Chirac Awards Karekin II with Legion of Honor

PARIS (Gamk)–Upon the invitation of the French Diocese–His Holiness Karekin II–Catholicos of All Armenia’s arrived in Paris on December 6–accompanied by Archbishop Shahe Ajemian–Archbishop Navasard Kjoyan and scepter-bearer–Deacon Vazken Nanian. The religious delegation was met at the French airport by Paris primate Archbishop Gyut Nakashian–Ambassador of Armenia to France Eduard Nalbandian and other community members.

Together with Karekin II–the First Lady of Armenia Bella Kocharian arrived in Paris as well–to sponsor a unique concert organized by the French-Armenian Blue Cross [Armenian Relief Society] to raise money for the Armenian Bone Marrow Fund. This was the first event organized by the Armenian Bone Marrow fund to take place in Europe.

On the day on his arrival to Paris–Karekin II visited the St. Hovannes-Mkrtich Church–where he was greeted by Archbishop Gyut Nakashian. The Catholicos of All Armenia’s conveyed Armenia’s and Karabakh’s warmest greetings to the Armenian community of France–mentioning the 1700th anniversary celebrations and other events.

The highest point of the Catholicos’ visit was the ceremony which took place in the presidential palace where the President of France Jacques Chirac–awarded the title of Legion of Honor Commander to Catholicos Karekin II. Although the title features three degrees–Knight–Officer and Commander–which are awarded one by one–Chirac made an exception and awarded Karekin II with the highest title of Commander. French Diocese primate Archbishop Gyut Nakashian–who previously bore the titles of Knight and Officer–received the title of Legion of Honor Commander also.

Representatives of Armenian organizations from different regions of France and 300 other guests from various countries attended the ceremony. Karekin II–who met with Frence’s Foreign Minister earlier that day–arrived to presidential palace in the afternoon where he met with French President Chirac before the ceremony.

Upon the arrival of the guests–the French President–remembered the story of Noah’s Arc–and said that Noah landed in a legendary country with beautiful flowers and landscape–and it was like the Armenia’s decided to settle on God’s garden. However–what the Armenian people found there later–was torture–disasters and genocide–which–nonetheless–could not kill the Armenian spirit. Chirac mentioned that the adoption of Christianity 1700 years ago greatly impacted to formation of the Armenian people’s identity. Chirac indicated the huge number of Armenian churches worldwide and mentioned the famous Ani Church was his favorite.

Chirac was also grateful to the French Armenia’s for their contributions to France–and President Chirac also stated that France was ready to assist in finding the peaceful resolution to the Karabakh conflict within the frameworks of OSCE Minsk group.

Later on–Jacques Chirac presented the biographies of the honorees and awarded them with the title of Legion of Honor.

Karekin II message was read in French by Archbishop Shahe Ajemian–where he thanked the French government for recognizing the Armenian Genocide and pointed out that Armenia was willing to establish good relations with all its neighboring countries. The Catholicos also expressed his gratitude for the award he received and concluded his message by saying–"God Bless France."

Archbishop Gyut Nakashian delivered a speech of gratitude as well–which was followed by a fancy reception party featuring numerous French politicians and other honored guests.

Karekin II remembered the victims of the 1988 Spitak earthquake–on December 7–in the Paris Diocese. Karekin II also visited regions where French Armenia’s mostly reside–such as Arnouville-Mormorans–Alforville–Issy Les Moulinous and Chaille–and met with community representatives and political officials from those cities.

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