Announcement Made During Catholicos Aram I’s Visit to Fresno City Hall
LOS ANGELES–Fresno Mayor Alan Autry announced this week his commitment to build a monument in the near future dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Armenian genocide. The announcement was made during the Fresno visit of His Holiness Aram I–Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia. A large group of representatives from the Fresno Armenian American community were present to meet the Pontiff.
The Genocide Monument planned for Fresno is yet another step toward justice and proper recognition of the 1915 Genocide committed against the Armenian people by the Ottoman Turkish government. It comes on the heels of several recent developmen’s on this issue including the passage of two resolutions recognizing the Genocide in the US Congress’ House International Relations Committee as well as the recent resolution passed by the European Union calling for Turkey to recognize the Genocide prior to being considered for admission into the union.
His Holiness Aram I visited Fresno October 10-12 beginning his visit with "Hrashapar" service and an official welcome at Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church–the first Armenian Church established in the western United States 104 years ago. At the service–His Holiness proclaimed that–"faith–hope–and love give meaning to our lives; these are the cornerstones of our communities without which we would become weak and meager."
While in Fresno–His Holiness also visited City Hall–where he conducted an opening prayer at a city council session. During the council session–Mayor Alan Autry offered His Holiness the symbolic key to the city. After receiving the key–His Holiness said–"my hope is that this key will also unlock the hearts of all the various cultures so that we may share and work together to build stronger and closer communities living together in peaceful coexistence." The Pontiff said that the United States is the leading example of the realization of this possibility.
The Catholicos had a very busy schedule in Fresno that included visits with the students–administration–and parents of the Armenian Community School of Fresno on October 11 where the Pontiff stressed the critical role that Armenian schools play in preserving our culture and identity as well as imparting our traditions and values. He also highlighted that the development of Armenian schools is an important part of the Catholicosate’s mission.
Later in the day–His Holiness attended a reception and gave a speech at Fresno Pacific University that received coverage on local TV stations and in the Fresno Bee. The speech focused on the diversity of cultures that coexist in the United States as a model. His Holiness also brought forth the example of intolerance and how that manifested itself in the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turkish government. Stressing that the US has always stood for tolerance–human rights–and justice–he said "the US Congress must recognize the Armenian genocide and thereby demand justice for this crime against humanity."
In his speech His Holiness discussed the state of Christianity in the Middle East using the Armenian experience and the Armenian genocide as an example of what can happen when the idea of peaceful coexistence of different cultures and religions is shattered. He also outlined the dynamic role of the church in Middle Eastern societies–where it pursues matters of politics–justice–peace–and human rights as well as imparting human and family values. "The church is not merely a static building," said His Holiness Aram I. "The mission of the church must go beyond its physical walls–it must be integrated with the daily life of the people."
On the evening of October 11–the Fresno community held a pontifical banquet with over 500 people in attendance including Fresno City Council members and clergy from the Armenian Diocese Church as well as the Armenian Evangelical Church. In addition to his remarks regarding the importance of living with spiritual and moral values–His Holiness focused his remarks on the importance of making our youth a focal point in the life of the community. Using the Seminary in Antelias as an example–His Holiness discussed how the Catholicosate has a similar focus on preparing the next generation of leaders.
During the last leg of his Fresno visit–His Holiness also performed a traditional "Antasdan" ceremony at a farm owned by a member of the Fresno Armenian community after which he visited with clergy of the First Armenian Presbyterian Church and Armenian Evangelical clergy. He also took time to visit the California Armenian Home–a center that cares for senior citizens. After returning to Los Angeles on October 12–His Holiness also visited the Ararat Home where he spent some time with Armenian senior citizens from the Los Angeles area. At both elderly care centers His Holiness declared–"This is our nation’s house and as our parents we respect you for all that you have done for us and owe you a great debt of gratitude."