Catholicos Aram I Arrives in Los Angeles to Begin Historic US Visit

His Holiness Greeted by Large Crowds at St. Garabed Church in Hollywood

LOS ANGELES–"We must live with moral values and have a purpose-driven life," declared His Holiness Aram I–Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church–upon his arrival in Los Angeles on Wednesday–October 5. Greeted by large crowds who had gathered at St. Garabed Church in Hollywood for the official welcoming and "Hrashapar" service–his arrival marked the beginning of a historic visit to the United States–starting in California–where His Holiness will be meeting with the community and various public officials throughout the state. Prior to his arrival at St.Garabed Church–His Holiness met with California State Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi where the two discussed several issues including recent insurance settlemen’s for victims of the Armenian Genocide.

The Catholicos’ motorcade with full dignitary police escorts arrived at St. Garabed Church in the early evening where the city had closed off the entire street to accommodate the overflowing crowds. The Prelates of both the Western Prelacy–Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian–and the Eastern Prelacy–Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan–accompanied the Catholicos. The arrival ceremony began with the Homenetmen’scouts marching band playing the US–Armenian–and Cilician anthems while additional scouts–students from various Armenian schools–members of the community–and residents of the area lined the streets. Also covering the arrival were media including the Los Angeles Times and several local TV stations.

At the beginning of the procession were Armenian clergy from throughout the Los Angeles area and California as well as some from the eastern US–including Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of the Western Diocese and a representative of Cardinal Mahoney of the Catholic Church. At the entrance of the church a welcoming ceremony was performed with the traditional blessing of bread and salt–the release of white doves and presentation of a bouquet of flowers to His Holiness. Also on hand were various community organization representatives and public officials. To accommodate the overflowing crowds–a large screen was mounted outside the church showing the live video feed of the procession into the church as well as the services inside.

After the initial services–Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian introduced His Holiness during which he said–"Your presence with us today–Your Holiness–shows the strong bridge that binds us with the Great House of Cilicia and the Holy Catholicosate. This is a bond that is based on faithfulness and strong collaboration." The Archbishop went on to stress that this historic visit of His Holiness will help recommit the community to the devoted service to our faithful people and our homeland.

His Holiness Aram I then thanked God for the opportunity to again be with his flock and stated that "a shepherd is strengthened by his flock and the flock is strengthened by its shepherd." He then blessed all the clergy and faithful who were present as well as all the community organizations and people who had worked to make this trip possible. "Today I want to emphasize key values and principles," said His Holiness. "My message is that you must strengthen your belief–deepen and strengthen your faithfulness and reinforce our unity. We must live with moral values and have a purpose-driven life."

His Holiness has a very busy itinerary which includes many different community events–gatherings and meetings with representatives of church bodies and community organizations. As part of his broader mission–His Holiness will also be meeting with dozens of local–state and federal level public officials and conducting interviews with the mass media including TV–radio and newspapers throughout Los Angeles and California. His Holiness will give a major speech before the World Affairs Council on October 14 entitled "Christianity and the Middle East" and preside over a symposium at the University of Southern California on October 15.

As part of his first full day’s events on October 6–His Holiness had several meetings with members of the clergy–Church committees and community organizations including the Armenian Revolutionary Federation’s western region central committee–the regional executives of the Armenian Relief Society and the Homenetmen. His Holiness also had a luncheon with the organizing committee for the Los Angeles visit. His main message was "that whatever we do for God–for the Church–for the nation and the homeland we must do with belief and devotion so that we are successful." His Holiness conducted interviews with the mass media including the Los Angeles Times and a live appearance on KPCC-FM’s "Talk of the City" show with Kitty Felde. In the evening he presided over the Homenetmen Glendale "Ararat" chapter’s celebration of the Armenian alphabet.

In the coming few days he will meet with Armenian school students–pay respects at the Armenian Genocide monument in Montebello–and bless the new Western Prelacy building in La Cresenta on Saturday–October 8. There also will be a Pontifical Holy High Mass at St. Mary’s Armenian Church in Glendale as well as a Pontifical banquet in his honor on Sunday–October 9.

Giving the trip special meaning this time is the fact that it will mark the 10th anniversary of His Holiness’ election to Catholicos. It also coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Antelias Seminary–the 1600th anniversary of the Armenian alphabet–and the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

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