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Catholicos Aram I

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Catholicos_Aram_I&chld=H_100&junk=junk.png Catholicos Aram I Mars symbol.svg
Aram I-Arsineh-Khachikian.jpg
Photo courtesy of Arsineh Khachikian
Birth name Pedros Keshishian
Name in Armenian Արամ Ա. Քեշիշեան
Birthplace Beirut
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Birth date 1947
Positions Catholicos
Religion Armenian Apostolic
Languages Armenian, English, Arabic
Ethnicities Armenian
Dialects Western Armenian

His Holiness Aram I was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1947. He studied at the Armenian Theological Seminary in Antelias, the Near East School of Theology (Lebanon), the American University of Beirut, the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey (Switzerland) and the Fordham University (New York, USA). His major areas of specialization are philosophy, systematic theology and Near Eastern Church history. He holds an M. Div., an S.T.M., a Ph.D. and several honorary degrees.

Catholicos Aram I was ordained as a celibate priest in 1968. Two years later he obtained the title of Vartabed, or Doctor of the Armenian Church. Late in 1978, while studying at the Fordham University, he was elected Locum Tenens for the Diocese of Lebanon, and a year later the Primate of Lebanon. In 1980, he received episcopal ordination.

Called to serve as Primate of the Armenian Diocese of Lebanon at the most critical period of Lebanese history, His Holiness has made the following priorities the basic objectives of his pastoral work: reorganizing parishes and schools, reactivating social and church organizations, renewing community leadership and strengthening relationships between the Christian and Moslem communities.

On 28 June 1995, he was elected Catholicos by the Electoral Assembly of the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia. He was consecrated on l July 1995.

During his many years of service, His Holiness displayed a wide range of interests and assumed important responsibilities in the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, as well as in the world-wide ecumenical movement.

For many years he lectured on Armenological and theological subjects at the Armenian Seminary and at the Haigazian University (Lebanon). In addition to his numerous articles in Armenian, English and French (some of which have been translated into Arabic, German, Spanish and Swedish) which have appeared in local and international periodicals


  • Nerses the Gracious: Theologian and Ecumenist, 1974, Beirut (in Armenian),
  • The Witness of the Armenian Church in a Diaspora Situation, 1978, New York (in English),
  • With the Will of Re-Building, 1983, Beirut (in Armenian),
  • The Christian Witness at the Crossroads in the Middle East, 1980, Nicosia (in English),
  • With the People, 1989, Beirut (in Armenian),
  • Conciliar Fellowship: a Common Goal, 1991, Geneva (in English),
  • Orthodox Perspectives on Mission, 1992, Oxford (in English),
  • Nerses the Gracious and Church Unity, 1996, Antelias (in English),
  • Towards an Ecumenical Ethic for a Sustainable Society in a Sustainable Creation, 1994, Geneva (in English),
  • The Incarnation of the Gospel in Cultures: A Missionary Event, 1995, Beirut (in English),
  • Towards 1700th Anniversary of the Christianization of Armenia, 1996, Antelias (in Armenian),
  • The Church and Ethnicity, 1996, Antelias (in English),
  • The Challenge to be a Church in a Changing World, 1997, New York (in English),
  • Jesus Christ the Son of God, 1999, Antelias (in Armenian),
  • Church, Nation and Homeland, 1999, Antelias (in Armenian),
  • In search of Ecumenical Vision, 2000, Antelias (in English),
  • L’eglise Face aux Grands défis, 2000, Antelias (in French),
  • The Armenian Church Beyond the 1700th Anniversary, Antelias (in English),
  • The Mission of Faith, 2003, Antelias (in Armenian),
  • Justice, Paix, Réconciliation, 2003, Antelias (in French),
  • The Christian Witness at the Crossroads in the Middle East (3rd edition, in English).

1972-1995, Catholicos Aram I served as the General Secretary for the Ecumenical Relations of the Catholicosate. In this position, he represented the Catholicosate at major ecumenical conferences and assemblies in different parts of the world.

His Holiness was one of the founding members of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), in 1974. From the beginning he served on the Council's Executive Committee. As delegate of his Church, he attended the Nairobi (1975), Vancouver (1983), Canberra (1991) and Harare (1998) Assemblies of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

In 1975, he was elected as a member of the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC, and in 1983 as a member of the Standing Committee of the same Commission. At the Vancouver Assembly, His Holiness was elected as a member of the Central Committee of the WCC, and at the Canberra Assembly as Moderator of the Central and Executive Committees of this global fellowship of churches, which includes in its membership more than 375 churches from different confessions, cultures, nations and regions. He is the first Orthodox and the youngest person to be elevated to such important position in the WCC.

