TABRIZ–Iran–For the first time in the history of the annual pilgrimage to St. Thaddeus Monastery located in the historic region of Ardaz at the Iranian-Turkish border–a Catholiocs–His Holiness Aram I of the Holy See of Cilicia–led the procession to the historic site Saturday as thousands of parishioners and community leaders followed.
The Catholicos and his entourage arrived in Tabriz Friday and joined the thousands who make the historic pilgrimage each year as a spiritual journey. Those who had arrived and set up camp on the hills surrounding the St. Thaddeus Monastery came in droves to greet the pontiff who was welcomed by the Catholicosate Locum Tenens and the Prelate of Tabriz Bishop Nshan Topouzian.
Aram I commended the crowd of parishioners for making the long journey to the monastery and praised their belief and values which had brought them together. Following his remarks the community had the opportunity to visit the Catholicos after which a cultural program followed.
The evening festivities closed with a solemn vigil in preparation for the weekend-long spiritual experience.
Early Saturday morning at 8–the parishioners filled the monastery and its environs for the commencement of Mass officiated by Catholicos Aram I and his entourage of religious leaders at 10:15 a.m.
During his sermon–the Catholicos highlighted the Christ-like mission of the apostles–especially St. Thaddeus who illuminated Armenia and the Armenian nation with his belief and conviction.
He emphasized St. Thaddeus’ legacy–which today could be translated into the struggles in Karabakh and Armenia.
Following the Mass and sermon–a special water blessing took place–after which each parishioner was also blessed by the Catholicos.
A special luncheon took place in honor of the Catholicos–during which the pontiff praised Bishop Topouzian and the Prelacy Executive Council for the organization of the pilgrimage.
The Catholicos and his entourage returned to Tabriz in the evening and on Sunday–morning left for St. Stephen’s monastery on the banks of the Arax River facing Nakhichevan.
A Mass was celebrated at the monastery–following which the Catholicos and his entourage visited an Armenian cemetery at the tributary of the Arax and Dghmoud rivers as well as other historic Armenian sites.
The Catholicos and his entourage left for Tehran that evening.