It was an afternoon of great anticipation on Wednesday, September 26, as New York’s St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral awaited the arrival of Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.
As he mounted the stairs to the cathedral plaza with his entourage trailing him, including Armenia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Grigor Hovannissian and secret service agents, Mr. Pashinyan was greeted with a cheer from the small crowd of Diocesan staffers and local friends who had turned out for the Prime Minister’s impromptu visit.
Greeting him at the entry to the cathedral was the visiting Catholicos of All Armenians His Holiness Karekin II, accompanied by Diocesan Primate the Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan. Also on hand were the former Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Diocesan Legate in Washington D.C. Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Vicar General Very Rev. Fr. Simeon Odabashian, and Diocesan Director of Ministries Very Rev. Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan.
The Prime Minister, reflecting his reputation as a “man of the people,” was casually garbed in a sweater and jeans, and warmly smiled as he looked up at the carving of St. Vartan above the large bronze doors before entering the sanctuary.
The Diocesan Primate guided him around the cathedral, and welcomed him and the Vehapar. Speaking in Armenian with obvious emotion, he said in his formal remarks: “St. Vartan Cathedral is your home, because it is the home of every Armenian soul that enters the orbit of this great city.”
“When the Armenian immigrants first planted roots in the United States, their first order of business was to build churches. They built this place in the same spirit,” Fr. Findikyan said.
He went on: “As I stand here now, I feel that God has indeed listened to our prayers. He has granted us peace and security in the wake of the Genocide. He has restored our homeland to governance by our own people. He has steered us towards a greater recognition of justice and dignity for all our countrymen.”
The Primate concluded with gratitude: “Vehapar Der, Prime Minister Pashinyan, we pray for our Republic, we pray for our people, we pray for you, that God may guide you so that you may guide our people through this season of change in our national life, and lead our Republic to a bright new day for every Armenian.”
Catholicos Karekin II, who had accompanied the Prime Minister during the grand opening of the monumental exhibit on Armenia at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, had also been present at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday night, where the Prime Minster gave an address outlining the foreign policy challenges facing the Armenian republic.
The Catholicos thanked Mr. Pashinyan for visiting the cathedral, and uttered an affecting prayer for the success and prosperity of Armenia, before leading the attendees in reciting the Hayr Mer.
Mr. Pashinyan offered brief remarks in Armenian, expressing thanks to the Catholicos and Primate, and appreciation for the welcome he was accorded. He noted that the Armenian people had expectations from the republic’s leaders to promote greater prosperity and justice; and he affirmed that his government intended to work to meet those expectations for all of Armenia’s citizens.
As the Prime Minister departed St. Vartan Cathedral to rush to the airport, several people approached him to shake his hand. As is his custom, he graciously allowed photos to be taken with him, before giving one last wave with a warm smile to all who had come.
Since the establishment of the Republic of Armenia, St. Vartan Cathedral has welcomed every Armenian head of state, as well as numerous officials and dignitaries from the republic’s government.
By Florence Avakian
Click here for a photo gallery. (Photos by Albin Lohr-Jones.)