On February 25, the Feast Day of St. Ghevond the Priest and his Companions, under the presidency of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, the annual Clergy Conference was held in Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. Present at the meeting were the Bishops and Priests of the Brotherhood of the Mother See, Primates of Armenian Dioceses and over 220 spiritual servants from the Mother See and the Dioceses.
In the morning, under the presidency of the Catholicos of All Armenians, the clergymen attended the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the Mother Cathedral. The celebrant was Rev. Fr. Nshan Sargsyan, Parish Priest at the churches St. Sarkis of Sevan in Tsaghkunk and St. Gevorg in Tsamakaberd. During the Liturgy Father Nshan delivered his sermon, reflecting on the importance of the message of the feast in the lives of the Armenian people. “St. Ghevond the Priest and his
Companions proved that it is possible to be as Christ, following the command to be perfect like Our Heavenly Father. Through their sacrifice they taught us how to love our country, love our Mother Church bought with Christ’s blood and established by the Apostles, and love our suffering and victorious people. The message of St. Ghevond and his Companions is eternal. It has always guided us throughout history and today is the guarantee of our triumphs just as our triumph in the last century in historical Artsakh, and continues to guide us up until the present day”. Following the Divine Liturgy, the annual Clergy Conference was convened in the Events Auditorium of the Gevorkian Theological Seminary Building. The discussion topics were “The Importance of Sunday Schools in Community Life” and “Role of the Priest’s Wife in Pastoral Service”. The conference was opened by the organizer of the meeting His Eminence Archbishop Mikael Ajapahyan, Primate of the Shirak Diocese.
Extending his blessings to the clergymen, the Catholicos of All Armenians offered his congratulations and best wishes to them on the occasion of the feast. “We praise God that under the guidance of the diocesan leaders each year a reflection is held on the ongoing problems in the church life in an environment of prayer, love and brotherhood. The solutions to those
problems are crucial and essential in making spiritual service more productive. Our Church is facing many difficulties and hardships, and today, this an occasion and opportunity for all of us to reveal them”. The Catholicos of All Armenians expressed his appreciation to the diocesan leaders and all the clergymen who carry out their mission with devotion and commitment within the national life. His Holiness Karekin II extended his prayers to God for the fruitful developments of the conference, wishing vibrancy and successful service to the clergy.
Over the course of the meeting presenting their reports were Very Rev. Fr. Vardan Navasardyan, Director of the Christian Education Centre of the Mother See; and Rev. Fr. Karekin Arsenyan from the Diocese of Aragatsotn.
At the conclusion of the discussions the role and importance of Sunday schools in community life was highlighted. The spiritual servants of the dioceses expressed their concerns regarding problems with the activities in the Sunday schools. The conference members noted the importance of establishing Sunday schools in all the communities, which would promote the development of religious knowledge among the children and forge a moral life.
Reflecting on the important role of the priests’ wife (Yeretsgin) in making the pastoral service more prepared, a call was made for the involvement of the Yeretsgin in community life. As an example they presented the “Light to Children” (Luys Mankanc) project for Sunday schools in the Aragatsotn Diocese, where the diocesan Yeretsgins actively participate in the religious education of the children. During the conference a decision was made to organize annual meetings for the Yeretsgins, starting on April 7, to be held in the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, which will contribute to integrating them into the pastoral life of the communities.
Following the conference the annual traditional award ceremony was held. On this occasion the Catholicos of All Armenians granted the “St. Nerses the Graceful” medal to Rev. Fr. Karapet Glchyan on the occasion of his service of 50 years in the priesthood and 20 year of spiritual service in the Armenian detention facilities. By Pontifical Encyclical, the Catholicos of All Armenians granted the right and honour to wear the flowered cope to Rev. Fr. Daniel Baghumyan from the Araratian Pontifical Diocese; Rev. Fr. Zakaria Avetisyan, Rev. Fr. Vardan Gapoyan, Rev. Fr. Yesai Artenyan, Rev. Fr. Anushavan Koshetsyan, and Rev. Fr. Mkrtich Mushadyan from the Armavir Diocese; Rev. Fr. Barsegh Andryan from the Artsakh Diocese; Rev. Fr. Vahan Azaryan and Rev. Fr. Stepanos Margaryan from the Gugark Diocese; Rev. Fr. Husik Harutyunyan from the Diocese of Georgia; Rev. Fr. Narek Ghushchyan; and Rev. Fr. Samvel Torosyan. His Holiness granted the right to wear pectoral crosses to Rev. Fr. Gabriel Vardanyan and Ghevond Tyomkin from the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin; Rev. Fr. Yenovk Yesayan and Rev. Fr. Samuel Sargsyan from the Armenian Armed Forces Chaplaincy; Rev. Fr. Tiratur Hakobyan from the Gegharkunik Diocese; Rev. Fr. Rafayel Khachikyan from the Syunik Diocese; Rev. Fr. Harutyun Petrosyan from the Shirak Diocese; Rev. Fr. Gnel Gabrielyan; Rev. Fr. Aygik Hovhannisyan; and Rev. Fr.Hrach Pilijin from the Diocese of Germany; Rev. Fr. Hetum Tarverdyan from the Diocese of Romania; and Rev. Fr. Hrach Muradyan from the Diocese of Bulgaria.
At the conclusion of the awards ceremony, the Catholicos of All Armenians addressed the clergymen with his pontifical message. “Today all the opportunities are present for us to teach our people how to live with true Christian values, nurturing and educating them with that value system.
Therefore devotion, a committed spirit and understanding of sacrifice are required: those words portray our mission and should always guide our spiritual servants. We are positive that through united efforts we will be able to keep our people in our fathers’ sacred faith, national traditions, church bylaws and canons”, noted His Holiness Karekin II.
The Catholicos of All Armenians reflected with appreciation that today even in the most difficult and conflicting circumstances the clergymen humbly bring their devoted service to the people with great commitment and deprivation. Bringing his blessings to the clergymen of the Armenian Church, His Holiness Karekin II urged them to continue their God- sent mission inspired by the message of the feast, and commit themselves with bravery and fervour for the love of the faithful people, the church and Homeland.
Following the conclusion of the conference, the clergymen participated in Evening Services in the Mother Cathedral.