While on an official visit to Lebanon, His Excellency Serge Sarkissian, the President of the Republic of Armenia, and his wife visited Antelias. They were accompanied by the Foreign Minister and the Ministers of Education, Culture and Relations with the Diaspora. Upon their arrival, the band of HOMENETMEN played the Lebanese and Armenian national anthems and His Holiness Aram I greeted the guests at his residence. Catholicos Aram I, the President and the delegation went to the Chapel of the Martyrs of the Genocide; H.E. Serge Sarkissian placed a wreath, and His Holiness prayed for the souls of the one-and-a-half million victims of the Genocide.
After paying tribute to the martyrs, the Catholicos, the President and his delegation returned to the residence of the Catholicos where His Holiness and the President held a private meeting. After the meeting, the President, the First Lady and the delegation were invited to a reception, where they met members of the National Council of the Catholicosate, the clergy and representatives of civil society organizations of the Armenian community in Lebanon.
After the choir sang the anthem of the Catholicosate of Cilicia, His Holiness welcomed the guests and said, “The Catholicosate of Cilicia accompanied, organized and served its people; it became for the world the symbol of the Genocide planned and executed by Turkey; the Catholicosate of Cilicia became the expression of the journey of faith of the Armenian people, and its conscience by upholding our moral, cultural, and national values. The Catholicosate of Cilicia became the symbol of the Armenian Diaspora and the revival of our people. The Catholicosate of Cilicia remains the voice of our people demanding from Turkey justice for its crimes and restoration of their rights. The Catholicosate of Cilicia suffered with communist Armenia and now rejoices at Armenia’s recovery of its independence. The Catholicosate of Cilicia remains committed to working towards the prosperity of Armenia and Karabagh.”
At the end of his speech the Catholicos thanked the President for his visit, for raising the issue of Genocide and defending the rights of the Armenians who had been deported from Turkey and had their properties confiscated. As an expression of his appreciation, His Holiness Aram I decorated President Serge Sarkissian with the insignia “Cilicia Cross.” After thanking the Catholicos, the President said, “I strongly believe that Armenia and the Diaspora strengthen one another. Inspired by this conviction, I remain committed to strengthening both. The Armenian Communiy in Lebanon not only represents large numbers, it also embodies the aspirations and hopes of our people; the Catholicosate of Cilicia is more than a spiritual centre; it is the foundation and the source of inspiration for safeguarding Armenian identity.
The visit of the President and his delegation ended with a special Thanksgiving Service at St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Antelias.