On December 4, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians departed for the Diocese of Shirak, where he conducted the opening of the Youth Center in Gyumri. It is the eighth Youth Center now operating under the auspices of the Mother See and the Armenian General Benevolent Union. The center has been completely renovated and upgraded by the noble charity of Mrs. Sandra Shahinian-Leitner, USA.
His Holiness was accompanied by His Eminence Archbishop Nathan Hovhannisyan; Director of External Relations and Protocol Department of Mother See, His Grace Bishop Moushegh Babayan; Director of Administrative Office of the Mother See, His Grace Bishop Hovnan Hakobyan; Grand Sacristan of the Mother Cathedral and His Grace Bishop Vardan Navasardyan; Director of the Christian Education Center.
His Grace Bishop Mikael Ajapahyan; Primate of the Diocese of Shirak, Governor of Shirak Felix Tsolakyan; Mayor Samvel Balasanyan of Gyumri; and provincial and municipal government representatives greeted the Armenian Pontiff as he arrived in Gyumri.
Following the opening ceremony, His Holiness went to the St. Astvatsatsin or Yot Verk (Seven Wounds) Holy Church, where the clergymen prayed. His Holiness also visited the Diocesan Headquarters.
The students of the Youth center greeted His Holiness with the traditional welcome of salt and bread. Afterwards, His Holiness along with the Governor of Shirak and the Mayor of Gyumri, cut a red ribbon at the entrance to the facility. Then, under the presidency of His Grace Bishop Michael Ajapahyan, a blessing ceremony for the newly opened Youth center was offered, after which the Catholicos of All Armenians and the guests toured the Youth Center, visited the different groups operating in the facility, and talked with the children and the youth.
A program was held on this joyous occasion, in the auditorium of the Youth Center. The program was opened with the Lord’s Prayer, then opening remarks were made by Very Rev. Fr. Komitas Hovnanyan; Spiritual Dean of the Youth Centres of the Mother See, expressing his joy on the occasion of the opening of the Youth Center in Gyumri. He noted that the center will make an important contribution to childrens’ spiritual, national and educational needs. Father Komitas also expressed hope that in accordance with the vision of His Holiness, one day every homeland city and village will have such wonderful Youth Centers.
During the ceremony, Governor Tsolakyan and Mayor Balasanyan expressed their heart-felt feelings, stressing the importance of the opening of the Youth Center and expressing their confidance that it would become an important link in presenting the region’s cultural identity. The governor and mayor expressed their gratitude to His Holiness for offering such a valuable gift to Gyumri. They also presented gifts to the new institution.
His Grace Bishop Ajapahyan welcomed the visit of His Holiness to the Diocese of Shirak. Bishop Mikael presented the history of the establishment of the Youth Center. He expressed his gratitude to His Holiness, to the benefactor, and all the supporters, for completing the works on the facility. The Primate of the Diocese of Shirak congratulated the people of Gyumri, stressing that their dreams had came true, for which is deserving every child in Gyumri.
The ceremony was closed with the blessing remarks of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.
“We know that Gyumri is a gifted city: it has a unique flavor, taste and smell. And we are sure that this establishment will contribute to this”, said His Holiness stressing that he wishes to see this unique Youth Center of Gyumri filled with talented children. The Catholicos of All Armenians also his expressed joy that the Armenian Church will also be able to contribute to the education and upbringing of the children in Gyumri.
On this occasion the Armenian Patriarch offered his blessings to the Primate of the Diocese of Shirak. His Holiness expressed his appreciation to the provincial and municipal authorities for their friendly attitude towards the Armenian Church; and also expressed appreciation to the construction workers and the staff.
At the conclusion, offering his best wishes for the success of the Youth Center of Gyumri, the Catholicos of All Armenians prayed for the strength of the homeland, and for the welfare of the population of Gyumri and the Shirak province.
Following the remarks, concert performances were given by the Gyumri State Symphony Orchestra, under the artistic directorship of Yervand Varosyan; the Gyumri State Orchestra of Folk Instruments, under the artistic directorship of Art Honoree J. Kaghtsrikyan; and the “Armenian Ornaments” dance ensemble and theater group of the Youth Center.
During the visit, the Catholicos of All Armenians toured the St. Gregory the Illuminator Church to view the reconstruction process of the Cathedral.