His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia to Greece and Cyprus on patriarchal visits on March 11-20, during which he met community as well as government and church officials of the host countries, including the Greek prime minister and Cypriot president.
Upon arriving in Athens, Catholicos Aram I was welcomed by a group of Armenian and Greek dignitaries, including the Prelate of the Armenian Prelacy of Greece, Archbishop Kegham Khacherian; the Consul General of Armenia in Greece, Tigran Vardanyan; the Ambassador of Lebanon to Greece, Ghadi al-Khouri; the Prelate of the Armenian Catholic Church of Greece, Fr. Hovsep Bezazian; the head of the local Armenian Evangelical community, Pastor Viken Cholakian; the head of the Armenian community, Takvor Hovagimian, as well as a representative of the archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church, clergymen and community members.
Following a reception in Athens the evening of Saturday, March 11, His Holiness addressed the local community during the Divine Liturgy on Sunday at St. Hagop Church in the Greek capital. In his message, he said he had come to accompany the people and share their concerns.
“In the course of history, darkness often tried to become the prevailing presence in our life, but with the luminous presence of Christ, we were able to push darkness away from our life, overcome the rule of darkness and illuminate our life with the light of Christ,” His Holiness said.
In the final part of his message, he especially emphasized the need to reorganize the local Prelacy as well as the Diaspora.
His Holiness granted the ornamental cloaks (ծաղկեալ փիլոն) to Rev. Fathers Bared Khacherian and Nareg Shahinian, in a ceremony celebrated following liturgy. He also awarded the pectoral cross (լանջախաչ) to Very Rev. Fr. Hovhannes Saghdejian. Afterwards a public reception took place in the parish hall.
Later in the day, the Catholicos met with community leaders at the Zavarian Centre of the Greek capital to examine the reorganization work.
The head of the Church of Athens and Greece, Archbishop Ieronymos II, welcomed His Holines on Monday and offered a lunch in honor of the Catholicos, also attended by Armenian clergymen. His Holiness also visited the Armenian Catholic and Evangelical communities as well as the community schools. He also met with the heads and members of sister organizations.
On March 16, the Catholicos was received by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, with whom he talked about the Armenian community of Greece, the situation in Lebanon, the role of Greece in the Arab-Islamic world, and the blockade of Artsakh as well as the challenges faced by Armenia.
In the second leg of his trip, His Holiness was welcomed by the Armenian community of Cyprus as well as the newly elected president of the country, Nikos Christodoulides, as well as the head of the Cyprus Orthodox Church, Archbishop Georgios III Papachrysostomou, who received him at the Patriarchate in Nicosia.
During his visit, the Catholicos met with community leaders to discuss their concerns and plans for the future.
In his conversation with President Christodoulides, the Catholicos also raised his concerns about Artsakh and Armenia and discussed the role of Cyprus in the Middle East. They also spoke about the local Armenian community and the situation in Lebanon.
On Sunday, March 19, His Holiness spoke to the Armenian community following the Divine Liturgy at Surp Asdvadzadzin Church in Nicosia. A reception in honor of the Catholicos was offered afterwards.
His Holiness also visited the Nareg Armenian School in the Cypriot capital, where he was received by the students and staff.