His Holiness Catholicos Aram I presided over a joint session of Religious and Lay Councils of the Central Executive Council on Friday, Dec. 3, with the participation of primates from different prelacies. The meetings discussed issues that concern the Catholicosate, the Armenian Church, Armenia, Artsakh and generally the Armenian people.

In his opening remarks, His Holiness outlined the challenges faced by our people, the Church, and Armenia. Lebanon Prelate Archbishop Shahe and the Aleppo Prelate Bishop Masis presented reports on their respective prelacies, including religious, management, financial and social projects and issues, following which they answered questions from meeting participants. In his closing remarks, the Catholicos stressed that it was critical to support both foundational communities and expressed his appreciation for the support they have received from donors and fellow Armenians, repeating that their reconstruction remains a priority for the Holy See of Cilicia.

In response to the request by some prelacies to review some articles of prelacy bylaws, Catholicos Aram advised that each prelacy recommend the needed changes to be analyzed and eventually ratified by the Executive Council and the coming General Assembly.

Dr. Nora Bayrakdarian presented an update on the lawsuit against Turkey for the return of the Catholicosate of Sis. His Holiness stressed the importance of keeping the Armenian public informed on the legal case developments as this is the Armenian church and people’s cause.

The Chancellor of the Catholicosate, Khatchig Dedeyan, presented a report about the village of Nor Giligia built by the Holy See in Artsakh. Mr. Dedeyan said that the village, right on the border with Azerbaijan, needs aid. Support for the village must continue in consultation with the government of Artsakh, His Holiness said following the report.

From left to right: Archbishop Shahe (Prelate, Lebanon), Archbishop Anoushavan (Prelate, Eastern US), Catholicos Aram I, Archbishop Papken (Prelate, Canada), and Bishop Torkom (Prelate, Western US)

His Holiness said cooperation among the four Hierarchical Sees of the Armenian Church (the Holy See of Echmiadzin; the Holy See of Cilicia; the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and the Patriarchate of Constantinople) was indispensable for the vitality of the mission of our church. He said the Hierarchical Sees operate under different circumstances and face different challenges, but the values and ideals that bind them are the foundations of the internal church unity and its spiritual and national mission.

His Holiness discussed the situation created following the Artsakh war and the Armenia-Diaspora cooperation in light of it. The meeting reaffirmed that the loyalty to and support for the Armenian state, its independence, territorial integrity, sovereignty, and security must be above internal political disagreements in Armenia. This existential period in our history must find our people united in their resolve and goals.

The Catholicos also outlined the main points of the future activities of the Holy See, including continuing the work on a book about the History of the Catholicosate until 1972; completion and publication of rare books and manuscripts of the Catholicosate; and the catalogues of the Giligia and Aram Bezikian Armenian Genocide Orphans’ museums.

Fr. Hovagim presented a general picture of the 25th anniversary of Catholicos Aram I’s enthronement in 2020. While His Holiness had decided to cancel events last year in view of the existing circumstances, a book with articles about his pontificate and a bilingual, illustrated catalogue will be published soon.

His Holiness informed the meeting that he has decided to proclaim 2022 “The Year of the Diaspora” and that the Patriarchal proclamation will be published in early January 2022.