Aram I Holds Public Forum in Watertown

BY GARO ADANALIAN From The Armenian Weekly

WATERTOWN–More than 500 people attended a public forum hosted by the Greater Boston Welcoming Committee of St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church–in honor of His Holiness Aram I–Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia. The forum which was free and open to the entire community–was held at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center on Saturday evening–October 25.

Those present at the function included ARF Bureau Representative Viken Hovsepian and the entire Central Executive body of the Armenian Relief Society–as well as several Prelacy dignitaries–including His Eminence Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian–His Grace Bishop Khajag Hagopian–Very Rev. Fr. Anoushavan Tanielian and Deacon Khoren Doghramajian–Staffbearer.

The program began with an opening prayer by the Catholicos–and brief introductory remarks by forum moderator Astor Guzelian.

The Armenian Children’s Chorus of Greater Boston–under the direction of Karen Demirjian–was called to the stage to sing the "Star Spangled Banner" and "Mer Hairenik" national anthems.

The first of the two introductory speakers of the evening was Heather Krafian–educator. Krafian began by discussing the challenge of maintaining the identity of third generation Armenian-Americans–and struggling to thwart her children away from possible assimilation. She also emphasized the need for the Armenian Church to create programs that would allow children to maintain their dedication to the church. "In order for parents to provide enriching experiences for their children–the Armenian Church must step forward and develop a creative and appropriate program for their respective community."

Krafian then discussed the importance of the Armenian Church schools–and its early influence on the young lives of Armenian-American children. "Our school is our greatest resource. It is the one nurturing element that must remain and support every community." The necessity of communication between the church and its parishioners was also stressed. "In order for our church to prosper and grow in the next millennium–we need to recognize that there must be a partnership between the church and its people."

The second introductory speaker of the evening was Hratch Tchilingirian–Director of the Zoryan Institute of Cambridge–Mass. Tchilingirian began by discussing the importance that the Cilician See has played in the Armenian Apostolic Church–explaining that it has for centuries been instrumental in perpetuating the Christian faith and belief of the Armenian people. "Since the year 1293 when the headquarters of the Armenian Church was established in Sis–the then capital of the Cilician Kingdom–the life of the Catholicosate of Cilicia has been intimately intertwined with the sufferings–struggles–virtual demise–and resurrection of the Armenian nation."

He then attempted to define the role of the Armenian Church in the next millennium by first recognizing that the next century was only three years away–and that it is essential that the topic be addressed accordingly. He also stressed the importance of unity of the church in the Armenian-American community–and that only the people could achieve such a goal through collective effort. "We cannot change the past–but we can shape the future," Tchilingirian concluded.

Aram Catholicos was introduced by His Eminence Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian–Prelate of the Eastern US–who gave a reflective commentary regarding the importance of the Catholicos’ visit. The Catholicos then began his discussion first in Armenian by stating what he witnessed during his visit in each community–emphasizing that it was not simply buildings and organizations that he had seen–it was the will and strength of the Armenian people. "The church belongs to the Armenian people," he stressed.

Another question asked the Catholicos how international figures such as the Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton view the Armenian Church with two Catholicosates. The Catholicos replied that it is not the first time in history that a president or Pope has met with the two Catholicosates–and that it is necessary that the world hear the voice of each Holy See. "For instance," the Catholicos explained–"due to the current political conditions in Armenia–we should not expect that the Catholicos of All Armenia’s defend the human rights of all people. But I should do that. That is why I am doing that." He then reiterated that the church maintains the doctrine of one church–one people within the existence of two Catholicosates.

After the conclusion of the forum–the Catholicos awarded the Mesrob Mashdots Award to three individuals of the Armenian-American community for accomplishmen’s in humanities and Armenian culture. The first award was presented to Hampartzoum Berberian of Worcester who was praised for his long-standing services to the Armenian community and his achievemen’s in musical composition. Aram "Armand" Andonian was awarded the prize for his many feats in poetry and literature. The third prize was awarded to Tatul Sonentz-Papazian–former editor of the Armenian Review–for his accomplishmen’s in poetry–as well as the translating of several works of Armenian literature into English.

A special Knight of Cilicia award was presented to Michael Najarian of Watertown for his dedication and services to the St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church–as well as to the entire community. A special gift was presented to His Holiness by Archpriest Antranig Baljian on behalf of the Greater Boston Armenian community. The gift was a miniature needlework replica of the Cilician Eagle made by 91-year-old Arika Asalyan–survivor of the Armenian Genocide.

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