that the Universal Church does not ignore or escape challenges, both within and without, but rather confront them, trusting that the Lord, through His mercy, will make the Church emerge victoriously from all sorts of trials and tribulations.
As he was leaving, Lebanese Consul General Ramadan recalled his meetings with Archbishop Anoushavan in Lebanon, and paid tribute to the strong support that the Lebanese Armenians gave to the unification of Lebanon.
And Councilwoman Rivera commented on this “true immigrant story of opportunity, and overcoming adversity. History is very important, and should be acknowledged. Today was a day of amazing warmth and hospitality.”