The long awaited visit of Canada’s Church leaders to the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin is a clear expression of the close cooperation and the ecumenical spirit that exists between the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church in Canada and various Christian denominations and sister churches.
On Thursday, August 25 2005, Abp. Andrew Hutchison, Primate of the Anglican National Church in Canada; Abp. Brendan O’Brien, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops; Abp. Sotirios, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Canada and Dr. Richard Schneider, President of the Canadian Council of Churches, accompanied by Deacon Hagop Arslanian arrived in Armenia at Zvartnots International Airport. The ecumenical delegation was received by His Grace Bishop Bagrat Galstanian, Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, Diocese of Canada.
After a brief rest in the visitors residence of the Mother See, the representative of sister churches toured the historic museum of the Cathedral, and the Monasteries of St. Gayane and St. Hripsime. In Hripsime, Archbishop O’Brien said a prayer before the tomb of the saint. Bishop Bagrat extensively talked about the historical backgrounds and foundation of the Mother Cathedral, the museum and the monasteries. Thursday afternoon, the delegation had a meeting with the WCC (World Council of Churches) “Armenia Round Table” office. Dr. Karen Nazarian made a brief presentation of the projects and activities of the Department. The mission of the WCC Armenia Round Table was highly appreciated by the Canadian Church Leaders. Afterwards, an informative meeting was held at Shoghakat TV Company. The guests were received by Mrs. Manya Ghazarian, Executive Director of the TV station.
On Friday, August 26, 2005 the delegation was received by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. His Holiness greeted the guests and expressed his joy at receiving a high ranking delegation from sister churches in Canada. Discussions were focused on the current status of ecumenical life, the relationship of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church and sister Churches as well as the difficulties and challenges that churches are facing in the world today. In the afternoon, the guests visited the Matenadaran (Depository of Ancient Manuscripts) and were received by Mr. Sen Arevshatian, Director. Mr. Arevshatian talked about the importance of the Matenadaran in the history of the Armenian people and praised the role of the Church and the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin in preserving this national institution.
Since this visit of Canadian Church Leaders coincided with the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the delegation laid a wreath at the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial to the Armenian Genocide, praying for the repose of the souls of the 1.5 million victims. Mr. Lavrenti Barseghian, Director of the Genocide Museum received the guests and gave them a tour through the museum. Afterwards, the guests visited the newly constructed Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral of Yerevan.
On Saturday, August 27, 2005 the guests held a successful meeting with the president of the National Assembly (parliament) of the Republic of Armenia, His Excellency Artur Baghdasaryan. Mr. Baghdasaryan presented the constitutional reforms that the government and the state of Armenia are aiming to achieve.
He highlighted the importance of the Church in the life of the Armenian people and in the process of realizing the constitutional reforms. Prior to the meeting with Mr. Baghdasaryan, the delegation visited with Honorary Consul of Canada in Armenia, Mr. Artashes Emin. The next visit was to the Vaskenian Theological Academy at Lake Sevan where the Dean of the Academy, Rev. Fr Mkrtich Proshian received the high-ranking dignitaries.
They also visited the Church of the Holy Apostles up at the top of the hill surrounding the Vaskenian Academy. By the invitation of the Very Rev. Fr. Sasoon Zumroukhdian, the guests visited the mayor of the city of Dilijan, Mr. Jora Sahakian. In the evening, an informative meeting was held between the Brotherhood of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and the members of the Ecumenical delegation.
On Sunday, August 28, 2005 the ecumenical delegation held a brief meeting with His Holiness Karekin II Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. Following the meeting they participated in the procession of the Clergy into the Mother Cathedral, presided by His Holiness the Catholicos. Rev. Fr. Ghoukas Zakaryan celebrated the Divine Liturgy. During the Liturgy each member of the delegation addressed the faithful in attendance, and expressed their gratitude to His Holiness Karekin II Catholicos of All Armenians and praised the people of Armenia for their hope, faith and steadfastness in our Lord Jesus Christ. On Sunday afternoon, the delegation visited the Saint Mesrop Mashtots Church in Oshakan, Diocese of Aragatsotsn. They were received by Very Rev. Fr. Torgom Tonikian, the Locum Tenens, and greeted by Sunday School children of the church. They attended the Evening Vespers led by His Grace Bishop Bagrat Galstanian. Following the church service, they each prayed on the tomb of Saint Mesrop Mashtots.
On Monday, August 29, 2005, the delegation met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Armenia, Mr. Vartan Oskanian. The meeting was very informative and touched upon regional issues of concern, including the peaceful settlement Nagorno Karabagh conflict, Armenian-Turkish relations, and constitutional reforms for the RA, as well as the current status of international diplomatic relations, specifically with regards to Canada. In the afternoon, the delegation visited the National Academy of Sciences. They were greeted by President Fadey Sargisian who introduced the work and scholarly activities of the Academy to the guests. The same day, Bishop Bagrat led the high-ranking clergymen to the Monastery of Geghard and were met by the abbot of the monastery, Rev. Fr. Ghevond Ghevondian. He provided the guests with an extensive historical review of the complex and hosted them to an afternoon lunch.
On Tuesday, August 30, 2005, the Primates of the Canadian Churches visited the Monastery of Khor Virap and offered their solemn prayers while inside the deep pit dungeon of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, following which the group visited the Monastery of Noravank in the southern region of Armenia. Accompanying the delegation to Noravank were the Canadian-Armenian benefactors of the complex, Mr. Dickran and Mrs. Diana Hadjetian from Montreal.