SAN FRANCISCO, ANTELIAS – On Friday, October 21, 2011, His Holiness Catholicos Aram I arrived in San Francisco where he presided over the 45th anniversary banquet of St. Gregory Church, conveyed his message and blessings to the community and students of Krouzian-Zekarian-Vasbouragan School, met with the California Lieutenant Governor, and the Mayor of San Francisco.

Upon their arrival, His Holiness, accompanied by H.E. Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate, and Councils members, was greeted by St. Gregory Church Pastor and Board of Trustees members.

Later, they headed to the Church for the “Hrashapar” Service and “Achahampouyr”.

At the entrance of the Church, His Holiness was greeted by State Senator Leland Yee, who presented the Pontiff with two certificates, one was in honor of the Pontifical Visit, the other for the Church on the occasion of its 45th anniversary.

After the traditional blessing of salt and bread, His Holiness was led into the Church with the singing of the “Hrashapar” hymn, where over 250 faithful had assembled to receive his blessings.

Among the faithful in attendance were students and faculty of KZV School. The students presented His Holiness with two gifts; the first was a performance of songs and recitations, and the second a hand-made gift.

In his message, His Holiness commended the participation of the community in church life. Addressing the students, he stated that he feels a close bond to them as they are the future of our nation. He commended the parents who send their children to Armenian School and stressed the importance of our children receiving proper education and instruction in our religious and national values and cultural heritage. His Holiness also stated that the Church pew must always be full as it is our people that make up the body of our Church, and concluded with a prayer.

Following the singing of the Cilician and Pontifical anthems, faithful had the opportunity to receive the blessings of His Holiness with the “Achahampouyr”.

In the evening, a banquet was held in honor of His Holiness and in celebration of the 45th anniversary of St. Gregory Church.

Welcoming remarks were delivered by Parish Priest Archpriest Fr. Khoren Habeshian, Board of Trustees Chair Mr. Varant Kasparian, and local Pontifical Visit Committee Chair Mr. Rostom Aintablian. During the evening, the Board of Trustees honored community members for their service.

The Prelate in his remarks stated that this celebration is an opportunity for the parish community to renew their faith and allegiance to the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Holy See of Cilicia, and an inspiration for Church servants to continue their service with renewed vigor. He then invited His Holiness to deliver his message.

His Holiness spoke commendably about the devoted parish community of St. Gregory Church. Referring to the video that was shown on the Church’s history, His Holiness stated that, as we watched the video about the Church, you became part of those common memories. You saw how our forefathers and foremothers built this Church. Looking backwards means also to look forward. This celebration is a reminder and a challenge for the community. It is easy to build the Church, but we must become the Church.

Speaking on the Pontifical Visit, His Holiness stated that the focus of Pontifical Visit this time is the renewal of our people. I try to see renewal as a process in the life of our people in three ways; renewal of our Church, renewal of our Schools, renewal of the Armenian Cause, Hye Tad. The three are intertwined, said His Holiness. Speaking about our Church means speaking about our Schools and speaking about the Church and Schools means to discuss the struggles of our people, the trials and violations committed against us. His Holiness concluded his message by once again commending, Parish Priest, Board of Trustees, and all the volunteers for the devoted service.

Prior to the banquet, His Holiness met with representatives of the Seminary Ladies Auxiliary, who presented a donation for the Seminary on behalf of their organization.

On the morning of Saturday, October 22nd, His Holiness met with the Pastor, Board of Trustees, Ladies Guild and other volunteers of St. Gregory Church and commended their service to the Church and community.