In New York City on Friday, January 21, 2011, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, presided over the monthly meeting of the Diocesan Council—the administrative body which governs the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America.
Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, in his role as president of the Diocesan Council, welcomed His Holiness to the Diocesan Center, and expressed his thanks for the extraordinary opportunity to share the vision and thoughts of the leader of the worldwide Armenian Church.
Oscar Tatosian, Diocesan Council chair, expressed gratitude to His Holiness for his leadership, and pledged the Diocese’s continued support to His Holiness for his ongoing ministry to the church in its homeland of Armenia and across the globe.
Catholicos Karekin II had arrived in the United States earlier in January, to meet privately with community leaders.
During the January 21 luncheon meeting, the Diocesan Council offered its warm good wishes for His Holiness’ continuing leadership of the church. Archbishop Barsamian informed the council that the present year would mark His Holiness’ 60th birthday, and that the Supreme Spiritual Council had agreed to observe the milestone by launching a worldwide endowment fund to help benefit the education of future clergy. The council members pledged to contribute to this effort, and organize suitable events in the Eastern Diocese.
In the last decade, 300 deacons have been ordained to the holy priesthood, and there are plans to open a new seminary in Armenia this year. Each year, several newly-ordained priests are invited to intern in the Eastern Diocese, where they work closely with experienced parish pastors and become better acquainted with parish life in the United States, in preparation for future service as full-time pastors in the Eastern Diocese.
His Holiness expressed appreciation to the Primate and to leaders of the Armenian Church in America, and discussed his constructive goals for the future. These involve increasing the number of Armenian clergy, restoring historic Armenian monuments, building new churches and educational facilities, codifying the administrative practices of the church, expanding outreach through communications technology, and deepening the religious experience of the faithful.
As a result of these and other efforts, His Holiness explained, people throughout Armenia are coming closer to their faith, and the Christian religion is asserting its historic role at the center of the Armenian nation.
All of these developments would be advanced by a stronger administrative structure of the Armenian Church, Catholicos Karekin II said. He noted that the Eastern Diocese’s own by-laws were exemplary, and laid emphasis on the need for all diocesan jurisdictions to incorporate into their respective governing documents the guidelines prepared under the auspices of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, and approved during the meeting of Diocesan representatives at the Holy See in the autumn of 2009.
His Holiness entertained questions from Diocesan Council members on a host of ecclesiastical and pastoral topics. To close the meeting, Catholicos Karekin II led the council members in a prayer.
“We were so blessed to have the opportunity of this audience with our Vehapar,” said Oscar Tatosian. “His fatherly concern for our church, and his interest in the life and growth of our own community, is deeply inspiring.”
The Armenian Pontiff will return to Armenia later this month.