One of the most respected and revered catholicoi of the Armenian Church, Vazken the First, was remembered in a special evening of commemoration at the Western Diocese. Under the leadership of the Diocesan Primate, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the Zoroyan Museum was filled to capacity which those who came to pay tribute to Catholicos who led the Armenian Church from 1955 to 1994. Some came out of respect to the memories they carried of the Catholicos others came to learn about him and the legacy he left. No matter what the reason, August 20 at the Diocese was a memorable evening and an opportunity to celebrate the life and legacy of one of the great leaders of the Armenian Church.
The evening began with welcoming remarks by Fr. Vazken Movsesian, chairman of the organizing committee of the event. Bringing in personal reflections Fr. Vazken outlined the challenges faced by His Holiness during his 39 year as Catholicos. At the height of the Cold War, with communism as an outside threat to the church, Vazken I managed to stay strong yet compassion to the inner threats caused by the division in the church. Vazken I channelled the power of the Holy Spirit, to lead the church during those most turbulent years, which brought an end to communism and the birth of the new Republic. As a special tribute of love and honor to the patriarch, he was given the first papers of citizenship to the independent Republic of Armenia.
A short video produced by the Diocesan media department was shown. Along with biographical sketches, the video presented personal reflections from diocesan clergy. The video has been archived and can be viewed on the Diocesan Youtube channel https://youtu.be/g55Pmx_rHek
At this point in the program, members of the St. Leon Armenian Cathedral Youth group were invited to share messages from the Late Pontiff. Each of the seven youth read a passage from a letter or speech given by His Holiness Vazken I, from topics on global peace, understanding, to challenges to find unity within the Armenian community. The messages were articulated in both Armenian and English by this exceptional group of spirited youth.
A musical interlude with selections from Komitas, Babajanian and Sayat Nova delighted the audience, performed by Lilia and Alexandra Yaralian accompanied by Elina Avanesyan.
The keynote speech was offered by Fr. Hovel Ohanian, Pastor of the St. Vartan Armenian Church in Oakland, California. Fr. Hovel confessed that he did not know the late Catholicos personally but, even that fact was appropriate this evening, for in fact the topic was Vazken the First’s Legacy. In that context, Fr. Hovel had the audience spellbound with stories of his personal journey through the church and the influences of the great Catholicos, to all aspects of the Church. His message resounded in the minds and hearts of all those in attendance.
The closing remarks to the evening were offered by the Primate, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian who was not only a student of the Late Catholicos but also was ordained into the priesthood and episcopacy by His Holiness Vazken I. He had a singular and unique perspective into the life and genius of Vazken the First, as an administrator, churchman, compassionate father and caring human being. Inspired by the evening’s program, His Eminence shared his stories of personal interactions and growth. He brought a most fitting, personal and emotionally charged ending to the evening.
A reception followed, hosted by the St. Leon’s Ladies Society, giving attendees to further ask questions of the speakers and learn more about the late and great Catholicos Vazken I.
The evening has been recorded and is available for viewing on the Diocesan YouTube channel.