Armenians in Romania Celebrate a Milestone and Welcome His Holiness Karekin II

16 August 2012

His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, travelled to Romania on August 10-14, to preside over the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Hagigadar Armenian Monastery, in Suceava.Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese, Archbishop Norvan Zakarian of France, Bishop Yezras Nersissian of Russia, as well as the locum tenens of the Bulgarian diocese, Fr. Abkar Hovakimian, accompanied His Holiness on the voyage.

Also traveling to Romania were pilgrims from the United States, including benefactors Hagop and Ica Kouyoumdjian, their family and friends; and large groups of pilgrims from Bulgaria, Istanbul, and Paris.

Armenia’s Ambassador to Romania, Hamlet Gasparyan, and its Ambassador to Bulgaria, Arsen Shoyan, were also part of the pontifical entourage, as was Armenia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Garen Nazarian, who with his wife came as guests of the Kouyoumdjians.

On Friday, August 10, the plane bearing His Holiness Karekin II and his entourage landed in Bucharest, where the Primate of Romania, Bishop Datev Hagopian, along with Romania’s Minister of Religious Affairs Victor Opaschi, and the Patriarchal Vicar of the Romanian Orthodox Church, representing Romanian Orthodox Patriarch Daniel, were on hand to greet the arriving dignitaries.

After a welcoming luncheon hosted by Romania’s Armenian cultural association, a hrashapar service was held to welcome His Holiness. Representatives of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Coptic, and other churches participated. Attention then turned to the official opening of the newly-renovated Diocesan Center, which also opened an exhibit of rare books marking the 500th anniversary of Armenian printing, and the center’s museum which holds a rich collection of Armenian vessels and vestments.

On Saturday the pilgrims started on the six-hour ride from Bucharest to Suceava, for the re-consecration of the 500-year-old Hagigadar Monastery. En route the group stopped in the Ukrainian city of Chernovtsy (formerly the Austrian city of Czernowitz) to visit its historic Armenian Church, which had been used as a concert hall during the Soviet period but was recently returned to the Armenian Church as a sanctuary. The local community and dignitaries welcomed Catholicos Karekin II with a hrashapar service.

Having arrived in Suceava Saturday evening, His Holiness and his entourage spent the early hours of Sunday, August 12, in the company of the pilgrims ascending the hill to reach the Hagigadar Monastery. In keeping with centuries-old tradition, many of the pilgrims approached the monastery on their knees, in the hope that their wish would be fulfilled.

The historic Hagigadar Monastery had been renovated and returned to its former splendor through the generosity of Hagop and Ica Kouyoumdjian of New York, Armenians originally from Romania, who were on hand with family and friends for the occasion. His Holiness performed a re-consecration of the monastery, and then celebrated the Divine Liturgy, assisted by Archbishop Barsamian and Bishop Hagopian. Since the day coincided with the Feast of the Assumption of the Holy Mother-of-God, the traditional Blessing of Grapes ceremony took place after the services, on the picturesque grounds surrounding the monastery. Also blessed on this occasion was a large khatchkar donated by the Kouyoumdjians.

At a luncheon in honor of His Holiness, hosted by the Regional Governor and the Minister of Religious Affairs, Catholicos Karekin II presented several local community members with pontifical encyclicals. To the Kouyoumdjians he presented the “St. Nersess Shnorhali Medal”—a distinguished honor of the Armenian Church. The Kouyoumdjians had previously been recipients of the “St. Gregory the Illuminator Medal.”

To mark the occasion, Minister of Religious Affairs Victor Opaschi offered formal remarks, outlining the parallel histories of Armenia and Romania: there records of suffering but also of overcoming persecution, with Christianity always at the center of national life. “Christianity was for both Armenians and Romanians the decisive element in defining their ethnic and spiritual identities,” he said, “leaving its mark on their entire history and bestowing upon them a special merit in the history of humanity.”

“If there is one people in this world to fully share the feelings and thoughts with which Armenians worldwide celebrate 500 years since the building of Hagigadar Monastery, this must be the Romanian people,” Minister Opaschi remarked.

The region around Suceava is home to several Armenian churches and monastic complexes, and the Catholicos and his entourage were given a tour of these historic sites. At one locale the local Armenian youth presented a dance program in honor of the visiting Catholicos.

Back in Bucharest on Monday, August 13, His Holiness Karekin II visited the Presidential Palace to meet with Romania’s acting President, Crin Antonescu, who spoke admiringly of the Armenian legacy in the country, and introduced two Armenian ministers of Parliament: Varujan Vosganian, the current Minister of Finance, and M.P. Varujan Pambuccian-both distinguished figures in the country’s politics.

Following their meeting Acting President Antonescu led His Holiness to the chapel next to the Presidential Palace for a prayer service.

Subsequently, His Holiness Karekin II met with His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, at the Patriarchate in Bucharest. Patriarch Daniel hosted a luncheon in honor of the Armenian Catholicos, and offered warm words about the relationship between the Romanian Orthodox and Armenian churches. His Holiness Karekin II extended an invitation to Patriarch Daniel to visit Holy Etchmiadzin, as several of his predecessors have done. Together, the two church leaders recalled the blessed memory of His Holiness Vasken I, a native of Romania who led its Armenian Church community before ascending to the Throne of St. Gregory at Holy Etchmiadzin.

Later that day His Holiness met with Romania’s Prime Minister Victor Ponta, and in the course of their meeting he presented some requests on behalf of the Romanian Armenian community.

The Catholicos also paid an official visit to the Armenian Embassy in Bucharest, and was greeted by Ambassador Gasparyan and his staff.

That evening His Holiness Karekin II was the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by Hagop and Ica Kouyoumdjian, attended by family, friends, and participants in the pilgrimage.

In preparation for the major celebrations surrounding the Hagigadar Monastery, the Romanian Diocese and its community had produced a number of splendid resources—books, pamphlets, maps—on the rich heritage of the Armenian Church in the country.
Posted by on Aug 20 2012. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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