After serving seven years as Moderator of the WCC, on 12 December 1998, His Holiness was unanimously re-elected at the Harare Assembly for the coming seven years. The re-election of His Holiness, which was based on his "strong leadership, firm commitment, theological knowledge and administrative experience", is unprecedented in the history of the WCC.

Besides his important responsibilities in the WCC, Catholicos Aram I has also been a founding or active member of several international committees and organizations, such as: an honorary member of Pro Oriente, a Roman Catholic ecumenical foundation based in Vienna, as well as a member of its Standing Committee; a founding member of Oriental Orthodox-Eastern Orthodox Theological Dialogue; Oriental Orthodox-Reformed Dialogue; Orthodox-Evangelical Dialogue; and an honorary president of "World Religion's Museum" Foundation; a member of International Committee for the protection of Religious Sites. His Holiness has been instrumental in creating the Standing Committee of the Three Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the Middle East (Coptic, Syrian, Armenian), and has played a pivotal role in initiating major theological dialogues and ecumenical encounters.

In the last few years His Holiness has played a significant role in promoting inter-faith dialogue in general, and Christian-Muslim dialogue, in particular. He chaired and lectured at Christian-Muslim international conferences in Beirut, Geneva, Brussels and London.

(this section places here for now for lack of a better place - should be better incorporated into site)

Aram I Discusses 90th Anniversary of Genocide; WCC Calls for Genocide Recognition

In his report to the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, which meets once a year, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia, stated, "This year my church and people will commemorate the 90th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. During the First World War in 1915, one-and-a-half million Armenians were massacred by the Ottoman-Turkish government according to a well-devised and systematically executed plan. Although my generation did not directly experience the tragic past, the Armenian Genocide has had a strong impact on our spiritual and intellectual formation. The past haunts the victims; we cannot free ourselves from the past unless that past is duly recognized."

The Cathlicos's reference was made in the context of his analysis of the question of forgiveness and reconciliation. He said: "The acceptance of truth is the sine qua non condition for forgiveness. The past must be confronted boldly and be challenged responsibly. Neglecting the past with its wounds will not help to build a new future. When the memories are not healed, they hold us hostage to the past; when they are healed, through confession and forgiveness, they empower us to rebuild relationships, promote mutual trust and acceptance, and engage in a process of transformation. Unhealed memories cause violence, hate and fragmentation. Forgiveness, as a response to confession, is a determining factor in the healing and reconciliation process. Through forgiveness, we accept each other in truth and justice. Forgiveness is costly; only confession must lead to forgiveness, which is a pre-condition for real healing and reconciliation."

During its meeting, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches drafted a statement calling for the recognition of the genocide against the Armenian people. "Sunday April 24, 2005 will be the 90 years Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, the tragic massacre of one-and-a-half million Armenians in Turkey and the deportation of another million from their homeland.

"The World Council of Churches has on different occasions addressed the need for public recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the necessity of Turkey to deal with this dark part of its history," read the statement. "The importance of Turkey evaluating its history has recently also been addressed by the Conference of European Churches relating to Turkey's relation to the European Union.

"From the Christian perspective, the path towards justice and reconciliation requires the recognition of the crime committed as a sine qua non condition for the healing of memories and the possibility of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting but to look back with the intention to restore justice, the respect for Human Rights and relationships between perpetrators and victims.

"The Public Committee recommends to the General Secretary and the staff, to propose to all member churches to make Sunday April 24 a day of memorial of the Armenian Genocide and to consider further appropriate actions related to the 90 years Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide."

In a separate statement concerning the International Criminal Court, the Central Committee noted: "Human History is filled with examples of horrendous cruelties, aggressions and inhumanities. In just 20th Century there are four recognized genocides--90 years ago the Armenian genocide, 60 years ago the Holocaust, nearly 30 years ago the Khmer Rouge and the most recent genocide in Rwanda, a little more than 10 years ago. There were very different ways of addressing these horrific crimes: there was no consequence for the Armenian genocide, the victors justice in the Nuremberg trail for the Nazi war criminals, a failed local response with UN support to the Khmer Rouge and the ad-hoc International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda."

