NEW YORK — “If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem…” is the biblical phrase signifying the emotional and spiritual power of the sacred site that is home to three of the world’s major religions. And for Armenians who have played a pivotal role in Jerusalem since the seventh century, the impact of this statement is immeasurable.
On Sunday, November 3, the Armenian community of greater New York had the opportunity to learn more about the centuries-long Armenian presence in Jerusalem, when Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, visited the Eastern Diocese.
Manougian presided over the Divine Liturgy at New York’s St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral, which was celebrated by the Very Rev. Norayr Kazazyan, principal of the Sts. Tarkmanchatz School at the Armenian Patriarchate. Also taking part in the service were Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern); Archbishop Yeghishe Gizirian; the Very Rev. Simeon Odabashian, Diocesan Vicar; the Very Rev. Mamigon Kiledjian, dean of St. Vartan Cathedral; the Very Rev. Daniel Findikyan, director of the Diocese’s Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center; other area clergy and St. Nersess Seminary students.
The Patriarch delivered a sermon on the temptations Christians face in today’s secular culture. “As Christ resisted the temptations of injustice and evil, we also have to follow His example,” he said. “Those who only seek material pursuits do not find God’s mercy.”
Also during the Divine Liturgy, Manougian led a special prayer service for Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II on the occasion of the 14th anniversary of his consecration and enthronement as the 132nd Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.
In the afternoon, community leader Hrant Gulian welcomed guests to a celebratory luncheon at the Diocesan Center. Gizirian opened the program with a prayer. Vartan Abdo, director of the Armenian Radio Hour of New Jersey, served as the master of ceremonies.
Abdo, who was born in Palestine, pointed out that the Patriarchate gave a home to the survivors of the Armenian Genocide where they received “spiritual, physical, and mental nourishment.” He went on to say that “our hope today is with the youth,” and spoke about the Diocese’s recent pilgrimages to the Holy Land for young adults across the parishes. A video of one such youth pilgrimage to Jerusalem was shown. Three young pilgrims—Sarine Atamian, Olivia Derderian, and Eric Silk—described the many sites they had visited in the Holy Land and the powerful emotions they had experienced there.
Ambassador Garen Nazarian, Armenia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, emphasized the special meaning that the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem has for Armenia. “It served as a haven for the Armenian refugees after the Genocide and despite the turmoil that continues in the Middle East, it is necessary to visit this holiest of shrines,” he said. He also spoke about the importance of protecting the Armenian sites in the Holy Land, and added that Armenia supports the mission of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
In the spirit of the day, a group of musical religious selections were sung by Deacons Vahe Bagdasarian and Narek Garabedian, and St. Vartan Choir soloists Hasmik Meikhanedjian, Narine Ojakhyan and Anahid Zakaryan. Khoren Mekanejian, the Diocese’s coordinator of Music Ministry, accompanied on the piano.
Barsamian noted that with the election of the 97th Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem last January “a new chapter began in the Jerusalem Patriarchate, which will direct the journey of our church and nation.”
“It is crucial that we maintain our ancient and holy places in Armenia and the Holy Land,” he said. “The tie must be preserved between Armenia, Jerusalem and the diaspora.”
Manougian began his address by paying tribute to those who built New York’s St. Vartan Cathedral. “This kind of unwavering commitment is needed in Jerusalem,” he said, and went on to discuss challenges facing the Armenians in Jerusalem, including the need of clergy and financial assistance.
“We are asking people of all professions to come and help us with their knowledge, experience, and financial support,” he said. “The Patriarchate is a treasure of the Armenian Church, and it is our duty to protect and preserve it.”
Visit to Boston
On Friday, November 3, close to 300 people gathered at St. James Church in Watertown, Mass., to welcome Manougian to Boston.
The evening began with a hrashapar service of welcome in the church sanctuary, followed by a reception in the church hall. Barsamian, as well as New England area clergy and deacons, took part in the service. Representatives from the Massachusetts Council of Churches were also present, including Executive Director Rev. Laura Everett.
Berj Chekijian served as master of ceremonies. Chekijian once had Manougian and Barsamian as students at the Armenian Seminary in Jerusalem.
Aaron Derderian, a member of the St. James ACYOA, and Danielle Malconian, a member of the ACYOA of Holy Trinity Church of Cambridge offered reflections on the 2013 Diocesan Youth Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. A video highlighting the pilgrimage program was also shown. Malconian presented a check to the Patriarch in the amount of $500, which was raised by the Holy Trinity ACYOA Seniors.
Manougian expressed his gratitude to the Boston community for their warm welcome. He spoke about Jerusalem’s historic role in the Armenian Church, and the need for ongoing support of the Patriarchate’s ministries.
By: Florence Avakian