Archbishop of Canterbury Visits Catholicos Aram I

ANTELIAS–Lebanon–The Archbishop of Canterbury–Dr. George Carey–visited His Holiness Catholicos Aram I in the Catholicosate of Cilicia–in Antelias–Lebanon on Monday. The Anglican Church leader was accompanied by Bishop Riah Abou Assal–Bishop Jeffrey Roel–Canon Richard Marsh–Canon Coleen Fletcher and Ambassador David Mclinnen.

Last year Aram I visited the Archbishop of Canterbury and had invited him to visit the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia.

Archbishop Carey was greeted by the Catholicos–members of the Cilician Brotherhood–primates of the Christians Churches of Lebanon–guest clergy and the Theological Seminary students of the Catholicosate.

An ecumenical service was held in the Cathedral–officiated by Aram I and Arch. Carey–with the participation of Archbishop Paul Mattar (Maronite Church)–Metropolitan Elias Aoude (Greek Orthodox Church)–Archbishop Habib Basha (Greek Catholic Church)–Archbishop Athanasius Ephrem Barsam (Syrian Orthodox Church)–Archbishop Elias Tabe (Syrian Catholic Church)–Reverend Salim Sahiouni (Arab Evangelical Church)–Monsignor Manuel Batakian (Armenian Catholic Church)–Reverend Paul Haydossian (Armenian Evangelical Church)–Rev. Abouna Youhannes (Coptic Orthodox Church) and Rev. Riad Jarjiour (General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches).

At the close of the service–the Catholicos welcomed the Archbishop to Lebanon and to the Catholicosate of Cilicia and spoke about the vital and enriching role of prayer in the life of the Christians and in the ecumenical journey of Christian Churches.

Arch. Carey thanked Aram I for extending this invitation to him and said that this ecumenical prayer moved him as he visits the Middle East–the birthplace of Christendom. Carey continued on the theme of martyrdom in the life and witness of the Churches in the Middle East in general and the Armenian Church in particular.

Aram I honored his distinguished guest with a reception in the official hall of the Catholicosate. During this reception Rev. Riad Jarjiour welcomed Arch. Carey–introduced his entourage and addressed the guests.

This was followed by a meeting of the representatives of the Anglican Church and Oriental Orthodox Churches–presided over by the two religious leaders.

The Anglican Church was represented by the delegation accompanying the Arch. Carey. Archbishop Zareh Aznavorian–Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian–V. Rev. Nareg Alemezian and Manoushag Boyadjian represented the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia–Archbishop George Saliba represented the Syrian Orthodox Church and Rev. Abouna Youhannes represented the Coptic Orthodox Church. The meeting of the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches of the Middle East and the activities of the Standing Committee–the Lambeth Conference–the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox Theological Dialogue and other ecumenical topics were on the agenda of this meeting.

Later that day–the Catholicos hosted an official dinner in honor of the Archbishop of Canterbury–in the presence of the members of the Cilician Brotherhood–Armenian minister and deputies of the Lebanese Government–the Ambassadors of the Great Britain and Armenia in Lebanon–the members of the Central Executive Council of the Armenian Catholicosate and the representatives of the three Armenian political parties.

At the end of the dinner–Aram I welcomed Arch. Carey and indicated that this is the first visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Catholicosate of Cilicia. After praising the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Anglican Communion and in the Christian world at large–Aram I said–"In the spirit of Christian love and fellowship I welcome you–Your Grace–to this center of Christian mission and witness and assure you of the future growing and deepening relationship and collaboration between the Anglican Church and the Catholicosate of Cilicia."

Then–he focused on the role of the Armenian Church and the Catholicosate of Cilicia by highlighting that the Armenian Church is at the heart of the Armenian community life. "The Armenian Church is deeply rooted in the cultures–traditions and civilizations of this part of the world–yet it maintains its distinctive religious ethos and cultural identity. Thus our Church can play bridging role between East and West"–he confirmed.

Referring to the ecumenical involvement of the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia–Aram I said–"The Armenian Church has been and continues to be an open and broad-minded Church. This Catholicosate believes in dynamic dialogical interaction and manifests its ecumenical commitment by its engagement in ecumenical encounters on local and global levels."

Aram I also thanked Arch. Carey for his special interest in the Armenian Genocide–and indicated: "As you well know–the Armenian Genocide of 1915 is deeply rooted in the common memory and collective consciousness of the Armenian people. This Catholicosate is a victim of the Armenian Genocide and one of its main priorities remains the recognition of the Armenian Genocide."

Aram I concluded his remarks by stating: "Your Grace–your presence in Lebanon and here tonight is a sign of hope and inspiration for all of us. Lebanon is a country of Christian-Muslim dialogue. Especially at this stage of reconstruction and rehabilitation of Lebanon we need your prayers and support and the assistance of our western churches."

Arch. Carey responded to the address of Aram I by reminding him of his visit to the See of Canterbury last year and thanked him for extending this invitation to visit the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia. With these words he praised the leadership of Aram I in the World Council of Churches in particular and in the ecumenical movement at large: "We all know and appreciate your role in the World Council of Churches especially these days when the Council is entering a new phase in its relationships with the Orthodox Churches and a strong Orthodox voice is so crucial for this process."

Arch. Carey thanked Aram I for the beautiful ecumenical service and this meal and expressed his joy for coming to the Middle East and for being introduced to friends and to the Armenian community in Lebanon–by saying: "My colleagues and myself are honored by the enormously rich tradition of your Church and all the churches that participated in the prayer service. We are more honored by being with you this evening to share this meal with the first Christian nation of the world."

He concluded by stating his optimism for the renewed partnership between the Anglican Church and the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia and commended the commitment of Aram I in pursuing the initiation of the Oriental Orthodox-Anglican Communion Theological dialogue.

This historical visit was concluded by exchange of gifts between the two heads of the Churches.

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