Catholicos Karekin I Passes Away

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–His Holiness Karekin I–Catholicos of All Armenia’s passed away Tuesday–at 5:50 p.m. local time–after a long battle with cancer–sending the entire Armenian nation into mourning. He was 67.

The Holy See of Etchmiadzin issued an announcement Tuesday evening. announcing a 4-day national mourning period for the Catholicos.

Also on Tuesday–President Robert Kocharian announced the formation of a governmental commission to oversee funeral preparation. A religious committee has also been formed to work in conjunction with the governmental commission.

Below is the text of the announcement from the Holy See of Etchmiadzin.

"It is with deep regret and sorrow that we announce the passing of Catholicos of All Armenia’s Karekin I–which occurred at his residence in the Mother See of St. Etchmiadzin on Tuesday–June 29–at 5:50 p.m. local time–at the age of 67–following a long illness.

"The 131st Catholicos of All Armenia’s ascended to the Throne of the Gregory the Illuminator See on April 4–1995–through the election of the National Ecclesiastical Council–after having served 18 years as the Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia.

"His tenure as Catholicos of All Armenia’s was marked by reforms of the Diocesan structures in Armenia and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Similarly–churches and cathedrals in poor condition were repaired and new ones were built–among which was the Cathedral of St. Mesrob Mashdots in Oshagan–which now serves as one of the most important cultural and religious center in Armenia. The publishing activities of the Holy See of St. Etchmiadzin were very fruitful. Theological and works on armenology–including numerous books and works by His Holiness–himself–were published. On the threshold of the 1700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as a state religion in Armenia–the Kremlin–the Vatican and other venues around the world hosted exhibitions boasting 1,700 years of Christianity. Scientific conferences and pilgrimages to religious monumen’s in Armenia were organized. Social development programs aimed at overcoming economic difficulties in Armenia and Karabakh were undertaken. Utilizing his high profile within international religious circles– Karekin I made ecumenical ties with other denominations even stronger–paying frequent pastoral visits. He comforted and blessed faithful both in the homeland and the Diaspora.

"His Holiness was an honorary member of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia. As a prominent scientist–Karekin I was awarded honorary doctoral degrees at a number of academies and universities of the world.

"Moved by the love and mercy our people have displayed toward the Catholicos–the Congregation of the Mother See of St. Etchmiadzin is praying to the Holy Spirit to comfort the entire Armenian nation. The Congregation and the Supreme Ecclesiastic Council announced a 40-day mourning for Karekin I.

Karekin I’s Life And Activities

His Holiness Catholicos of All Armenia’s Karekin I (nee Nshan Sargssian) was born in Kessab–Syria on August 27–1932. He received his elementary education at a school in his native village–after which he continued his education at the monastery of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia (1946). There he was ordained a Deacon.

After vowing celibacy in 1952–he was given the name of Right Rev. Karekin and was admitted to the Union of the Cilician Congregation. In 1955–His Holiness was awarded the degree of Archimandrite. A year later he became director of the Monastary in Antellias–Lebanon.

In 1957-1959–Right. Rev. Karekin continued his studies at Oxford University–where he received higher theological education and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Literature.

In 1964–Karekin was ordained Bishop–and in 1973 was ascended to the rank of Archbishop.

In 1971-1973–Bishop Karekin became the Prelate of Isfahan.

In 1973-1977–Archbishop Karekin left for the United States where he served as the Prelate of the Eastern and Canada churches.

In 1977–while a Vicar General of Catholicos Khoren I–he was elected Locum Tenens of the Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia. In 1983–he was elected Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia Karekin II.

On April 4–1995–the National Ecclesiastical Council elected His Holiness Karekin II–Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia–Catholicos of All Armenia’s Karekin I.

His Holiness paid official visits to Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia His Holiness Alexey II (1995); Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church His Holiness Theokitis (1995); Catholicos-Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church Illya II (1995); Pope John-Paul II (1996); Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople His Holiness Bartholomew I (1996); Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey (1997); Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church His Holiness Shnuda II (1998). He also visited the Center of the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

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