164 voting members, together with over 100 advisors, consultants, and representatives of the Vatican and various international organizations, are participating in this year's meeting in Geneva. His Holiness Aram I has served as the moderator of the Central Committee since 1991.

Catholicos Aram I Arrives in Los Angeles to Begin Historic US Visit

His Holiness Greeted by Large Crowds at St. Garabed Church in Hollywood

LOS ANGELES--"We must live with moral values and have a purpose-driven life," declared His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church, upon his arrival in Los Angeles on Wednesday, October 5. Greeted by large crowds who had gathered at St. Garabed Church in Hollywood for the official welcoming and "Hrashapar" service, his arrival marked the beginning of a historic visit to the United States, starting in California, where His Holiness will be meeting with the community and various public officials throughout the state. Prior to his arrival at St.Garabed Church, His Holiness met with California State Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi where the two discussed several issues including recent insurance settlements for victims of the Armenian Genocide.

The Catholicos' motorcade with full dignitary police escorts arrived at St. Garabed Church in the early evening where the city had closed off the entire street to accommodate the overflowing crowds. The Prelates of both the Western Prelacy, Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, and the Eastern Prelacy, Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, accompanied the Catholicos. The arrival ceremony began with the Homenetmen scouts marching band playing the US, Armenian, and Cilician anthems while additional scouts, students from various Armenian schools, members of the community, and residents of the area lined the streets. Also covering the arrival were media including the Los Angeles Times and several local TV stations.

At the beginning of the procession were Armenian clergy from throughout the Los Angeles area and California as well as some from the eastern US, including Archbishop Hovnan Derderian of the Western Diocese and a representative of Cardinal Mahoney of the Catholic Church. At the entrance of the church a welcoming ceremony was performed with the traditional blessing of bread and salt, the release of white doves and presentation of a bouquet of flowers to His Holiness. Also on hand were various community organization representatives and public officials. To accommodate the overflowing crowds, a large screen was mounted outside the church showing the live video feed of the procession into the church as well as the services inside.

After the initial services, Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian introduced His Holiness during which he said, "Your presence with us today, Your Holiness, shows the strong bridge that binds us with the Great House of Cilicia and the Holy Catholicosate. This is a bond that is based on faithfulness and strong collaboration." The Archbishop went on to stress that this historic visit of His Holiness will help recommit the community to the devoted service to our faithful people and our homeland.

His Holiness Aram I then thanked God for the opportunity to again be with his flock and stated that "a shepherd is strengthened by his flock and the flock is strengthened by its shepherd." He then blessed all the clergy and faithful who were present as well as all the community organizations and people who had worked to make this trip possible. "Today I want to emphasize key values and principles," said His Holiness. "My message is that you must strengthen your belief, deepen and strengthen your faithfulness and reinforce our unity. We must live with moral values and have a purpose-driven life."

His Holiness has a very busy itinerary which includes many different community events, gatherings and meetings with representatives of church bodies and community organizations. As part of his broader mission, His Holiness will also be meeting with dozens of local, state and federal level public officials and conducting interviews with the mass media including TV, radio and newspapers throughout Los Angeles and California. His Holiness will give a major speech before the World Affairs Council on October 14 entitled "Christianity and the Middle East" and preside over a symposium at the University of Southern California on October 15.

As part of his first full day's events on October 6, His Holiness had several meetings with members of the clergy, Church committees and community organizations including the Armenian Revolutionary Federation's western region central committee, the regional executives of the Armenian Relief Society and the Homenetmen. His Holiness also had a luncheon with the organizing committee for the Los Angeles visit. His main message was "that whatever we do for God, for the Church, for the nation and the homeland we must do with belief and devotion so that we are successful." His Holiness conducted interviews with the mass media including the Los Angeles Times and a live appearance on KPCC-FM's "Talk of the City" show with Kitty Felde. In the evening he presided over the Homenetmen Glendale "Ararat" chapter's celebration of the Armenian alphabet.

In the coming few days he will meet with Armenian school students, pay respects at the Armenian Genocide monument in Montebello, and bless the new Western Prelacy building in La Cresenta on Saturday, October 8. There also will be a Pontifical Holy High Mass at St. Mary's Armenian Church in Glendale as well as a Pontifical banquet in his honor on Sunday, October 9.

Giving the trip special meaning this time is the fact that it will mark the 10th anniversary of His Holiness' election to Catholicos. It also coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Antelias Seminary, the 1600th anniversary of the Armenian alphabet, and the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

Copyright ASBAREZ Online [10-07-2005]