FRESNO—“The Fresno Armenian Community is one of the oldest Armenian communities established in the United States and has been extremely instrumental in keeping age old Armenian traditions, connections to the Christian faith, and deep rooted ties to the Great House of Cilicia, and is therefore worthy of high praise; that will remain strong today and tomorrow” declared His Holiness Aram I, the Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia at a Banquet on Saturday evening as he continued pontifical visit.
The Catholicos’ fourth Pontifical visit to the Western US kicked off on Thursday and will last until October 23.
Arriving in Fresno on Saturday evening, the Catholicos and his entourage were met in front of the church steps by parishioners including Board of Trustees members, Deacons and Choir members of the church, and parishioners. Accompanying the Catholicos were Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Eastern Prelate Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Staff Bearer Very Rev. Mesrob Sarkissian, and Central Executive and Executive Council members.
The Catholicos and the procession entered into the church with the Choir singing the “Hrashapar”, where a canonical prayer was conducted. His Holiness Aram I and entourage then went on to the Church Social Hall for a special banquet held in his honor. All those in attendance were delighted to receive as a gift the most recent book written by His Holiness Aram I, “Taking the Church to the People” that was published only last week by the Western Prelacy. During the banquet, Deacon Mark Shirin introduced the book and gave a short synopsis of the book.
Archbishop Mardirossian welcomed everyone and reminded the guests that the theme of this Pontifical Visit is “With Faith We Build” and that this year had been declared as the “Year of the Armenian Child.” His Eminence then invited His Holiness Aram I to deliver his Pontifical Message.
The Catholicos prefaced by commenting on the immense historical value of the Fresno Armenian Community and its impact on our age old Armenian traditions, connections to our Christian faith and deep rooted ties to the Great House of Cilicia and said that the focal point of his message is based on three words, Community, Values, and Identity. His Holiness explained that by belonging to a larger community and by participating and giving in a community, one receives a sense of value. We would not have communities if we and our children do not participate in it. He also discussed Christianity in the context of humanity and sense of national identity. Lastly, His Holiness outlined that keeping our identity, specifically our Armenian identity, is so crucial and extremely important that we are obligated to pass on from generation to generation.
During the Banquet, the cultural program included several traditional dances and a recitation. The banquet ended with the singing of the Cilician anthem.
Divine Liturgy and Pontifical Message at Holy Trinity Church
October 9 will be remembered as a historic day for the Fresno Armenian Community and specifically for the Holy Trinity Church family.
On that day, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, celebrated Divine Liturgy in the historic church and delivered his Pontifical message to parishioners.
His Holiness was greeted by the Deacons and the Choir of the church at the footsteps of the church. Also, greeting the pontiff were the Homenetmen Scouts of the Sassoon Chapter.
During the extraordinary and beautiful Liturgy, the students of the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church sang the “Christos Ee Mech.”
In his pontifical message the Catholicos spoke about the importance of having faith. He added that only by believing in our Lord Jesus Christ can one be a true Christian. Having faith brings a sense of peace and strength to humanity. The Catholicos explained that being a true Christian does not necessarily mean to simply follow Bible studies but to actually live the Christian life. One must apply the meanings in the Bible and apply them in one’s own personal life. Doing this also means that one must participate in the church and by doing so, the Church brings meaning to our lives and our children’s lives. His Holiness concluded by urging the faithful to demonstrate their faith and commitment by actively participating in Church life.
Meeting with Sunday School Students
After the Divine Liturgy, His Holiness Aram I went to greet and speak to the Sunday school children, who had been anxiously waiting for him. The children and many of their parents as well warmly greeted His Holiness. Board member Michael Sarabian delivered his welcoming remarks and introduced Mrs. Sato Sanikian, who also gave her welcoming remarks. Sunday School students Nareg Apkarian and Gohar Sanikian welcomed His Holiness both in Armenian and English.
His Holiness Aram I spoke to the children and encouraged them to lead a Christian life. He then gave the children an opportunity to ask him a number of questions which he answered in a very endearing manner.
On Monday morning, the Catholicos and his entourage visited Ararat Cemetery.
The visit began with welcoming remarks delivered by the directors of the cemetery. The tour started at the grave of the Unknown Armenian Martyr, whose remains were brought from Der Zor and buried at the cemetery. At this site, requiem hymns and the Lord’s Prayer were sung. The visit continued to the gravesites of Levon and Sophia Hagopian, William Saroyan, and other church clergy and individuals who made a significant contribution to the Fresno Armenian Community.
The Catholicos was then escorted to the monument dedicated to the Armenian hero Soghomon Tehlirian.
“Our presence here, in front of the Soghomon Tehlirian Monument, signifies that the Armenian people will continue to demand justice for the Genocide committed against the Armenian people by the Turks in the beginning of the 20th century,” said the Catholicos adding that Soghomon Tehlirian’s name is a symbol and we need to remember it and teach it to our children not only for justice to be served but also for injustice towards humanity to cease.
The next stop was at Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School, where the students, administrators, and teachers enthusiastically greeted His Holiness. The school band beautifully played the Armenian national anthem. Inside the school hall, students, school officials and teachers, many parents and faithful had gathered for the opportunity to see and hear the Catholicos. Board President Dr. Vache Vassilian and Principal Zar Der Mugrdechian gave their welcoming remarks to His Holiness. The students then sang several songs that delighted all those present. His Holiness expressed to the children how delighted he was that all the children were in this Armenian school and learning our Armenian language.
A number of questions were directed to the Catholicos who answered all the questions with sincerity and humor.