TEHRAN–His Holiness Aram I–Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia arrived in Tehran Wednesday–where he was greeted by leaders and officials. The pontiff is visiting Iran as part of celebrations marking the 1700th anniversary of Armenia’s adoption of Christianity as a state religion.
Greeting the Catholicos at Tehran’s international airport were representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hojatoleslam Nomani–the vice-chairman of the Iranian Cultural and Communications Organization; Prelate of Tehran Bishop Sebouh Sarkissian; Prelate of Isfahan Archbishop Goriun Babian; Prelate of Iranian-Azerbaijan Right Rev. Nshan Topouzian; Armenia’s Ambassador to Iran Gegham Gharibjanian and the embassy staff; Lebanon’s Ambassador to Iran Adnan Mansour; member of the Catholicosate Central Executive Council Tatul Ohanian; Iranian parliament deputies Dr. Levon Davtian and Jorjik Abrahamian; Prelacy Executive Council members–community organizational representatives and representatives of the Alik newspaper.
Upon arriving in Tehran–the Catholicos expressed his greeting to Iran’s religious leader Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Khamenei–the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Khatami–the prelates and the entire Armenian community of Iran.
The Catholicos also discussed in length the close ties between Iran and Lebanon–specifically mentioning Iran’s role in Lebanon’s resistance in South Lebanon.
Aram I–made specific mention of the centuries-old relations between Iran and Armenia–emphasizing the need for practical expression of those relations. He also discussed the fruitful relations enjoyed between Iran and the Catholicosate of the Holy See of Cilicia–and further outlining the importance of spiritual and moral values within society.
In response to the Catholicos’ remarks–Hoj. Nomani thanked Aram I for his visit and praised his leadership both as Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia and as chairman of the World Council of Churches.
He stressed the respect the Iranian government and the people of Iran hold toward the Armenian community in that country–viewing it as one of the pillars of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In conclusion–Nomani pledged the government’s support to the Iranian-Armenian community and to the further strengthening of relations between Iran and the Holy See of Cilicia.
The Catholicos and his entourage–which includes the Prelate of Canada Bishop Khajag Hagopian and the Catholicos’ Scepter Bearer Very Rev. Mashdots Chobanian–went to the St. Sarkis Church in the heart of Tehran where hundreds awaited the pontiff’s arrival.
Following the Mass–the Catholicos delivered a moving sermon–in which he highlighted the importance of commitment to spiritual values–praising the community for its role in the advancement of Iran.
At the courtyard of St. Sarkis church–Aram I laid a wreath at a monument in memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide and proceeded to the large auditorium–where he met with community members and parishioners.
On Wednesday evening–a banquet was held at the pontiff’s honor–where Aram I stressed the importance of service to one’s nation.
During his visit to Iran–the Catholicos will visit all the prelacies in that country and he will lead a pilgrimage to the St. Thaddeus and St. Stephens monasteries–as part of celebrations marking the 1700th anniversary.