Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Contact: Chris Zakian
Tel: (212) 686-0710; Fax: (212) 779-3558
E-mail: [email protected]
August 3, 2009
His Holiness Karekin I (1932-1999)
131st Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians
In Armenia this fall, memorial events will honor the 10th anniversary
of his passing
Ten years have elapsed since the untimely death of His Holiness
Karekin I Sarkissian, of blessed memory, the 131st Catholicos of All
Armenians. The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin is organizing a special
memorial in the Republic of Armenia this autumn.
Presiding over the memorial events will be His Holiness Karekin II,
Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, the 132nd successor
to the Throne of St. Gregory the Illuminator.
The 10-year memorial will begin on Saturday, September 19, 2009, at
the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin – the pre-eminent shrine of the
worldwide Armenian Church. A ground-breaking ceremony will take place
at 12:00 noon, to inaugurate the construction of `His Holiness Karekin
I Religious Missionary Educational Center.’
When completed, His Holiness Karekin I Center will be primarily
directed at the ordained clergy, providing advanced training to
reinforce and build upon their theological
knowledge and spiritual leadership
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center will also be open to Christian education teachers, who would be
eligible for seminars and workshops on theological, spiritual,
pastoral, and church-related matters.
His Holiness Karekin I Religious Missionary Educational Center is
being built thanks to the generous support of Haig and Elza Didizian,
lifelong friends of the late Catholicos, who have devoted their
efforts to perpetuating Karekin I’s intellectual and spiritual legacy.
Among the fruits of this generous effort is the multi-volume Karekin I
Theological and Armenological Studies Series (see below).
On the evening of September 19, at 7:00 p.m., the curtain will rise on
a Concert of Remembrance at Yerevan’s grand Aram Khachaturian Concert
Hall. Called `A Night to Remember Karekin I,’ the concert will
feature both an orchestra and full choir.
Catholicos Karekin II will graciously preside over the concert, and
address the audience on the occasion.
The memorial events will continue on Sunday, September 20, at 11:00
a.m., at the Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin with a special celebration
of the Divine Liturgy, and a requiem service (hokehankisd) for the
departed Catholicos, on the 10th anniversary of his passing.
Catholicos Karekin II will preside over these services, where
dignitaries from around the world will be in attendance.
A theologian of great learning
His Holiness Karekin I (1932-1999) – a key figure in the worldwide
ecumenical movement, an intellectual of international stature and
reputation, and a fiercely dedicated leader of the Armenian Church and
nation – was born in Kessab, Syria, with the baptismal name Neshan
Sarkissian. He studied in Lebanon and then at Oxford, and was an
official observer to the Second Vatican Council. After serving as a
bishop in Iran, New York, and Lebanon, he was consecrated as
Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, in Antelias, Lebanon
In 1995 he was elected the 131st Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of
All Armenians. As leader of the entire Armenian Church – and the
first catholicos to be elected in the free Republic of Armenia –
Karekin I resided at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin until his
untimely death in 1999. A theologian of enormous breadth, his
numerous books and essays have appeared in Armenian, English, French,
Spanish, Italian and Russian.
Catholicos Karekin I above all considered himself a pastor – an aspect
of his ministry evident in a long interview published in English as
Between Heaven and Earth: A Conversation with His Holiness Karekin I
(New York: St. Vartan Press, 2000). Speaking with journalist and
religion scholar Giovanni Guaïta, the late Catholicos addressed some
of the most pressing issues of the day: happiness, faith and beauty;
authority and power; the laity, young people, women in the church;
love, the family and sexuality; justice, ecology and bioethics. The
book remains the best introduction to Karekin I’s spirituality and
His writings are being systematically issued as the Karekin I
Theological and Armenological Studies Series. Eight volumes in the
series have already been published, and seven more are forthcoming.
They are available at Armenian Church centers on the east and west
coasts of the United States, and through Armenian institutions around
His Holiness Karekin I Sarkissian, the late 131st Supreme Patriarch
and Catholicos of All Armenians, will be memorialized on the 10th
anniversary of his passing, through a schedule of special events in
Armenia. The memorial on September 19-20 will include a concert and
requiem service, as well as the official groundbreaking for the new
`His Holiness Karekin I Religious Missionary Educational Center,’
which will be built at Holy Etchmiadzin. His Holiness Karekin II, the
132nd Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, will preside
over the ceremonies.