Patriarch Mutafyan Arrives in New York

NEW YORK–His Beatitude Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan–the 84th Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul–arrived in the United States on the evening of Monday–September 27–to begin his first official visit to the country since his election as patriarch nearly a year ago–the Eastern Diocese reported Friday.

Among his activities during his two-week stay–the Patriarch will visit the Eastern and Western Dioceses of the Armenian Church of America to raise funds for the Istanbul Patriarchate’s humanitarian relief effort to the victims of the August 17 Marmara earthquake.

Upon his arrival–the Patriarch was met by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian–the Diocesan Primate–the visiting Archbishop Anania Arapajian–Primate of Armenia’s Gegharkouniatz diocese–Fr. Krikor Maksoudian and Berc Araz–chairman of the October 1 benefit concert scheduled for St. Vartan Cathedral.

On the following morning at the St. Vartan Cathedral Complex in New York City–the Patriarch was guest of honor at an ecumenical luncheon. About 30 prominent religious figures from throughout the area accepted the Primate’s invitation to meet Patriarch Mesrob–and to be briefed on the situation in Istanbul in the weeks after the earthquake.

After a short prayer service in the cathedral sanctuary–the group adjourned to the formal reception room for lunch. Patriarch Mesrob–who is fluent in English and holds a degree from the University of Memphis–led a lively discussion on the relief work being done in Istanbul. He remarked that–having consulted with experts on such matters–the best way charitable organizations could help the victims at this point was to provide waterproof–winterized tents–to house the many people who lost their dwellings in the disaster.

Formal greetings were also offered to the Patriarch by several of the visiting dignitaries. Roman Catholic Bishop Francisco Garmendia–representing John Cardinal O’Connor–read a message from the Cardinal welcoming the Patriarch to New York–and expressing his regret that health considerations kept him from the gathering.

Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church–Fr. Leonid Kishkovsky of the Orthodox Church of America–Rev. Nishan Bakalian and the Rev. James Park Morton were also among those offering formal messages.

Patriarch Mesrob appeared especially touched when several of the visiting clergymen made donations to the Patriarchate’s relief effort.

During his own commen’s Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation remarked on the large number of religious figures who had turned out for the occasion.

"The ecumenical movement is not quite as vital as it used to be," he said–"but it always seems to be the Armenian Diocese that somehow manages to bring so many of us together."

On the afternoon of Wednesday–September 29–members of the Diocesan clergy had an opportunity to meet the Patriarch during a similar function at the Diocesan Center. Later that same day–Patriarch Mesrob presided over a press roundtable with members of the Armenian media–where he fielded a number of questions on the upcoming catholicossal election at Holy Etchmiadzin. On the evening of Friday–October 1–he will preside over a benefit concert for earthquake relief at St. Vartan Cathedral.

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