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On Sunday, November 19, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I delivered a message at the Thanksgiving banquet thrown in his honor at the Rockefeller Center, New York. Below is the full text of his speech. 

I embarked on my pontifical visit on 6 November in Washington DC, and in the last 15 days, in my messages, speeches, and meetings I addressed issues and challenges pertaining to the mission of the Armenian Church and the imperative of reorganizing of our communities. In discussing these issues, I laid the emphasis on the critical importance of renewal.   

Let me put it realistically and straightforwardly: We cannot continue our church and community life without engaging them in a process of renewal which implies critical re-evaluation. 

  1. My first observation is related to globalization. We are living in a world dominated by globalization. Globalization is a system, world view, way of life; it is a culture which permeates all aspects of our life, both at the individual and community level, our reflection and action, even our self-understanding. Our approach to globalization should not be reactive but proactive. The question is: how can we interact creatively with globalization and, at the same time, preserve those values that ensure and sustain our identity?
  2. My second observation pertains to our church. The Armenian Church is one of the most ancient churches in Christendom. In a rapidly and radically changing world, renewal of the church is no more an option, but a must. Renewal is not just a change or re-adjustment of certain aspects of the church. Renewal is essentially making our church a church for the 21st century by responding to new realities and expectations of the people; it is making the church a living, witnessing, serving reality.
  3. My third observation concerns our self-understanding as a community. Who are we? This question may sound somewhat odd, but it is an important question. Are we Armenians living in the U.S.? Are we Americanized Armenians? I was a student here in NYC when in 1976 the United States celebrated the bicentennial of its independence. This was an occasion for many communities to reaffirm their specific identity. I remember the well-known book “Roots,” written by Alex Haley. The United States is a country of ethnic and religious diversities, and what unite these diversities are common American values. We are one of the communities of the U.S. and therefore we must be proud of our identity as other communities are. We must make a clear distinction between integration and assimilation. We are, of course, in favor of integration, being an integral and inseparable part of American society. We are against assimilation in this “melting pot” that characterizes American society.
  4. As a nation we are at a crucial juncture of our modern history. We are dominated by uncertainties, tensions, and polarization in Armenia and Diaspora-Armenia relations. After the tragedy of Artsakh, Armenia is exposed to new dangers. As a Diaspora, we cannot remain indifferent. We are called to discern the emerging geopolitical realities which, unfortunately, are not in favor of Armenia. Let me be clear. Change both in Armenia and in Diaspora, change at all levels and in all spheres of our common life is a must. We cannot continue the way we are by repeating ourselves, by living the past in the present, and by guiding our life with slogans. We must be realistic.

 We need charismatic and visionary leaders, in Armenia and in Diaspora, who are able to read the signs of the times and lead our homeland and nation accordingly, guided by the supreme values and interests of our nation.  

We need to develop a new strategy in the face of new challenges and circumstances confronting our homeland and Diaspora. 

We must get rid of a frozen mentality, dogmatic approaches, and stereotypes that dominate our perceptions and actions, and we should develop new strategies and methodologies that are in line with the emerging realities and are undergirded by the ideals of our nation.  

I firmly believe that our youth with their creative mind and forward-looking vision can play a pivotal role in opening of our nation and homeland to broader spaces and new horizons.