BEVERLY HILLS–A banquet honoring the Pontifical visit of His Holiness Karekin II–Catholicos of All Armenia’s–to the Western Diocese–was held on June 4 at the Beverly Hills Century Plaza Hotel–where the faithful–along with government officials–benefactors–official delegates–and clergy gathered to greet the spiritual leader.
Following dinner–LA Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich welcomed and congratulated the Catholicos for his diligent efforts.
A video presentation about the Holy See of Etchmiadzin outlined the recent increase in the number of ordained clergy–the numerous construction projects throughout Armenia’spearheaded by the Catholicos–as well as the assistance provided to the people of Armenia through the sponsorship of the Mother See.
Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America–His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian officially welcomed the Catholicos of All Armenia’s. His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian–Primate of the Western Diocese extended heartfelt greetings to His Holiness Karekin II on behalf of the Diocesan Council–the clergy and the faithful. He conveyed to the Catholicos his filial love and appreciation for his vigor and enthusiasm–which have been responsible for the revitalization and strengthening of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin during the past several years. His Eminence stressed the extent of expansion of the Mother See and affirmed his full support to Vehapar–for the prosperity of the Armenian Apostolic Church–the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the Western Diocese.
His Eminence then invited to the podium His Holiness Karekin II to address the guests. His Holiness began by expressing his sincere love towards the faithful of the Western Diocese. He continued by conveying his appreciation for the capable leadership–devotion and service of His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian in the Western Diocese. Catholicos Karekin II urged the faithful to stay firm in their commitment to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin–the Armenian Apostolic Church and Motherland Armenia. The Pontiff also expressed his joy in being present in the Western Diocese and extended his gratitude for the work and dedication put forth by the Diocese.
The following morning–His Holiness celebrated Pontifical Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Led by a vast procession of Archbishops–Bishops–diocesan clergy–deacons and ecumenical guests–His Holiness made his official entry into the Cathedral under the "Amphovani," the traditional umbrella of the Catholicos. As he proceeded to the Altar–His Holiness blessed the faithful who had filled the Cathedral to capacity.
Assisting His Holiness during the Divine Liturgy–were His Eminences Archbishop Hovnan Derderian and Archbishop Khajag Barsamian. Archpriest Fr. Manoug Markarian–Pastor of St. John Garabed Armenian Church in Hollywood. The United Armenian Central Choir of the Western Diocese sang the Liturgy–directed by Deacon Stepan Gozumian and accompanied by Dr. Ronald Sinanian on the organ.
His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian welcomed the Catholicos. "His Holiness Karekin II is the spiritual leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the nation. Since his election to the throne of St. Gregory the illuminator in 1999 the Armenian Church has become a dominant presence in the life of the Armenia’s both in Armenia and the Diaspora. It is time for the Church of Armenia to recuperate from the loss of the dark era of the Soviet Union and to radiate the Light of God from the hearts of Armenia’s in Armenian and in our communities," he said during the liturgy.
Some of the guests in attendance were Cardinal Roger Mahony–Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles; Fr. Alexei Smith–Director of the Ecumenical & Interreligious Office–Archdiocese of LA; Rt. Rev. Bishop Oscar Solis–representing the Cardinal; Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno–Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles; Fr. John Bakas–Dean of St. Sophia Cathedral; Rabbi Mark Diamond–Board of Rabbis; Rev. Paul Lance and Dr. Rod Parrott–Southern California Ecumenical Council; Rev. Dr. Lloyd Saatjian–Representing Bishop Swenson of the United Methodist Church; Fr. Sabu Thomas–St. Mary’s Syrian Orthodox Church; Rev. Sally Welch–Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Rev. Protopresbyter Efstathios V. Mylonas–Ph.D.–Saint Anthony Greek Orthodox Church; Minister Joe Matossian; Fr. Andon Noradoungian–representing the Armenian Catholic community; Rev. Dagmar Grefe–Chaplain of the Children’s Hospital LA; Fr. Athanasius–Coptic Orthodox Church–Governor George Deukmejian–Supervisor Michael Antonovich–Glendale City Mayor Rafi Manoukian–and Consul General of Armenia Gagik Kirakossian.
In his Pontifical Sermon the Catholicos urged the faithful to renew and reawaken within them the Christian faith and the love towards the Armenian Apostolic Church–as Armenia’s celebrate together the 1600th anniversary of the creation of the Armenian alphabet. He continued–"The ills and difficulties of Armenia and the Armenian Apostolic Church will disappear when we are connected in Christ."
On this auspicious occasion–in appreciation of the hard work–unrelenting devotion–and dedication of His Eminence Archbishop Derderian–His Holiness presented him a "Banagia," the official symbol of the rank of Archbishop. In celebration of the 1600th anniversary of the alphabet–the "Banagia" is adorned with the original 36 Armenian letters.
His Holiness also gave a cross to Cardinal Roger Mahony expressing his gratitude for allowing the Western Diocese the use of the Cathedral.
Following the Sermon His Holiness Karekin II–as well as the high-raking clergy participating in the Liturgy and over 25 clergy–administered Holy Communion to the faithful.