In Memoriam: His Grace Archbishop Goriun Babian

Archbishop Goriun Babian
Archbishop Goriun Babian

Archbishop Goriun Babian

His baptismal name was Vartkes. He was born in 1941 in the Nor Arakatz neighborhood of Bourj Hammoud. He attended the coed Lusinian (later Aksor Kasarjian) elementary school of Nor Sis. He received his secondary education in Hamazakayin’s Nshan Palanjian Jemaran of Beirut. In 1957, he was admitted to the graduating class of the seminary school of the Catholicosate of the Greater House of Cilicia in Antelias, and in 1958 he was ordained Deacon. Subsequently, he attended the novitiate courses of the seminary for three years, after which he was ordained a celibate priest at the hand of Catholicos Zareh I on May 28, 1961, and was thenceforth known as Father Goriun.

After a year teaching in the seminary, he was sent to Qamishli, Syria, on a mission as instructor of Armenian language and religious subjects in the local National secondary school, at the same time serving as visiting spiritual leader for the area. In 1963, he was appointed to the position of Vicar to the Prelate of the Jeziré region by the Civil and Religious councils of Beria. That same year, having completed his treatise on the life and work of the historian Catholicos Hovhannes Traskhanagerdtsi, he received the ecclesiastical honor of carrying the pastoral staff from Catholicos Khoren I.

In 1967, he traveled to England to pursue higher studies in Theology and Armenology at Oxford University. Having completed his studies for his B. Lit. degree, he returned to Antelias in the autumn of 1973 and lectured on ecclesiastical, theological, and linguistic topics, simultaneously continuing his philological research.

In the summer of 1977, he received his Ph.D. in Theology and Oriental Studies from Oxford University. His thesis, The Relations between the Armenian and Georgian Churches, was published as a book in 2001 by the Antelias printing press and received the Kevork Melidinetsi literary prize for this exemplary work.

In 1977, he returned to Antelias and by the orders of the late Co-Catholicos Karekin II of the Greater House of Cilicia, established the course “The Spiritual and Cultural Legacy of the Armenian Church,” with himself as the administrator. Having found wide acceptance, the course ended its first term with over 300 participants.

In 1978, barely having begun his pedagogical career, during the dark days of the Lebanese Civil War, he was sent to Isfahan (New Julfa), Iran, for a short period of time as Vicar to the Prelate of the historic Indo-Iranian Armenian See. In that same year, he received the rank of Extreme Doctor from Co-Catholicos Karekin II. Also in 1978, the XXIII Delegates Council of Isfahan elected him as Prelate. On May 19, 1980, he received his ordination and anointment, again at the hand of Catholicos Karekin II. And on June 19, 1986, he received the rank and honor of Archbishop, again by the Holy Encyclical of Catholicos Karekin II.

This time, due to the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the eight-year Iran-Iraq war soon following, he remained in New Julfa. Later, due to other grave issues which occurred in the country and the community, and especially to protect the rights of the Armenian community, he faithfully served the See as Prelate without despair for nearly a quarter of a century.

During the most critical and difficult years of the country and the community, he carried on the activities of the See with most prudence and courage. He visited the warfront many times, risking his life. With his total dedication and courageous leadership, Goriun Srpazan left his indelible mark on the religious, cultural, and national mission of the See centered at the Surp Amenaprgich (Holy All-Saviors) monastery of Nor Jugha, enjoying the general respect and esteem of all Iranian-Armenians, as well as the highest government circles of Iran.

In the course of the 400 year history of Nor Jugha, Archbishop Goriun Swas the first and only clergyman who was the Prelate of the Indo-Iranian Armenian See for nearly 25 consecutive years.

In March 2002, he returned to Antelias at the invitation of Catholicos Aram I and was immediately appointed Vicar to the Catholicosate for the Armenian See of Kuwait and the Arabian Gulf. He was originally supposed to stay in Kuwait for about two years to reorganize the See; however, due to some grievous hardships in Kuwait and internal affairs of the community, by the disposition of the Catholicos, he was obligated to serve the See for nearly nine years.

During the last years, Goriun Srpazan exercised prolific constructional, organizational, and cultural activities in Kuwait and other regions of the See. He established relations with government circles of Kuwait as well as embassies of other countries. With his frequent interviews with local Arabic and English media representatives, he achieved significant success from the perspective of introducing the Armenian community of Kuwait and the history and culture of the Armenian people and Church generally, and especially the Armenian Cause.

In 2011 he returned to the Holy See, Antelias, and devoted himself to philological studies.

He went to his eternal rest on May 21, 2015.

His Grace contributed to the Armenian press; he is the author of numerous literary and philological works and articles.


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