Catholicos Aram I Visits GCC for an Open Forum

El Vaquero Editor in Chief

GCC students were treated to a special
appearance by His Holiness
Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House
of Cilicia, Oct. 13.

Aram I, who is a leading figure of
the Armenian Apostolic Church, is in
the midst of a world tour, addressing the
concerns of members of the global
Armenian community. His visit was
unprecedented in terms of a religious
figure of his stature, speaking at the college.

The title Catholicos of the Great
House of Cilicia refers to the seat of an
administrative branch of the Armenian
Apostolic Churcht that was originally
based in Cilicia, a region in Turkey, but
after the Armenian Genocide moved to
Antelias, a suburb of Beirut, Lebanon.
About 90 percent of Armenians are
members of the Armenian Apostolic
Church, according to Levon
Marashlian, professor of history at

The Catholicostate [the church’s terminology
for the jurisdiction] of Cilicia
acknowledges the primacy of the
Catholicostate of all Armenians, which
is based in Etchmiadzin, Armenia, but
both arms of the church have played key
historical roles since their division in the 15th century.

In addition to his role as head
of the Great House of Cilicia,
Aram I is Moderator for the
World Council of Churches
Central Committee, the highest
WCC policy-making unit after
the General Assembly. The
World Council of Churches
encompasses 320 churches from
all Christian traditions, and has a
worldwide membership of about
400 million people.

His Holiness’ arrival in Los
Angeles has been met enthusiastically
by the Armenian community,
and at the student center,
nearly 200 students, faculty and
community members turned out
for the event, including President
John Davitt, Vice President Steve
White, Armenian Student
Association Advisor Levon
Marashlian, Board of Trustees
members Armine Hacopian and
Vahe Peroomian, and former
board member and current
Glendale City Councilman Ara

The Armenian Student
Association set up tables with
display boards to illustrate various
aspects of Armenian culture.
Six other student associations
helped organize this special student
forum: The ARF Shant
Student Association, The UCLA
Armenian Student Association,
the Armenian Youth Federation,
The Cal State Los Angeles
Armenian Student Association,
Loyola Marymount Armenian
Student Association, and the Cal
State Northridge Armenian
Student Association.

were invited to ask questions in
either English or Armenian; His
Holiness speaks both fluently.
Aram I arrived with an
entourage of archbishops and
priests. He was introduced in
both English and Armenian,
including words of welcome
from Aris Artunyan, a previous
president of the Armenian
Students Association, and trustee

Introductions were
followed by a speech in
Armenian by Krikor “Koko”
Krikorian of the the ARF
Shant Student Association. He
then introduced Archbishop
Moushegh Mardirossian.

Aram I began a brisk discourse
on his theme for the day:
“Towards the Light of

“Learning comes before
teaching,” he said.

He received
his master’s in divinity from the
Near East School of Theology,
his master’s of sacred theology
degree jointly from the American
University of Beirut and Near
East School of Theology, and his
doctorate from Fordham
University in New York. He has
also written more than 20 books
on a wide range of topics, largely
related to ecumenical (church
fellowship) matters.

“Knowledge is the basis of
everything we do as rational
beings,” he said. “Human beings
cannot live without knowledge.”
Aram I places a high value
on education and the place of
youth in society, exhorting “You
are our present — an inseparable
part of our community,” and
“any attempt at marginalizing
our youth is unacceptable.” Ani
Daniyelyan, current president of
ASA, facilitated questions from
members of the audience.
The Catholicos has a very
definite directive for his constituents;
he believes that a
strong youth presence is needed
to protect and reinforce
Armenian culture. He deftly
handled questions about the dangers
of assimilation into the
dominant culture and scientific
knowledge leading to an erosion
of faith. He recommended students
“live with a sense of
accountability,” and to “make
values the driving force of your

When questioned about materialism
by student Arineh
Petrossian, Aram I urged students
to not be reactive, but
proactive: “Do not take blindly
what the world offers us; take
from society only what is enriching,
constructive, and positive.”

The timing of Aram I’s visit
coincides with the 10th anniversary
of His Holiness’ election to
Catholicos, the 75th anniversary
of the Antelias Seminary, the
1,600th anniversary of the
Armenian alphabet and the 90th
anniversary of the Armenian

“Genocide is a sin against
humanity,” he said. “I am not
against reconciliation, but reconciliation
starts with forgiveness,
and forgiveness starts with confession.”
His Holiness closed the meeting
with a pressing matter of ecumenical
concern, the escalation
of religious violence. “Violence
is a source of evil. Religion cannot
be a source of violence.
Religion must serve peace, justice,
reconciliation, and non-violence.
We should join forces to
combat violence in all forms and