Aram I blesses the Armenian Martyrs Memorial Monument in Providence

During a visit to Rhode Island on Saturday, the spiritual leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church blessed the Armenian Martyrs Memorial Monument at North Burial Ground before proceeding to lead a religious service at Sts. Vartanantz Church on Broadway. A couple of hundred people attended the service, reports.

His Holiness, Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cicilia, visited Providence as part of a tour of U.S. cities with significant Armenian populations. Earlier this year, he met with Pope Francis, who later pronounced the Armenian genocide of 1915 as the first genocide of the 20th century. The towering monument at the Providence cemetery was erected in 1977 to honor the loss of 1.5 million lives.

“This is a big deal,” said Nora Simonian, of North Attleboro, while awaiting the arrival of Aram I at the church. “He’s our pope.”

He last visited Rhode Island about 17 years ago, she said, and on that visit she said she was fortunate to have him bless her newborn daughter.