BOSTON–His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenia’s began the New England leg of his pontifical visit to the US at a breakfast for ecumenical leaders being hosted by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, Sean Cardinal O’Malley. During the breakfast, Rev. Jack Johnson read to the assembled audience a resolution stating:
The Massachusetts Council of Churches unequivocally recognizes the Armenian Genocide, launched on April 24, 1915 and continued through 1923, which resulted in the annihilation of 1.5 million Armenia’s in Ottoman Turkey and the deportation of almost the entire Armenian population from its ancestral lands in Asia Minor. The Armenian Genocide marked the first modern instance of genocide conducted as a policy of state….
The Massachusetts Council of Churches resolves…
To resist and rebuke the deniers of genocide (whether these are criminally complicit; politically expedient; purveyors of pseudo-scholarship; or merely apathetic) in the certain knowledge that any denial of genocide will only encourage attempts of genocide in the future;
To remember the souls of those who perished in the horrors of the Armenian Genocide, and pray for the peace of those who survived; and to pray, most emphatically, that in the century just beginning, God will free humankind of the scourge of genocide once and for all;
The Massachusetts Council of Churches is comprised of seventeen Orthodox and Protestant Churches and has the participation of the Roman Catholic Church as an observer. The Rev. Jack Johnson, Executive Director of the Council, read the resolution before presenting it to Karekin II.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley welcomed the Catholicos, speaking of the fraternal love between the Roman Catholic and Armenian Churches, recalling the visit of several Armenian priests to his office when he was first appointed the Archbishop of Boston. In a solemn and moving moment, Cardinal O’Malley directly addressed Catholicos Karekin II and Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese, saying “I want to go on record as affirming my acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide and the suffering it has caused the Armenian people and make clear my support for your efforts to memorialize the Genocide here in Boston.”
The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority had given permission to construct an Armenian Genocide Memorial on the Greenway in Boston. However, at the eleventh-hour a proposal was made to thwart the effort.
The Catholicos, deeply moved by the support voiced by Sean Cardinal O’Malley, embraced him as a sign of warm affection. Much to the approval and smiles of all in attendance, the Catholicos ended the breakfast by presenting Cardinal O’Malley with an ornate, gold, Armenian Cross and inviting the Cardinal and the Rev. Jack Johnson to be his guests in Holy Etchmiadzin.
The Catholicos also visited the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston today to pay his respects, lay a wreath and pray for the victims of the Jewish Holocaust. The Catholicos of All Armenia’s was joined by: Rabi Moshe Waldoks, Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, Massachusetts; the New England Regional Director of the ADL, Andrew Tarsay; and Eastern Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian.
The Catholicos began his visit to the Holocaust Memorial by laying flowers at a shrine dedicated to the memory of Holocaust victims. Together with Waldoks he offered prayers for those who perished and petitioned that such crimes against humanity never again be perpetrated on any people. Both religious leaders expressed their concern that recognition, condemnation and prevention of such atrocities must be unequivocal, especially for the people of Darfur who are currently enduring a genocide.
The Catholicos listened intently as Waldoks described the meaning of each element of the Holocaust Memorial, recalling the significant contributions to humanity and culture that the Jewish people have made and how too often pogroms and intolerance marked their experience. The profound respect each man has for the other, and for their respective peoples, was demonstrated in the affection and respect they showed one another.
Upon the completion of the tour of the Holocaust Memorial His Holiness took the opportunity to thank Tarsay for his condemnation of those who refused to proclaim the Genocide of the Armenia’s, calling such conduct “morally indefensible.” The Catholicos also took time to thank the Immediate Past President of the American Jewish Committee, James D. Kaufman, for his contributions to the betterment of humanity.
“We are deeply honored that His Holiness Karekin II has come to pay his respects to Holocaust Victims here in Boston,” said Kaufman. “We deeply appreciate his demonstration of solidarity with us and in turn we want Him to know that we stand in solidarity with him and the Armenian people who suffered a cruel genocide of 1.5 million souls between 1915 to 1918.”
“Our two peoples share a common history of oppression, first at the hands of the Babylonians, then the Romans and throughout the ages. Even in recent decades we shared a history of oppression at the hands of the Soviet Union. The Armenia’s were subjugated to Soviet rule and the Jewish people suffered restrictions on the practice of their faith and freedom of movement. I am pleased to see the Armenian homeland free and re-established. I hope today’s events are just another step in the strong relationship between Armenia’s and Jews,” added Kaufman.
Karekin II began his pastoral visit to his flock in the United States with a visit to California and the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of America and continued his visit in the Eastern Diocese beginning two days later in New York. During the course of the Pontifical Visit, His Holiness Karekin II will visit 18 cities in 14 different states.