The August 17 visit to the Eastern Diocese of Archbishop Avak Assadourian, Primate of Iraq, was an occasion of joyful reunion for senior alumni of St. Nersess Seminary.
The day began with the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan, Primate of the Eastern Diocese, leading Archbishop Avak and clergy from the New York-New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic regions into St. Vartan Cathedral to offer the Midday Hour service.
This was followed by a luncheon held in honor of the visiting dignitary, where his days at St. Nersess were fondly remembered by his former classmate the Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian and his former teacher the Rev. Fr. Karekin Kasparian. Others recalled his days serving the Eastern Diocese as pastor in Elberon, NJ.
Archbishop Assadourian—known by his baptismal name of Vasken during his student days—was the first graduate of St. Nersess Seminary to rise to the rank of archbishop, and the first to be assigned as primate to a major diocese of the Armenian Church.
At the luncheon, Archbishop Assadourian spoke on the situation in Iraq, where he has served for 40 years, and of the diminishing Armenian and Christian populations due to war. What was once a thriving, well-established Armenian community now stands as a remnant of its former state, he said. The loss of lives and property has been devastating, along with the destruction of our churches and schools.
The Primate of Iraq also spoke of the inspiring dedication of the Armenians who have remained in the country despite the unrest, and of his own work to do as much as he can to ensure the safety of his flock.
After a visit to family members in the United States, Archbishop Assadourian returned to Iraq to resume his duties there. Archbishop Assadourian studied at Tulane University, St. Vladimir and St. Nersess seminaries, and Holy Cross Pontifical University. He was ordained as a deacon by Archbishop Torkom Manoogian (in 1974), as a celibate priest by Bishop Housik Santourian (1977), and was consecrated a bishop at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin (1982) by His Holiness Vasken I, the late Catholicos of All Armenians.