PanARMENIAN.Net – Australian-Armenian journalist/foreign correspondent Arthur Hagopian issued a statement on the death of Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand Archbishop Aghan Baliozian.
“The Armenian church in the Diaspora has lost one of its most eminent leaders with the death of Archbishop Aghan Baliozian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand.
Baliozian had been in poor health over the past few years, and had recently entered Sydney’s leading Sydney hospital, the Royal North Shore, for treatment. His loss is particularly acute, coming at a time when the Diaspora church is facing crucial challenges on so many fronts.
Ever since the incapacitation of the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, Baliozian has been touted as a possible strong contender to succeed him on the Jerusalem See, considered the second most important spiritual center for Armenians all over the world, after the mother church at Etchmiadzin, Yerevan, capital of Armenia,” Hagopian writes.
“He was born in Syria’s second largest city Aleppo, where Armenian survivors had found a safe haven following the genocide. The Second World War had just ended and the city was still wallowing in the misery of deprivation and starvation, a joint calamity that is now again being visited on its hapless inhabitants in the wake of the orgy of fratricidal bloodletting in Syria.
Early in his youth, Baliozian had felt stirrings of a deep spiritual yearning and this led him to Jerusalem where he enrolled as a student of theology at the Armenian Patriarchate’s seminary. At the age of 22, he was ordained a celibate priest.
In 1982, he was elected Primate of Australia and New Zealand. A brilliant orator who was never known to have used notes, he could move crowds and congregations with his eloquent sermons.
Always approachable and contagiously gregarious, Baliozian had a growing loyal following. But ill health remained a pernicious shadow, and he succumbed to it at the relatively young age of 66.
During his tenure in Sydney where he was stationed, his astute native savvy helped the church bolster its finances and extend its landholdings.
Contemporary Jerusalemite Armenians remember his spirited leanings towards sports, particularly soccer. They recall he could kick a football right across the field, and straight into the opposing team’s goal, with the greatest of ease.
Among the duties he undertook in Jerusalem, was teaching and administering the affairs of the Armenian Patriarchate seminary where he was appointed dean in 1974.
A year later, he was picked by the Catholicos of All Armenians, Vasken I, to become Vicar General of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand.
Baliozian was always active in ecumenical affairs, and earned the distinction of being the first president of the National Ecclesiastic Council of Australia. He also represented the Armenian Church within the World Council of Churches. In 2001, he was elected Vice President of the New South Wales Ecumenical Council, a post to which he was elected three times.
In 1995 and again in 2003, the Australian government awarded him the state order of Australia for his “devout service and contribution to the country and society, especially to the Armenian community.”
Inevitably, as with every other leader, he had to contend with his share of controversies. But he had the courage and determination to deal with them all as best he could.
Among the most prominent members of Baliozian’s local congregation, is the NSW minister for transport, Gladys Berekijlian,” the statement reads.